Derek Jeter is Overrated: 5 Yankees More Deserving of 64 Hours of TV

Jason Keidel
June 01, 2020 - 3:32 pm

It's rare that any chat about Derek Jeter requires a disclaimer. You don't need a gasbag sportswriter telling you how great a player he was, or why he belongs in Monument Park and the Baseball Hall of Fame, which is where he'd be this summer if not for this coronavirus. 

Yet, you get one because it says here that Derek Jeter was overrated. He was overrated vis-a-vis his single-digit predecessors who made the Yankees the singular baseball behemoth they are now. MLB Network just aired 64 hours of Jeter's greatest hits (pun intended). And they were many and momentous and memorable. But if you're going to dedicate 64 hours to all-time Yankees, Jeter is not first on that list. 

1. Babe Ruth

Anyone with a modicum of baseball knowledge and a pulse knows Babe Ruth leads the Mt. Rushmore of Yankees. Ruth led MLB in home runs in 11 seasons. In 1921, Ruth smashed 59 home runs, which was more than the Reds, Pirates, Tigers, and Cubs, White Sox, and Red Sox had as a team. (We're not including his epic pitching deeds because those came as a member of the Red Sox.) Ruth helped the Bronx Bombers belt 134 homers in 1921. No other club had 90. Ruth also averaged 141 runs scored and 133 walks per season. He holds the all-time MLB career record for slugging, OPS, and OPS+. Frankly, it's silly to consider anyone else for the top spot. 

(I have Mariano Rivera as the second greatest Yankees - so does Sweeny Murti - but it's hard to fill three days worth of TV with a closer's deeds.)

2. Lou Gehrig

So Lou Gehrig would be second on the list. The Iron Horse hit 493 homers and finished with a career .340 batting average. (Jeter had 260 home runs and a lifetime .310 BA.) To show you how great Gehrig really was, he won the MVP award in 1927, the year Ruth hit his historic 60 round-trippers. Why? Because Gehrig had a .374 BA, hit 47 homers and led the majors in total bases (441), RBI (173) and doubles (52). Gehrig had at least 166 RBI in four seasons. Jeter had over 100 RBI just once, in 1999, when he had 102. And, as a sportswriter once said, Gehrig delivered the Gettysburg Address of baseball when he declared his dying body and mind the luckiest on the face of the earth. 

3. Joe DiMaggio

You can pick between Mantle and DiMaggio, which is almost impossible. In this coin flip, we go with the Yankee Clipper at No. 3. Consider that DiMaggio swatted 361 homers, had a .325 career batting average and missed his three prime years (age 27 through 30) because of WWII. Joe D played 13 seasons with the Yanks and was an All-Star in every one. At age 22, he led the majors in runs scored with 151. (Jeter's career best was 127.) When he was 22 he led MLB in total bases with 418. (Jeter's best was 346.) When DiMaggio was 24, he led the sport with a .381 BA. (Jeter's best was .349 BA.) And in 1941, when Joltin' Joe was 26, he hit safely in 56 straight games, still by far the record almost 80 years later.  

Despite being so prolific at the plate, DiMaggio never struck out more than 39 times in a season, and finished with 369 strikeouts. (Jeter retired with 1,840 and struck out at least 100 times in nine separate seasons.)

4. Mickey Mantle

It still gives me goose bumps to hear Mel Allen say "The great Mickey Mantle!" - even if I wasn't alive when Mantle played. Mantle's talent and torment are well documented, and the latter kept him from joining Ruth and Gehrig in the top three. Yet even with his late nights at the Copacabana, and many other dark nights before day games, Mantle blasted 536 homers back when ballparks resembled Yellowstone more than today's cookie cutter, home run incubators. The 16-time All-Star led MLB in runs scored five times (Jeter did it once), led the AL in OPS three times and both leagues three other times (Jeter never led the AL in OPS). Mantle also led the AL and NL in walks five times, averaging 127.2 in those seasons (Jeter never led the AL in walks and never posted more than 91 in one season). Mantle won MVP three times and placed second three times. Mantle's Magnum Opus came in 1956, when he won the Triple Crown, leading both leagues in batting average (.353) homers (52) and RBI (130). Jeter never led the AL in any of the Triple Crown stats in any year.

5. Yogi Berra 

Last we go with the resident goofball, Yogi Berra, No. 8 as No. 5 on this TV list. Perhaps the most prolific winner in the history of our pastime, the 15-time All-Star won 10 World Series in pinstripes. Berra caught the only perfect game in World Series history - courtesy of Don Larsen in Game 6 of the 1956 Fall Classic. Playing a position (catcher) way more celebrated for defense in his day, Berra also hit 358 career homers, while averaging just 32 strikeouts per season. He had 14 seasons in which he was fanned under 30 times. And while Yogi Berra didn't lead the MLB in any stat over a season, he won MVP 3 times. (For all his greatness, Jeter never won AL MVP.)

It often feels like we must dismiss one great player in order to salute another. Derek Jeter retired as an all-time great, and the only Yankee with 3,000 career hits. He just happened to play for the one team with a roll call of icons, Hall of Famers, and American monoliths. We have a habit of deifying the idols of our youth. So many of you — if not most of you — grew up worshiping Derek Jeter. Such attachments tend to obscure our objectivity. Yours truly watched nearly game of Jeter's career. And while he's hard and deep in your hearts, No. 2 just isn't the No.1 New York Yankee. 

Twitter: @JasonKeidel