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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Derek Jeter and Cloak of Invincibility

I know I'm ripping off the title from FJM, but it was just too good to pass up. So another day, another fawning Jeter article. Our latest entry comes to up courtesy of Baseball Digest and Angelique Chengelis. The article (page 1, page 2) gushes over Jeter and gives the many reasons why he was chosen as the 2006 Baseball Digest Player of the Year. Here are some highlights from the article.

Only the 5th paragraph in we get reminded how many WS rings Jeter has won, "My parents always said to play hard, work hard," said Jeter, 31, who has four World Series rings with the Yankees. In case you forgot. Because one thing that announcers and reporters never mention about Jeter is how many WS rings he's won (much like David Eckstein's height and weight).

Joe Torre sums up exactly what it is that makes Jeter special "His ability is not off the charts like a Tiger (Woods) is or an Alex (Rodriguez's) is". "His is mainly a combination of a lot of attributes that make up this person." Translation: I know he's not as good as everyone makes him out to be or the best player on his own team, but I have to come up with some bullshit way to praise him since everyone believes he is the sole reason we won 4 WS in 5 years. Delving further into that statement, is that implying that AROD, Tiger Woods, other "talented" athletes are only made up of a few attributes??? Who knows, but I'm pretty sure Joe is gonna explain what he means in the next paragraph.

"You don't really appreciate him until you get a chance to see him on a regular basis." Torre continues to try and string together BS to keep praising Jeter, but here a makes a statement which is able to be evaluated and completely false. Because see the reason that people "appreciate" and praise Jeter so much is because they DON'T see him on a regular basis. They see the flip from the 2001 ALDS (btw-Jeremy Giambi is a fat slob who should never have been on base in a 1 run game in the 7th inning and should have slid into home) or the leap into the stands from the July 1, 2004 game against the Red Sox and use that as justification for Jeter's greatness. In other words, they use several selected highlights to appreciate him which is the exact opposite claim Torre is making. Torre is wrong because if you did see Jeter on a regular basis you would see all the ground balls that he doesn't get to which dribble through for base hits or you would see him getting picked off 2B with 1 out in the 8th inning of a tie game at Fenway on May 1.

Then it goes on to blab about how respectful he is, and how nice he is and about his clean cut image (appparently facial hair is a no-no if you want to be honored as POY or MVP--maybe that's why Pujols lost the NL MVP, too much facial hair). Then we get to the good stuff. From Alan Trammell "He's a true Yankee, but more, he's a true baseball player. He's into the team winning." What is a "true" baseball player as compared to say a "false" baseball player. Would that be someone pretending to be a baseball player only in baseball for the money??? In any case, the 2nd sentence is really annoying. What top level baseball player (or athlete for that matter) isn't into the team winning. Sure, you could point to a couple of cases like TO or Manny (when he basically quit the last 5 weeks of the 2006 season), but is there anyone out of Morneau, Hafner, Ortiz, Mauer, Santana, Pujols, Howard, Beltran, etc who isn't into the team winning??? I haven't seen any discernible evidence yet, but feel free to offer it up. Oh and by the way, David Ortiz played in multiple games the day of and the day after he spent the night in the hospital for an irregular heartbeat. If that doesn't demonstrate being "into team winning" then what does??? Oh yeah, showing a fist pump from the top step of the dugout after one of your 8 All-Star teammates drives in a run to put your team ahead.

Finally, there's a little sidebar titled "Leadership at its Best-Jeter brings more than bat and glove to the field". Meaning that we should be ready to have intangibles (i.e. those special things that Jeter does which no other player in baseball does and aren't actually measurable or objectively determined) thrown at us left and right. "This is why Derek Jeter is the game's most valuable player--because he has great talent, creates a winning atmosphere in the most difficult arena in the major leagues (NYC) and generates the highest level of play from his teammates." Let's take a look at those three attributes.

1) He has great talent---I would argue that he has good (not great) talent, but that's splitting hairs. Also, isn't the whole thing about Jeter that he doesn't amazing ability (which Torre mentions earlier in this article), but he makes up for it with his intangbles and leadership???

2) Creates a winning atmosphere in most difficult arena in major leagues---I guess NYC is the most difficult environment to play in. Sure, we'll grant him that. But to say that one person is solely responsible for the "winning atmosphere" is just ludicrous. Basically this implies that if you took Jeter away from any Yankee team in the last 10 years, there wouldn't be a winning atmosphere. Quite laughable really since we already showed that the Yankees did just fine without Cap'n Jetes in May 2003 here (#3). I think the "winning atmosphere" in NY has generally been due to stellar pitching staffs (1995-2001) and batting orders with multiple All-Stars and MVP's (2002-2006).

3) Generates the highest level of play from his teammates-again, we have something that is completely impossible to prove and is based purely on people's opinion. So we're to believe that the reason Wang Chien-Ming had such a great year was because of Jeter, his leadership and atmosphere creation abilities. Or that the reason that Mo Rivera has been so good over the past 10 years (especially in the postseason) is somehow due to Jeter. Alright, sure fine, whatever, maybe he sings lullabies to them before games or massages their sore muscles afterwards and that results in their high level of play. But let's take a look at AROD. He's played in NY for 3 years now. 2 of those 3 years were below average years (compared to his standards) and 1 was average/above average for his standards. It seems that since arriving in NY, AROD hasn't shown the "highest level of play" from his teammates. But this contradicts Jeter's magical intangibles including his ability to generate the highest level of play from his teammates. So there you have it. Jeter doesn't generate the highest level of play from his teammates. Case closed.

Then the sidebar concludes by showing all the accomplishments the Yankees have achieved during Jeter's 11 years there (11 playoff appearances, 10 AL East titles, 6 pennants, 4 WS titles--in case you forgot). Thus, once again we are reminded of all the success which Jeter himself is solely responsible for. Then they throw in his statistics (the highly irrelevant old-school ones) for good measure: hits, runs, HR, doubles, triples, SB, BA and the fact that he has won 2 Gold Gloves (technically 3 now). Which is a whole other post for a whole other time that I will attend to.

P.S. Besides the GG comment in the sidebar, not one mention of Jeter's fielding anywhere throughout the article.