By Eric Maus
Monday, August 5th, 2002
Derek Jeter is easily the most overrated "star" in Major League Baseball
today. He receives so much praise from blind worshipers and so-called baseball
experts that it makes my stomach turn.
Earlier this week, I watched a game in which Jeter had a bunt single off
Kenny Rogers on which third baseman Herbert Perry was playing
back. As Jeter ran down the line, ESPN's Jon Miller made off as if
he had just witnessed Jesus Christ himself resurrecting. Enough already.
Now before any Jeter fans or New Yorkers say to themselves, "Dude, this guy
musta be crazy -- Jetah is not overrated," let's not misunderstand me here.
Derek Jeter is a good player. His career averages of 17 HR's 84 RBI and a
.319 BA is solid. He provides the Yankees with intangibles. He's a
team leader. He has that winning mentality. He's clutch. He plays hard and
is also one of the "good guys" in baseball. But yet, mentioning this guy
in the same breath as the elite shortstops or other superstars of the game
is simply ludicrous.
While Jeter has had some success in his career, he has never won a batting
title in comparison to Nomar Garciaparra, who has won two. Alex
Rodriguez has hit 30-plus homeruns in a season six times -- Jeter has
only accomplished this feat once. Jeter's Web Gems are routine plays for
Omar Vizquel. Heck, even the rarely mentioned Miguel Tejeda
puts up numbers Jeter could only dream of producing (24 HRs, 86 RBI, .303
average so far this season).
Shall we compare Jeter to the other studs around the league like so many
others foolishly do? Do you think Jeter's slugging percentage is even close
to Barry Bonds'? Is he faster than Ichiro? Could he surpass
odd Heltons' mind boggling OPS? The answer to these questions is,
no. Unconditionally, no.
So, if Jeter's numbers are not superb, why does he receive all of this
recognition? Playing in New York doesn't hurt. He's on the Bronx Bombers,
the team that has won 26 World Championships. When one plays on the Yankees
at any level, it seems that his reputation is often superceded by the fact
that he wears (or eventually will wear) pinstripes.
Remember when Peter Gammons proclaimed that Drew Henson would be a
50-homer guy in the big leagues? He has struck out 110 times for the
Columbus Clippers this season and is seriously considering going back
to football. Ricky Ledee was also one of those highly-touted prospects
-- how did he turn out? And when the Yankees purchased Hideki Irabu,
he was supposed to be named Cy Young, but instead, was named Fat Toad by
Jeter's popularity and praise goes beyond this aforementioned "Yankees hype"
-- it also has to do with the fact that he is very marketable. It's pretty
easy to stick this N*SYNC look-alike on peanut butter ads and Saturday Night
Live because he has instant face recognition. Women salivate over his looks
and men respect him because of his great personality -- but they overlook
that he tries way too hard to use an inside-out swing to take the ball the
other way, rather than pull it most of the time when he should.
Maybe I am just taking out my frustrations on Derek Jeter. Maybe I am jealous
of those four World Series rings he has. Maybe I would love to have just
a sniff of that $19 million a season he makes. And maybe, I am just bitter
at him over the fact that every man on the planet would sell his soul to
have a copy of his Black Book. But still, that does not negate the fact that
he is the most overrated star in baseball today.
Derek Jeter, thank God you play on the Yankees and have some charisma. If
you played on the Milwaukee Brewers, no one would care about you.
By the way, those 314-foot Danny Almonte shots you hit are not impressing
anyone -- and wasn't Jeremy Giambi safe?