Watching Derek Jeter’s Iconic Career

Derek Jeter

Derek Jeter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Previously I posted about the iconic career of Cal Ripken, Jr. Yesterday,  another icon passed Ripken on the all-time hits list. Derek Jeter notched hit 3,185 in the Yankees 14-7 loss to the Chicago White Sox.

You may ask why is this important on the grand scale of baseball history? The answer is simple: we are watching, live, the career of a living legend. Baseball stories revolve around players. All fans have stories about their favorite players, legends in their own time. Mays, Gehrig, Mantle, Ripken himself. Regardless of whether you love or “hate” the Yankees, Jeter is a rare staple of the game. He reached 3,000 hits on a home run. This, after most, including myself, questioned whether he had anything left to give.

The lesson learned is don’t count out an icon. Jeter will leave the game when he is ready. The talk around Jeter changes with the seasons. Now Jeter’s name is mentioned in the same sentence as Pete Rose. Jeter would need an average of 214 hits a season for the next five years to reach 4,256 career hits. Jeter, at 38, may not have the gas needed to continue playing, and hitting until age 43. Is it possible? Anything is possible.

Let’s not crown Jeter just yet. Instead, let’s enjoy his career one day at a time. In case you missed it, here’s a brief run down of Jeter’s career to date:

3,185 Hits

247 HR

.313 BA

Gold Glove 2004, 2005, 2006, 2009, and 2010 (shortstop)

1996 ROY

5 World Series Championships

The Best Shortstop In Cooperstown

Jeter will be a first ballot inductee into the Hall of Fame. However, will he be the best shortstop to enter the hallowed ground of Cooperstown? Honus Wagner, Ozzie Smith, Cal Ripken, John Ward, and several others may object. Intentionally missing from this brief list is a popular HOF member: Phil Rizzuto. My opinion on Rizzuto changed after reading a piece by Bill Miller, author of The On Deck Circle. You can find the current list of Hall of Fame shortstops here.

Statistically Jeter is compiling a compelling argument for best shortstop all-time. Some may contend he played for a perennial winning team. Should championships be considered? Should lack of winning an MVP be considered? What about offensive WAR? OPS+? etc.

The debate over who is the best shortstop, all-time will never be settled. One thing is sure, we are all witness to a legendary career right before our eyes. So sit back, and enjoy. Careers such as this are rare.

All data from retrosheet.org, baseballhall.org, and baseball-reference.com

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Baseball: The Beautiful Game

Ripken in the latter part of his career

Ripken in the latter part of his career (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is the second post in Baseball: The Beautiful Game Series. This post focuses not on a game or series of games, but a career. A baseball career that was iconic. This career belonged to none other than Cal Ripken, Jr.

The beauty of baseball is the history of the game. That history is held dear by casual observers, and students of the game alike. Ripken is an icon who is untarnished. His greatest achievement, the most consecutive games played, is a record I feel will stand for all-time. Ripken’s achievement transcends American sports. Few athletes maintain productive longevity. Ripken’s career spanned a total of 21 seasons. An 18-time all-star, 3,184 hits, and 431 HRs isn’t exactly an average player.

The Iron Man represents the uniqueness of baseball’s star power. Where other sports tend to rely on multiple stars to promote and attract the fan base, baseball can have one individual. Ripken is such an example. Baseball’s beauty comes from names like Ruth, Dimaggio, Jackson, Jeter, and Ripken, Jr. Regardless of whether or not you were an Orioles fan, you rooted for Ripken. We cheered when he surpassed Gehrig’s record. Ripken carried the sport of baseball on his shoulders and still stood up straight.

Historical Perspective

The beauty of the game is nothing without career’s like Ripken’s. To accomplish his achievements in sport today is rare. True, many athletes continue to play long after the spotlight. Few carry the respect, and the ability to keep fans watching. The Iron Man is a testament to the history of the game. He broke the record held by one of the immortals, Lou Gehrig. Let’s place some historical perspective on this. Gehrig is a baseball legend. Cal will forever be linked with Gehrig. Two immortals whose careers are mentioned in the same breath every time.

Players like Ripken are rare. The beautiful game of baseball brings these players into our living rooms,  our tablets, in the newspapers, and into our memories. Thanks Cal.