Saturday, March 13, 2010

Captain Jeter king among shortstops

Nomar Garciaparra's retirement and Jose Reyes' thyroid condition should give New York Yankees fans a renewed appreciation that Derek Jeter is their shortstop. For all the talented shortstops that have played Major League Baseball over the last 15 years, Jeter is king.

Amid all the talk about how long Jeter can keep playing shortstop, it's easy to forget that he's already played the position for 14 full seasons with no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Jeter has outlasted so many shortstops, including Garciaparra and Alex Rodriguez. I was re-watching that Superstar Shortstop video that was produced in 1999. Host Ozzie Smith talked about how Jeter, Nomar and ARod were on track to join the elite group of shortstops in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Now, only Jeter's admission is guaranteed with Nomar suffering a steep drop-off in his performance that will keep him out and ARod haunted by his steroids use that should keep him from gaining entrance.

Even here in New York, there have been shortstops playing for the Mets who were supposed to knock Jeter off his pedestal. Ray Ordonez was this defensive genius compared to Jeter, yet he couldn't hit to save his life, with a .246 career batting average compared to Jeter's .317, and was eventually run out of town. Reyes was supposed to be a swifter, more talented shortstop, and he does have a solid .286 career BA and 301 stolen bases. But he can't seem to get healthy enough to stay on the field, battling numerous leg and back injuries. And he is nowhere near as clutch as the Yankee Captain.

Jeter himself is sympathetic to Reyes and the difficulty he has staying healthy, but he can't really relate because he regularly plays nearly full seasons of baseball, only once missing significant time due to a dislocated shoulder, and he even came back from that in the minimum six weeks. Yankee fans are quite lucky indeed.

Thanks to OneTwo1 via Wikipedia for the photo.

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