Plain and simple the reason New York Yankees captain is Derek Jeter is being mentioned and promoted (granted mostly by Yankees fans) as a candidate for the American League Most valuable player is because he is Derek Jeter.
There has been much debate about who the winner should be between Los Angeles Angels rookie sensation Mike Trout and Detroit Tigers Triple Crown threat Miguel Cabrera among baseball analysts over the last several days and that is probably where the argument should be. On Yanks Go Yard, staff writers Matt Hunter and Andrew Corselli each took sides for who was the Yankees season MVP between Jeter and Robinson Cano.
I have no intention of beating a dead horse by going through the numbers which Matt wraps up nicely in two pieces. If you want to see them follow the links here and here. Andrew put his spin to the argument here. I’m going to try to spell out why Jeter garners this much love despite having inferior numbers, both on a tradition front and in the sabermetric realm. I’ll set out to explain the mindset of fans and of some writers who will certainly give Jeter some votes.
First, there shouldn’t be anyone out there who has any credibility denying the fantastic season Jeter has strung together at the age of 38. Last night he notched his 200th hit of the season, yes a single, marking the eighth time in his career he has reached the mark. There is reason number one. He leads the league in hits at just two years shy of turning 40 and has done it playing one of the more demanding positions on the field. Right, he’s not great at the position, but he’s there as often as possible and it has yet to affect his abilities at the plate.
Earlier in the week he passed Willie Mays on the all-time hit list, now up to 3,288 and his eighth 200-hit season ties a franchise record with Lou Gehrig. That’s Willie Mays, often considered one of the best players to play the game and Lou Gehrig, another Hall of Famer who epitomizes Yankees’ lore. Two icons in the same breath during the same week. Reason number two.
Jeter has been playing the last few weeks of the season with a bone bruise in his left ankle. He’s put together a 13-game hit streak together during that time and had a couple big hits along the way. At its worst the injury was visibly affecting his running and he DH’ed for four straight games before returning to shortstop last night. He would have played at short if Yankees manager Joe Girardi allowed him to and there is reason number four. He’s the ultimate competitor, he never gives in, and he seemingly goes after it each and every day he sets foot on the field. This is the player who leaped into the stands and busted his face to get a foul ball. There is reason number three; he’s viewed as a warrior.
Reason number four is the impression of the last two. He’s doing it during a heated pennant race when the Yankees need him the most. The team has been affected by injuries all season and there is Jeter looking like a gimp but still producing. As Michael Kay of the YES Network has been suggesting, Jeter is “willing his team to victory.” Jeter’s aura grows and grows.
The final reason and the one that may matter most in the eyes of the fans who want so badly for Jeter to win the MVP is after all these years of busting it on the field and possibly being robbed of the award a couple of times in his career, this may be The Captain’s last great season. No one wants to write him off; how could we after the past year and a half of quite excellent play? But the reality is he will just keep getting older and the slight injuries will turn into extended trips to the disabled list like many of his teammates have endured this season. This very well could be the last 200-hit season he’ll produce.
By no means am I suggesting that Jeter should win the American League Most Valuable Player Award. And maybe, Cano is having a better statistical season, so suggesting Jeter is the Yankee MVP could also be a stretch.
But, this is Derek Jeter. That’s it. He’s an icon who has played his entire career on baseball’s grandest stage. He is having a remarkable season that few could have predicted. He plays in the largest media market in sports and has excelled under the pressure of it since the day he stepped foot on the field. While these may not be the right reasons for casting votes for him, (and there could be other ‘intangibles’ I didn’t mention; there I used the dreaded word) they provide the basis for writers to extend him votes and why fans are so adamant that he is deserving of the honor.