The first ballot leaders for the MLB All Star game in Minneapolis this July were released this week and Derek Jeter was listed as the top vote getter at shortstop. This is hardly a surprise as it is the final season of a stellar Hall of Fame career. However, it reopens a debate that has been circling Jeter for several years now. Is Jeter still an All Star? Or is he simply being selected based upon his “lifetime achievement?”
The answer to the question of whether Derek Jeter is an All Star falls into two distinct and fundamentally divergent corners. On one hand, you have the stats, the numbers that indicate the level at which a player is performing. We can debate whether WAR and OPS is superior to batting average and RBI, but both will give us some idea of who is a better player. On the other side of the proverbial coin, we have the heart and intangible argument. The player has been an All-Star a dozen times, of course, he is still an All-Star. If he is an all-time great, then we have to have him at the All-Star game.
If we look at the stats, Jeter is not an All-Star. Among American League shortstops, Jeter ranks 4th in batting average (.269) and seventh in hits (47). The numbers get worse from there as Jeter is tied for 12th in home runs (1), 13th in RBI (10), and 11th in slugging (.320). The advanced sabermetrics tell an even more ominous tale. Jeter is tenth in OPS (.657), 13th in WAR (0.3) and 11th in Runs Created.
The lifetime achievement theory paints a much different picture. Derek Jeter is an all-time great Hall of Fame player in his last season. It would be fitting to have him go to the All Star Game one last time to pay homage to the fans. Some of the best All Star Game moments included Mariano Rivera last season and Cal Ripken Jr and Alex Rodriguez switching positions for an inning to honor those baseball heroes with one last ride into the sunset. We have seen aging players who were shells of their former selves be put on All Star teams for a final memory before, Willie Mays in 1973, Reggie Jackson in 1983, and Ripken in 2001. If the All-Star Game is for the fans, then they should see the players they want to watch.
I can see both sides of the argument. However, when I look at the All Star Game, I want to see the players having the best seasons and the players who are the best in the league. Derek Jeter is no longer the best shortstop in the American League. If two players are about equal, and one is a so called “legacy” player, I am fine with that being the tie-breaker. But it can’t be the main point of a player’s selection. Unless he picks up his play in the next month, he should not be playing in the All-Star Game. There are too many other more deserving shortstops this season, such as Alexei Ramirez, JJ Hardy, Eduardo Escobar, and Erick Aybar. Jeter should be involved during All-Star weekend somehow, maybe as a team captain or throw out the first pitch. But he is not having an All-Star season.