Since Alex Rodriguez arrived in the Big Apple, the decade-old question has been a simple three word phrase: Who plays shortstop?
For those who don’t know, A-Rod was a shortstop during his days in Seattle and Texas. Even as a Yankees’ fan, one would be hard-pressed to say that Derek Jeter was a better player than Rodriguez. Out of respect for Jeter, Alex (for once) gracefully moved over to the hot corner for the duration of his career.
Now, in the twilight of their careers, both legends have accumulated mind-numbing numbers. On Tuesday, Jeter added another amazing stat on his illustrious résumé, scoring his 1,900th run in MLB. Only 11 other players have achieved this feat, by order: Rickey Henderson, Ty Cobb, Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Pete Rose, Willie Mays, Cap Anson, Stan Musial, and the aforementioned Rodriguez.
In fact, Rodriguez has 1,919. Jeter can definitely score 19 more times. If he does, it would almost be historic symbolism. Jeter was always perceived in New York as untouchable, but Alex has dominated the media since 2004 with the good (2007 MVP), the bad (steroids), and the ugly (his entire situation). Derek passing Alex would almost be the final blow to Rodriguez in Jeter’s last hurrah. Of course, A-Rod will always be synonymous with five tools, infinite potential, extreme power, and money. He will also be linked with steroids, scandal, and suspension, not to mention extreme self-adulation.
People love to hate Rodriguez. People also love to love Jeter. The run milestone is just another detail in an entire career of comparisons. And, who knows what Alex is thinking at home? Does he care if Jeter passes him on the runs list of all things? Probably not. But he was the best player in the world at the turn of the century, and he still juiced. He felt pressure to break records, especially the home run record held by Aaron or Bonds, depending on purity. Another A-Rod record will fall, and another highlight will be filmed when run 1,920 is plated by #2.
Jeter would never admit to caring, but does he want to pass his former teammate? Once again, probably not. He just wants to win. But this too is simply speculation.
Of course, A-Rod could return after his 2014 forced sabbatical. Whether any team (including the Yankees) would let him play is the bigger issue, as it would not be very difficult for Rodriguez to score at least 30 more times in his career to retake Jeter. Then Rodriguez would once again earn a spot in the top 10 runs club, and thus Jeter would fall outside at spot number 11. The Yankees still owe A-Rod money, and the team might as well let him play, as he is still a capable enough player.
The fact is that both players will be in baseball and Yankees’ record books forever: one player with an asterisk and one player without. In side-by-side comparisons, the stats will try to prove Jeter was the better player. Runs lead to wins, and wins lead to championships. Jeter is a winner, and this statistic has more importance than we realize.