Jeter Isn’t the Greatest Yankee of All-Time… And That’s OK


As Derek Jeter Day arrives, there has been a lot of talk about his place among the greatest New York Yankees of all time. There have even been people chiming in that he is the single greatest Yankee of all time. Today, as the baseball world tunes in to watch Derek Jeter Day in the Bronx, he will certainly make a case for being atop the list. The unfortunate truth is he may not be.

I know what you’re thinking. Who let’s this guy write for a Yankee site? If you’ve followed me at all this season, you know that I still think this Yankees team is making the playoffs and that I absolutely love Derek Jeter. He is, without a doubt, the greatest Yankee of his generation. But that doesn’t make him the greatest Yankee of all-time, in fact, he may not even make our “Mount Rushmore”.

The plain and simple truth is that if Derek Jeter were on pretty much any other team in baseball, he would be the unquestioned all-time greatest in that team’s history. Heck, if he played only a few miles away across town for the Mets there wouldn’t even be anyone close. Instead, Derek Jeter is a Yankee, and the Yankees are full of names and people who shaped the game of baseball. They aren’t just Yankee greats, they are baseball greats.

Take for example, Lou Gehrig. True, Gehrig now has the second most hits and second most doubles in Yankees’ history, but that doesn’t mean Jeter was a better player. For eleven straight seasons, The Iron Horse was the best first baseman in baseball as he anchored six World Champion teams. He had two MVP awards over that span, a Triple Crown and hit over .370 in back to back seasons. He had over 200 hits eight times, the same amount of times Jeter that has. Gehrig had a “down” year in 1938, his final full season before his career was robbed from him, batting .295 with 29 home runs while driving in 114 runs and scoring 115. Imagine if Gehrig had one or two more years to play?

The Mick. Anytime I’ve been asked that cliche question of which player, living or dead, I would want to see, the answer is always Mickey Mantle. If Mantle took care of himself, he could have been the single greatest baseball player that ever played the game. Alas, you can’t rewrite history, but you can review it. Mantle was arguably the best outfielder in baseball for a ten year span, over which time he won three MVP awards and a Triple Crown. He was an on-base machine, leading the league in walks and runs five times. Jeter led the league in runs once, never in walks. Jeter was atop the order for his entire career, too, a spot in the lineup known for taking walks and getting on base. On top of that, The Mick won seven World Series rings and was in the Fall Classic TWELVE times. Was he surrounded by some other hefty talent? Absolutely, but if you think the Yankees make 12 World Series without him, you are out of your mind.

Then there is The Bambino. The Sultan of Swat. How can anyone compete with this guy? Babe Ruth is baseball. He played in a different era, yes, but he hit more home runs than entire teams did. He walked, he scored, he drove in runs, he launched moon shots and if he wasn’t one of the best pitchers in baseball for the first five years of his career, his offensive stats would most likely be untouchable. Just take a minute and think about that. The same guy with a career .342 batting average, 714 home runs and 2,214 RBI was also 94-46 over 147 starts, with a career 2.28 ERA. No one will ever be that amazing again.

And don’t forget Joltin’ Joe. Joe DiMaggio, the Yankee Clipper, was at one point the self-proclaimed Greatest Living Baseball Player Alive. Now, I 100 percent disagree with that statement, and don’t think there was any point that he was the best player in the business, but he was certainly good. Joey D missed three years for military service and played only 13 big league seasons. He won nine of the ten World Series he played in. That’s right, folks, DiMaggio was in the World Series 77 percent of his entire career. That’s insane.

Ask yourself this question. What if Don Mattingly won just one World Series? What if the Yankees surrounded him with a third of the pitching talent that Jeter had surrounding him? Donnie Baseball was the best first baseman, and possibly the best all around player in baseball from 1984 to 1987. Jeter has never even been considered the best short stop in baseball at any point of his career. By 1990, Mattingly’s career was in decline due to his debilitating back injury, but he made no excuses. He is still seventh all time on the Yankees in hits and fourth all time in doubles. If he wasn’t part of the worst era in Yankees history, he may be a Hall of Famer.

I haven’t even brought up Whitey Ford, Thurman Munson, Yogi Berra, Red Ruffing, or the bevy of other huge superstars to win pinstripes. And that’s not bashing Jeter. Like I said, he was the face of the late 90’s dynasty that brought life back into a Yankee fan base that had hit rock bottom. He is undoubtedly one of the most exciting Yankees to watch in all of their lore, and if you asked me who the one Yankee I’d want on my team in October, the answer would be Derek Jeter 10 out 10 times.

There is no other player in baseball over the last 20 years that could have brought the same energy and leadership to the Yankees that Derek Jeter has, and I will miss seeing Number Two out there in pinstripes for the rest of my life. But that doesn’t make him the greatest Yankee ever.

So today, when you are watching the game and reading the endless commentary afterward on where Jeter stands, remember that he is a New York Yankee, a team that has 52 players in the Hall of Fame. They are a team that has so many numbers retired that they are about to have to start using letters on their uniforms.

The Yankees don’t pride themselves on MVP Awards or statistical league leaders. The Yankees measure their greatness by rings unlike any other organization in baseball. That being said, trying to find where Jeter ranks amongst the greats is both insulting and practically useless. He was a winner, a guy who gave 200 percent every out he was on the field and probably the only guy in the entire baseball world who could care less about Derek Jeter and his ranking in history. Whether he is the greatest, a top ten, or simply the last single digit number to be retired by the Yankees, one thing is for certain. There will never be another Derek Jeter.