In the late 1990s, Derek Jeter wasn’t the best shortstop in the American League. Alex Rodriguez was. Jeter wasn’t the second best, either. Nomar Garciaparra was.
But is there any question that Jeter will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame the first shot he gets five years after retirement?
None at all.
First and foremost, Derek Jeter is a first ballot Hall of Famer because he represents everything that’s still right about the game of baseball. In the mold of another New York Yankees captain of a bygone era, Lou Gehrig, Jeter maintained a pristine image in the media capital of the world and was not just admired and liked by teammates and opponents, but idolized by some (see Troy Tulowitzki).
Now for his numbers.
His 3,300-plus hits alone should make him an automatic for enshrinement. But add to that achievement his .312 batting average, 256 homeruns for a shortstop, and 1,876 runs scored, and he has been one of the greatest offensive middle-infielders of all-time.
Jeter's fielding, while not as flamboyant or spectacular as, say, Ozzie Smith, was good enough to win five Gold Glove awards in an era when one of his contemporaries was Omar Vizquel.
And how about those rings? Five of them in the era of expanded playoffs. And he shined brightest on the biggest stage—the World Series—batting .321 and always seemed to find a way to hit the big homerun when the Yankees needed it most.
Perhaps no play exemplified the pure essence of what Jeter gave the Yankees more than the “flip play” that saved the Yankees’ 2001 season in the ALCS against the A’s in Game 3. As shown by that play, it was his intangibles, instincts and leadership abilities he brought to the table that will be his lasting legacy.
Jeter is a Hall of Fame lock.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Erik Sherman has been a freelance sportswriter for more than 30 years and has helped pen the autobiographies of both Glenn Burke and 2013 Hall of Very Good inductee Steve Blass. In April, his latest book Mookie: Life, Baseball and the '86 Mets hits the shelves. You can find Sherman online at his website, Erik Sherman Baseball.