FIRE JOE MORGAN: Peter King Knows a Lot About Football


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Monday, May 29, 2006


Peter King Knows a Lot About Football

And not a lot about baseball.

I think I said something to my bride the other night that I never thought I'd say about a New York Yankee. As many of you may have divined from this column over the years, that's not my favorite franchise on earth. Anyway, I said to her: I'm not sure about this, but I think when Derek Jeter retires, I will say he's the best baseball player I ever saw.

I know this is subjective, but: Peter King graduated from college in 1979, so I estimate he is 49ish. If we can assume he has been watching baseball since the age of, say, eight, in 1965 or so, that means he has been able personally to see these people play baseball: Willie Mays, Frank Robinson, Albert Pujols, Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Alex Rodriguez, Willie McCovey, Mike Schmidt, Willie Stargell, Ken Griffey, Jr., Harmon Killebrew, and Reggie Jackson. He has also seen: Tim Salmon, John Olerud, Ryan Klesko, J.D. Drew, Chipper Jones, Bobby Abreu, Larry Walker, Jim Edmonds, and Scott Rolen, all of whom have a higher OPS+ than Derek Jeter.

Living in Jersey, I see the man come to bat maybe 300 times a season, and I watch him in the field maybe 40 percent of his innings. But Jeter personifies effort every time he puts on the uniform; there is never anything but 100 percent effort.

A lot of baseball players exhibit this quality.

Every at-bat is quality.

Fair enough. He does put together nice at bats.

Every ball hit to him, and some only close to him, are gobbled up with certainty.

Although defensive metrics are problematic and often rudimentary, every single one of them lists Jeter as one of the worst defensive SS in the last ten years. The Baseball Prospectus book "Baseball Between the Numbers" calculates that he moved up to the middle of the pack in his first gold glove year, but overall, he is quite weak.

And the way he carries himself ... He is baseball's Tiger Woods. He is this Yankee generation's DiMaggio. And I think he'll go down as better than Mantle, because though Mantle was truly great, he also squandered much of his ability through wild living.

Oh boy.

He is not baseball's Tiger Woods. Given that baseball is a team sport and golf one of individuals, I'm not even really sure what that means, but assuming it means he is a great champion and clutch player and something like "he's at his best in big moments," or something, I'll dispel this wild assertion simply by saying that in the exact same number of AB in the postseason, Jeter's own teammate Bernie Williams has more HR, way more RBI, a higher SLG, and, obviously, the same number of rings.

"This Yankee generation's DiMaggio" is actually an apt description of Jeter, since DiMaggio, for most of his life, got far more praise than he actually deserved. Not that he didn't deserve praise -- he is obviously a HOFer and a wonderful hitter, but tell me exactly how it is that people agreed to call him "The Greatest Living Ballplayer" when Mays, Williams, Aaron, Bonds, Robinson, and about fifteen other guys were still walking the earth? DiMaggio and Jeter are both very very good baseball players -- DiMaggio was far better -- who get too much praise relative to their peers because they play in New York.

And as for the idea that Jeter will go down in history as a better baseball player than Mickey Mantle...there are maybe a thousand statistics I could lay down to prove him wrong, but I'll just give you one.

Derek Jeter Career RC/27: 6.45
Mickey Mantle Career RC/27: 8.78

A team of 9 Mickey Mantles would beat a team of 9 Derek Jeters by more than two runs per game. The end.

Thanks to reader Dave for the tip.

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