The Greatest Yank
July 13, 2011

First of all, I do think it's a pretty substantial accomplishment that Derek Jeter made it past 3000 hits for a career.  Back in the 1990s there was a great deal of hullaballoo that Bernie Williams would make it there as well and Yankee fans were none-too-quiet about their team having two guys with potentially more than 3000 hits apiece.  That has happened only a few times previously, with Cal Ripken turning the trick with both Eddie Murray and Rafael Palmeiro with the Orioles, and Paul Molitor and Robin Yount with the Brewers.  Rickey Henderson and Tony Gwynn are the only two teammates to get 3000 hits with the same team.  Still, as milestones go, it's pretty significant as only 28 players in history have achieved it. 

Of course, only 28 players have hit 475 or more homers, and only 28 players have stolen 540 bases, including Juan Pierre.  These kinds of milestones are a point of interest with some having more cache than others.  This particular one usually guarantees enshrinement in Cooperstown.

And to believe the media, Jeter should already be there.  More than one writer has opined that Jeter now belongs in the Yankee pantheon of greatest players, alongside Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra.  One even went so far as to say Jeter belonged above Berra. 

Correct me if I'm wrong here but Berra won three MVPs in an era dominated by icons of the game; playing in the same league as players like Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle.  Jeter has never won an MVP and has seriously challenged only once.  But he belongs in the same breath as the best player in history and arguably the greatest players at their respective positions?  Derek Jeter was never the best player at his position, let alone the best shortstop in history, and for the last eight years it can be easily argued he wasn't even the best shortstop on his own team.  Only one year, 2006, was Jeter mathematically the best, only a fraction better than Carlos Guillen and Jose Reyes.  Ironically that was his second highest career BABIP at .391.  A number that high usually indicates he was more than a little lucky that year. 

Jeter has only two bold marks in his ledger: he led the league in hits once and the league in runs once.  No batting titles, no stolen base marks, no on-base titles.  He's has the 9th highest WAR among shortstops, and defensively he is THE WORST shortstop in history.  That's right.  Using fielding runs, Derek Jeter has notched a -114.4 runs at shortstop, which is almost 20 more runs than the #2 bad glove at short, Toby Harrah, and almost 40 more runs than third place Ranger utility infielder Michael Young.  To put that in perspective, that's 200 runs worse than Honus Wagner, who in the early part of his career didn't even use a glove!  OK, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but the glove Wagner did use was not much different than a leather glove you might use to garden.

The 3000
hits guarantees that he'll get into the Hall of Fame.  But among the greatest players ever?  The writers will talk about the spectacular plays he made in crucial situations like the dive into the stands or the Jeremy Giambi tag in the playoffs.  These, they say, are what define Derek Jeter.  And those were highlight-worthy plays.  However, in that same game where Jeter dove into the stands, Pokey Reese made a similar play earlier in the game.  And he was an excellent gloveman.  No one talks about him in reveratial tones.  And the Giambi play would have been a non-story had Giambi just slid at home.  He would have been safe and the Yankees would have been eliminated from the playoffs that year.  End of story.  Why are people giving Jeter credit when it was another player's utter bone-headed decision-making that made the play what it is? 

For me, the moment that best defines Derek Jeter is the Jeffery Mayer catch.  He hit a long fly ball and a 12-year old kid, with the help of an incompetent umpire, got him credited with a home run.  Jeter's legacy is much like that of another Yankee shortstop, Phil Rizzuto.  He was the beneficiary of being in the right place at the right time.  Look how loaded those Yankees teams were.  They had All-Stars at practically every position and three in the rotation as well.  And that Rivera guy closing games out.   In how many seasons was Derek Jeter the best player on his team?  Were there any?  No doubt, Jeter is a very good player who played for a long time and for that he deserves much kudos.  But one of the greatest of his generation?  Had he played in Kansas City or San Diego would he be getting this kind of hoopla?  I'm sorry, but truly great players, those inner circle guys they are comparing Jeter to, don't need help from their team or their media market to prove their greatness.  The truly great player's value is obvious at first sight.  Look at Jeter's page and show me what says "great"...

I also wanted to provide an update as to what is going on in the longest standing expert keeper league, the XFL.  If you'll remember, I wasn't optimistic about my team's pitching staff at the outset because it lacked a true staff ace.  And my worst fears were realized as none of the starting pitchers have done much to impress.  Compound that with an offense undermined by the injuries of Chase Utley, Ryan Zimmerman and Joe Mauer, further hamstrung by the ineffectiveness of Alex Rios and Derrek Lee, and it's easy to see how this team has languished in last place for much of the year.  All in all this has been the worst season I have ever experienced playing fantasy baseball.  Frankly, from a pure talent standpoint, I still can't fathom how they are more than 60 points out of first place.  Ah well, it is what it is. 

Next year, however, now looks a little more promising.

Or at least the ace aspect of it, as I acquired Stephen Strasburg in the largest trade ever completed in this league, or in any league in which I have participated .  Eighteen players exchanged hands and from it I am hoping that this year's cursed season will be remediated by several years of bounty.  Here are the particulars (2011 price + salary increase for 2012 in parenthesis):

From my team I sent:
Chase Utley ($36+5), Ryan Zimmerman ($37+5), Alex Avila ($7+5), Ricky Nolasco ($15+5), Brian Wilson ($19+5), Tim Stauffer ($4+5), Paul Maholm ($5+5), Sergio Santos ($5+5) and David Hernandez ($5+5),

in exchange for:
Stephen Strasburg ($4+3), Buster Posey ($4+3), Christian Colon ($0+3), Chris Volstad ($1+5), Drew Sutton ($5+5), Jesus Guzman ($5+5), Matt Downs ($5+5), Kris Medlen ($5+5) and Matt Purke ($0+3).

The deal puts my trading partner, Steve Moyer, back in the picture for this year's title, as he has added considerable punch to a line-up that already featured Albert Pujols, Evan Longoria, Carlos Gonzalez and Matt Kemp.  The pitchers I sent him will complement Felix Hernandez, Francisco Liriano and Brandon Morrow.  He was a natural trading partner for me because he had several players who weren't active this year that I really wanted, the foremost being Strasburg.  Posey was also attractive, but I had Avila and Mauer already at catcher so the position wasn't an urgent concern.  I actually like Avila a little more than Posey because I think long-term he has more power.  Still, Posey appears to have an edge in on-base skills and seeing as this is an on-base league and he's a +3 instead of a +5 like Avila, the trade-off seemed more than fair.  Now I just have to hope that Posey recovers fully from his injuries the way Jason Kendall did after his catastrophic ankle injury. 

I was reluctant to part with both Santos and Hernandez, as I like their chances of having their teams' closing jobs next year.  They along with Avila and possibly Stauffer will provide Steve with some tough keeper decisions this offseason.  A team stacked with Evan Longoria ($10+3), Danny Espinosa ($1+5), JJ Hardy ($1+5), Cameron Maybin ($1+5), Matt Kemp ($16+3), Carlos Gonzalez ($11+5), Felix Hernandez ($19+3), Brandon Morrow ($6+5), plus a whole slew of top prospects on his farm including Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Jacob Turner, Taylor Jungmann, George Springer, Wilin Rosario and Francisco Lindor... his decisions won't be easy.  He also has Geovanny Soto ($18+5) and Francisco Liriano ($15+5) at potential keeper prices depending on how well they finish this season - so there's at least a chance that some of the guys I dealt him could become available for the fall auction.  Time will tell.

If he does hold on to the closers, that will make things a little more difficult next year as there are quite a large number of closers in the league at keeper prices.  I imagine very few will be available in November.  However, that's not as big a liability as it might seem as I picked up both Santos and Hernandez off waivers, and Leo Nunez, JJ Putz, Kyle Farnsworth, Kevin Gregg, Ryan Madson, Brian Fuentes, Frank Francisco, Brandon League and Jon Rauch were all acquired in the spring supplemental draft.  There are worse fates than heading into the November draft without a closer.

The end result is that I have the following keepers for next year (their 2012 salaries in parenthesis):

C  Buster Posey       ($7  +3)

C  Joe Mauer          ($22 +3)
1B Brandon Belt       ($4  +3)
2B Gordon Beckham     ($10 +3)
OF Jay Bruce          ($13 +3)
OF Justin Upton       ($16 +3)
OF Mike Stanton       ($7  +3)
SP Stephen Strasburg  ($7  +3)

Of course, the most important keeper will be Strasburg.  Evidence strongly indicates that a team without a dominant ace - a low WHIP, high-strikeout, 200-inning horse - can not win this league.  And even though Strasburg will likely be on a similar innings limit next year as Jordan Zimmermann is this year, he still should provide excellent numbers for four to five months of the season.  That could be enough to put me in the final mix.  In addition to those eight, I also have Zack Cozart ($1) on a +3 schedule, so if he plays well the rest of the way he could fill a spot also.  In addition, I now have Yu Darvish, Anthony Rendon, Cristian Colon, Derek Norris, Jonathan Singleton, Trevor Bauer, Matt Purke and Jed Bradley on the farm.  And depending on how the rest of the season plays out I can choose from Matt Joyce ($6), Colby Lewis ($11), Phil Hughes ($15), Edwin Jackson ($9) and Johan Santana ($18) as +5 keepers.  I'm hoping to continue dealing prospects and players for other keepers and draft picks but we will have to see.  A trade this big might take a while to fully digest.