Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

Sunday, June 29, 2008

MOST OVERRATED PLAYER?

In a Sports Illustrated survey of 495 Major League Baseball players in its June 23 issue, Derek Jeter was voted the most overrated with 10% of the vote. Struggling Giants lefthander Barry Zito was second at 9%, while Alex Rodriguez and Red Sox outfielderJ.D. Drew were tied for third with 7%. Mets third baseman David Wright and Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis tied for fourth at 4%.

While Jeter has had a distinguished career, this year year is certainly not among his best. In fact, by almost any measure, it simply isn't all that good. Despite this, Jeter is the number-two vote getter for this year's All Star Game, right behind teammate Alex Rodriguez. That's an undeserved place for Jeter, considering the mediocre year he's having.

Youkilis, on the other hand, has more hits, homers and a higher OBP than the Yankee shortstop. Once known as the "fat guy" at University of Cincinnati, Youkilis gets the utmost out of his limited athletic ability. The Sox first baseman set Major League records this year in consecutive games and chances at first without an error. But that's not all; his bat has been a potent weapon for the Sox all season.

Just look at the various offensive categories in which Youkilis ranks in the A.L.'s Top Ten:

RBI - 50
Average. - .313
Slugging - .544
OPS - .926
Doubles - 22
Total Bases - 153
Extra Base Hits - 37

JD Drew had a miserable 2007. His inaugural season in a Red Sox uniform was an embarrassment and certainly didn't live up to expectations. Simply put, he didn't earn his pay. But he's bounced back nicely this year.

Drew's Top Ten A.L. rankings:

OPS - .986
Runs - 57
Homers - 15
Walks - 45
On Base % - .417
Slugging - .570

But no one seriously considers Drew one of the game's greats. There is no talk about a future in Cooperstown for the Sox right fielder.

Jeter, on the other hand, is not in the Top Ten in any category. He's having a pretty uninspired year, just like the Yankees as a whole. But he is routinely referred to as a modern great who is even comparable to some of the all-time greats.

In 13 seasons, Jeter has amassed over 2400 hits. Unless his career is derailed by injury, he will certainly surpass the 3000 hit plateau. His next home run will be his 200th. And this year he will likely notch is 1000th RBI. But those are hardly Hall of Fame numbers. Perhaps Jeter's best stat is runs. He has reached 100 in eleven seasons, and has amassed a total of 1426. That's impressive.

But the number Jeter is most heralded for is four -- as in the World Series Championships he won over a five-season span with the Yankees. Jeter is also an eight-time All Star, and this year will mark his ninth trip to the Mid-Summer Classic.

But is he really that good? Is he an all-time great?

Aside from the hits, and the .316 career average, the numbers simply don't bear that out. If he weren't on those four Yankee Championship teams, playing for that marquee franchise, in the nation's biggest market, he wouldn't have nearly the same level of recognition or cache.

Jeter has struck out 100 times - or more - in eight seasons. Yet he's never had as many walks in any season. He's reached 300 total bases just three times, the highest being 303. And he's had just one 100-RBI season.

Jeter is also viewed as having limited range at short, yet he's won three Gold Glove Awards, all of which came after A-Rod became a Yankee and moved to third. And he won the Hank Aaron Award in 2007 as the A.L.'s best hitter -- despite having just 12 homers, 73 RBI, 100 strike outs, only 55 walks, and a modest .452 slugging percentage.

The truth is that Jeter is a good player, but not a great one. He benefits from being a Yankee, and from all of the hype and hoopla that come along with it.

His peers are right; Jeter is indeed overrated.

Copyright © 2008 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.

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