Major League Baseball has witnessed the shortstop position drastically evolve through the decades. Baseball teams would be more than satisfied with a shortstop who would produce a batting average of .220 to go along with one homerun, as long as that shortstop was a defensive wizard and captain of the infield. Speaking of wizards, Ozzie Smith, nicknamed The Wizard of Oz, picked up 13 Gold Gloves at the shortstop position for the St. Louis Cardinals in 19 seasons. He is a Hall of Famer now and was considered a good hitting shortstop for his time with a .262 career batting average and only 28 career homeruns.
Of the players primarily considered shortstops, eight of the top 10 leaders in homeruns have played in the 21st century. Only Robin Yount and Vern Stephens played prior. In today's game, we have up-and-coming shortstops with the ability to hit a ton of long balls like Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, Cory Seager, Xander Boggarts, Trevor Story, and Addison Russell, who may find themselves on that top 10 list when their careers are over. The likes of Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Miguel Tejada, and Nomar Garciaparra really burst on the seen in the '90s and changed the standards for what is expected from a Major League shortstop. In 2004 the New York Yankees, a franchise full of greatness, traded for the great Alex Rodriguez to play along side Derek Jeter, a move which caused a great deal of controversy. Two of the greatest shortstops ever, playing for the greatest sports franchise of all time, but who would become the greater Yankee?
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16 Alex Rodriguez: Sacrificed His Position
After Alex Rodriguez was acquired in an offseason trade by the New York Yankees for Alfonso Soriano and a player to be named later, one would hopefully think that A-Rod, Jeter, A-Rod's agent, and the Yankee organization knew that two players can't play shortstop at the same time. A-Rod played shortstop his entire career with the Seattle Mariners and then Texas Rangers. Well, so did Derek Jeter while Alfonso Soriano was the Yankee starting second baseman for a few years. I don't really think there was a definite plan though. Right after the trade was made there was much speculation. Was Jeter moving to second base so that A-Rod could play short? Would Derek stay at short and A-Rod slide over to third? Centerfielder Bernie Williams' career was nearing it's end too. Many wondered if Derek Jeter would one day move to centerfield as A-Rod was the bigger star, making the big bucks, yet chose to play third base and allow The Yankee Captain to stay at shortstop.
15 Derek Jeter: Likeability
Even if you hate the Yankees organization as much as I do as a Met fan, you have to admit that Derek Jeter is a pretty likeable guy. He always seemed to say the right thing when interviewed, win or lose. When has anyone heard any bad publicity about Jeter away from the field? The answer is never. Jeter has the life that most single bachelors dream of. He plays professional baseball in the greatest city in the world, for the most historic franchise in professional sports, and he dates all these beautiful models and celebrities. If I could be like Mike? Who wouldn't want to be Jeter? Alex Rodriguez on the other hand, sometimes didn't know when to shut up to save face. Ever since he joined the Yankees it has seemed, to me and to others, that he tried too hard to be like Jeter. He would have been better served to play the sidekick role to Derek, just go out and hit bombs, and let Jeter handle the media. This probably was the major factor in creating a rift in their friendship.
14 Alex Rodriguez: "Saviour" of the Asterix
Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were bringing fans back to baseball in 1998 as they were chasing the single season home run record of 61 homers held by Roger Maris of the New York Yankees in 1961. Something wasn't quite right though as these two men came into the Major Leagues with slim athletic builds, but now looked like their own versions of The Incredible Hulk. Baseball was being tarnished as more and more players were using steroids. Jose Canseco, a user himself began ratting people out, and league wide investigations exposed the cheaters in America's greatest pastime. Barry Bonds, an MVP player in his own right, hit 73 homeruns in 2001 when his original career high in homers was 49. Alex Rodriguez was on pace to shatter these records if he could stay healthy until he turned 40. Baseball purists hoped that he would be the one to overtake Barry Bonds and remove the Asterix from the record books. Unfortunately, it was all too good to be true as it was founded that Alex Rodriguez, was too, a cheater himself. A-Rod lost all respect in the baseball world, after denying for years that he never cheated the game.
13 Derek Jeter: Clean as a Whistle
Unlike Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter was never associated with steroids or performance enhancing drugs of any kind. In New York, Derek Jeter and David Wright of the New York Mets were the team captains that pushed for steroid users to be punished for their actions. It had no place of belonging in the game of baseball. Derek Jeter lead the Yankees to 14 straight postseason appearances. He was a 15-time All Star and never cheated the game to achieve his greatness. One of the reasons why Derek Jeter was and still is so beloved is the example by which he played the game. Jeter was the clean-cut Captain who could do no wrong in the eyes on New York fans; as well as many baseball fans in general who admired the way Jeter carried himself throughout his career.
12 Alex Rodriguez: Better Baserunner?
Let's start getting into comparing the numbers between these two superstars. Runs win games, wins bring championships. Simple enough I would presume. A-Rod and Jeter played almost the exact same number of games: 2784 for A-Rodd, 2747 for Jeter. This just makes my job easier while comparing stats between the two. A-Rod finished his career leading the American League in runs scored five times. Jeter, surprisingly only once. A-Rod also finished his career with almost 100 more runs scored than Jeter, 2021 to 1923.
As far as stolen bases go, Jeter finished his career with more steals than A-Rod, 358 to 329. However, Jeter was caught stealing 21 more times which by the number makes A-Rod the better base-stealer. On an even greater note, A-Rod is one of only four baseball players in history to obtain 40 homeruns and 40 stolen bases in a single season. He accomplished this by hitting 42 homers and stealing 46 bases in 1998, joining Jose Canseco, Barry Bonds, and later Alfonso Soriano on this historic list.
11 Derek Jeter: Better Pure Hitter
Both of these potential future Hall of Famers, (if A-Rod didn't use steroids) eclipsed the 3,000 hit plateau. There's much debate as to whether or not performance-enhancing drugs can improve your overall hitting, hand eye coordination, etc, etc, but there's no debate that it didn't help A-Rod become a better pure hitter than Jeter. Derek Jeter finished his career with a .310 batting average, while A-Rod finished at .295, if he indeed decides to retire after 2016. Jeter ended his career with the most hits ever by a shortstop with 3465.
Oddly enough, with all of Jeter's success, he never won a batting title. He hit over .330 in four different seasons and yet still fell short. A-Rod did win one batting title in 1999. However, Jeter showed his hitting prowess by collecting over 200 hits in eight different seasons during his career. A-Rod fell well short with only three.
10 Alex Rodriguez: Should Have Played Shortstop
Derek Jeter was the New York Yankees starting shortstop ever since he came up from the Minor Leagues. Before A-Rod arrived in pinstripes, Derek Jeter had won four World Series rings as the Yankees shortstop, developed into their team captain, and so probably deserved to remain their starting shortstop. That doesn't mean that was the right decision.
Alex Rodriguez had already gained two Gold Glove Awards playing shortstop before joining the Yankees. Jeter had zero before A-Rod arrived. I feel that Jeter obtaining five Gold Gloves at short was only due to A-Rod moving to third base. A-Rod could have compiled maybe seven or more Gold Gloves if he was able to continue playing shortstop.
A-Rod has the numbers to back it up. Alex Rodriguez' career fielding percentage at shortstop is .977, one point higher than Jeter at .976. The biggest differential is in the amount of balls they were able to get to at shortstop. A-Rod's range factor per nine innings was measured at 4.62 when playing shortstop. Derek Jeter was well off at 4.04 for his career.
9 Derek Jeter: Intangibles
We have all heard this word a lot in our lifetimes when it comes to describing Derek Jeter. It is probably the sole basis in describing everything about Jeter. If he was a superhero in a children's cartoon his name would be Derek Intangible! Anyway, Derek Jeter does things that no other ball player does. He does things that don't show up in the box scores, and he does it at the most opportune time. On July 1, 2004, the Yankees faced off against the rival Red Sox. There was a pop up down the third base line. Derek Jeter comes running in a B-line from shortstop to make the grab, and throws himself head first into the stands and on top of fans to make an outstanding catch. Game Three in Oakland, 2001 ALDS: base hit down the right field line. The throw comes home, missing two cut off men. The next thing you see is Derek Jeter racing in from short to cut it off. He wasn't necessarily where he "should have been," but was where he needed to be. A heads up play to cut the ball off and flip it sideways to Jorge Posada at home plate to get the out, and save a run, which could have ultimately cost the Yankees the game, the season, and a World Series appearance.
8 Alex Rodriguez: Slash Line
Three statistical categories that are often used to compare baseball players are their on base percentage, slugging percentage, and the combination of the two, better known as OPS. A players batting average is used, along with the on base and slugging percentages, to create the "slash line." Abbreviated, the slash line would look like this : AVG/OBP/SLG. Now while Derek Jeter finished his career with a higher batting average than Alex Rodriguez, A-Rod actually got on base on more occasions than Jeter. A-Rod's OBP of .380 is three points higher than Jeter's career mark of .377. OBP can be seen as a better way to judge a player than their batting average, and can definitely be one of the major reasons why A-Rod scored more runs than Jeter in his career. As for slugging percentage, their is no comparison. A-Rod's .550 slugging percentage was over one hundred points high than Jeter's. 440. This is in large part of course due to the amount of home runs A-Rod hit in his career. With a combined OPS of .930, to Jeter's .817, is their an argument to whom the better player is here?
7 Derek Jeter: World Series Rings
Five World Series rings! Not many baseball players can say that they have enough rings to fill up one hand, but Derek Jeter does. Five championships in this modern Era where 30 teams now exist in Major League Baseball. That's only a 3.33% chance for each team when the season starts. The Yankee franchise leads all teams in Major League Baseball in championships, but most of those came at a time when only 16 teams existed. Derek Jeter helped Captain a dynasty for the New York Yankees, winning four World Series titles in five years. To create a dynasty is almost impossible nowadays. When you see teams winning year after year, you can point to the greatest players of all time. Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls won NBA titles three years in a row from 1991-1993 and then again from 1996-1998. Wayne Gretzky won four NHL titles in five seasons with the Edmonton Oilers in '84 and '85, then again in '87 and '88. Tom Brady and the Patriots won three Super Bowls in four years in 2001, 2003 and 2004. But no team in the MLB has even won two World Series Championships in a row since the Yankees won three in a row. Derek Jeter is a once in a generation player.
6 Alex Rodriguez: MVP
Alex Rodriguez is a three-time AL MVP, twice with the New York Yankees, a team that was full of All-Stars, including Derek Jeter. Jeter never once won the Most Valuable Player Award during the regular season. MVP Awards are usually handed out to the best players in both the American and National Leagues. One would think if A-Rod was voted three times as the best player in the league, how can Jeter be greater than him? To explain how impressive winning three AL MVP Awards is, only one player has won more. That was the controversial great, Barry Bonds who won seven NL MVP's with the Pittsburgh Pirates and San Francisco Giants. A-Rod is tied with other Yankee greats, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, and Yogi Berra with those three MVP Awards. Lastly, how many of these players were able to win multiple MVP Awards playing at different positions in their career? Alex Rodriguez did just that. A-Rod haters cannot deny his greatness.
5 Derek Jeter: Yankee Stats Leader
When you think about who would be the greater Yankee between Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter, it pays to know who were the greatest Yankees of all time. One way of doing this is by looking at the career stat leaders in New York Yankee history. Derek Jeter is the all time leader in games played, at bats, plate appearances, hits, doubles, and stolen bases. He is also second all time in runs scored as a Yankee and sixth in RBI even though he wasn't a power hitter. The five gentlemen that Jeter trails in runs batted in are Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, and Yogi Berra. These five New York Yankee greats not only have their jersey numbers retired by the Yankees in the Canyon of Heroes, but they are also enshrined in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. Derek Jeter too will no doubtably become a first ballot Hall of Famer. The same cannot be said about Alex Rodriguez after he tainted his career by using banned substances.
4 Alex Rodriguez: WAR
Wins Above Replacement, or what we like to call WAR, is one of the new stats baseball analysts like to use to determine the number of wins a player added to their team above what a replacement player would. This is just another way to show the value of a player at their position for their given team. A WAR of eight and above is considered MVP quality. A WAR of five and above, All-Star quality. Two and above is starter quality, while zero-two considered reserve quality. Lastly, zero is the level of replacement. When you compare A-Rod to Jeter, well, there's no comparison. Alex Rodriguez has a career WAR of 117.7, while Derek Jeter's career WAR is just 71.8. In fact Derek Jeter has only had a WAR above All-Star quality five times in his career. A-Rod has done that in 11 seasons in comparison. An even starker comparison is the MVP quality level. Jeter just barely finished the 1999 season with a WAR of eight. A-Rod obtained a WAR of above eight, in eight different seasons. A-Rod also is 12th all time in total career WAR, behind the likes of Babe Ruth and Barry Bonds. Jeter is down at 58. Does this make A-Rod the 12th best position player of all time?
3 Derek Jeter: The Captain
The Captain, or as the radio voice of the New York Yankees would call him, El Capitan, Derek Jeter was named team captain for the Yankees on June 3, 2003, the first team captain since Don Mattingly was named captain from 1991 to 1995. Only 13 other men (aside from Jeter and Mattingly) have ever had the captain tag given to them in Yankee pinstripes, and according to New York Yankee General Manager Brian Cashman, Derek Jeter should be the last captain ever. Now I'm going to name some of the Yankee greats who were never named team captain. Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, and Yogi Berra, as great as they were, never became team captains. Babe Ruth was captain of the Yankees for a whole six days before throwing dirt at an umpire and arguing with a heckler in the stands. It wouldn't matter if we thought Jeter was just a good player or a Hall of Fame player, he was way more than that. He was their captain for 12 years and their leader for his entire career. He was Captain Clutch and carried the Yankees when they needed him the most. He was the complete personification of a Yankee!
2 Alex Rodriguez: Power Prowess
When mentioning the greatest power hitters the game of baseball has ever seen, we have no choice but to include Alex Rodriguez' s name in the conversation, steroid aided or not. He has finished his career fourth all time in home runs hit and third in runs batted in. He puts himself in the company of Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, and Barry Bonds. You can't ask for anything greater than that. However, A-Rod can be considered the greatest baseball player ever. No Major League Baseball player has compiled more 30 homerun, 100 run, 100 RBI seasons than Alex Rodriguez. He finished his career with 12 of these seasons, one more than Barry Bonds, Babe Ruth, and Jimmy Foxx. No player had ever had more than 13 seasons at 100 RBI until A-Rod accomplished this feat in 2000, giving him 14 seasons with over 100 RBI. A-Rod twice led the American League in RBI, five times led the league in runs scored, and also led the league in homeruns five times. Alex Rodriguez was as dominant of a baseball player we have ever seen!
1 Derek Jeter: October Clutch
Forget Mr. October, in 2001 Derek Jeter became Mr. November. After the terrorist attacks on American soil on 9/11, the World Series was pushed back into the month of November for the first time. If Reggie Jackson wasn't already nicknamed Mr. October, we would be calling Jeter that. Why? Maybe because Derek Jeter is the best clutch postseason baseball player of all time! Derek Jeter stands as Major League Baseball's all time leader in games played, at bats, plate appearances, runs scored, hits, doubles, and triples in the postseason. He also stands currently third in home runs, fourth in runs batted in, fifth in walks, and sixth in stolen bases. In comparison to Alex Rodriguez' s slash line of .259/.365/.457, Derek Jeter compiled a batting average of .308, an on base percentage of .374, and a slugging percentage of .465. Jeter displayed greater clutch power hitting than one of the best power hitters in the history of baseball during postseason play.
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