Tha Sports Junkies 101

The Warning Track: A-Rod was the Yankees Captain, Not Jeter

Yankees Captain Keith Allison/Via


The Warning Track

Love him or hate him, Alex Rodriguez was a better Yankee than Derek Jeter, and its not even close.

I have never understood the obsession with Derek Jeter.  People always question me as if I am insane when I tell them that I don’t like Jeter.  Heck, I was born in the same hospital (Chilton Memorial) as the guy, but I have no love for the five-time World Series Champion.  Do I respect Jeter and his accomplishments?  Of course.  But I really can’t stand how everyone acts as if he was the greatest Yankee who ever lived.  He has no shot of cracking the top five, and he realistically ranks somewhere between seven and ten on my all-time Yankees list.

While Derek Jeter is held in the light of a demigod by essentially every baseball fan who was born in the 1990’s, Alex Rodriguez is the complete opposite.  He is reviled by the baseball community for his actions over the course of his career.  A-Rod has broken the rules, made a lot of money, and hit a lot of home runs- many of which potentially came under the aid of performance-enhancing drugs.  I have a lot of friends who are New York Yankees‘ fans, and I have watched them direct unprecedented levels of hate at their own player.  Well guess what Yankees’ fans?  Alex Rodriguez isn’t just deserving of your love.  Rodriguez, not Jeter, deserves to be acknowledged as the true Yankee Captain of the 2000’s.

Derek Jeter is associated as the Captain for one reason and one reason only: winning.  Make no mistake, Derek Jeter’s 3000 hits aren’t the reason he was the Captain.  From 1996-2000, Jeter “led” the Yankees to four World Series victories, and then captured his fifth title in 2009.  The fact of the matter is that the longtime shortstop in the Bronx was never the superstar player that his legacy presents him as.  Tino Martinez, Bernie Williams, Paul O’Neil, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, and Andy Pettitte were just as vital to New York’s success as Jeter was.  Obviously, Jeter compiled some of the greatest postseason statistics of all-time.  But he was never the offensive juggernaut that his career numbers indicate.

I also love to get into the argument about how Derek Jeter was a terrible shortstop.  People always remember plays like “The Flip” from the 2001 postseason, or the running catch Jeter made on July 1, 2004 where he dove into the box seats down the left field line at Yankee Stadium.  No one seems to remember the majority of The Captain‘s miscues, though.  According to Baseball Prospectus’s Fielding Runs Above Average, Jeter has cost his team more runs of defense than any other player in the history of Major League Baseball.  Think about that for a second.  Shortstop is definitely one of the most demanding positions on the diamond.  But by that measure, Derek Jeter is the worst shortstop of all-time.  Jeter has cost the Yankees over 300 runs on defense, yet he somehow has five Gold Glove Awards in his trophy case.  His career worsts in FRAA occured in the prime of his career, so you cannot say that he deteriorated with age.  I don’t think that a captain has ever been the worst person ever at something, but Derek Jeter was.

On the other hand, Alex Rodriguez may have been the worst liar ever, or perhaps the worst at staying out of the New York Times.  Despite all of his personal flaws, Rodriguez was one heck of a baseball player.  In 12 seasons as a Yankee, A-Rod smashed 351 home runs and drove in 1096 runs.  In Jeter’s 20 seasons with the Yankees, he only hit 260 home runs and drove in just over 200 more runs that Rodriguez.  While the former may have had some help from steroids, it doesn’t alter the fact that he was the better offensive player by a long shot.  A-Rod also won three Most Valuable Player Awards in his career, two of which came while he played in pinstripes.  Guess how many times Derek Jeter won baseball’s highest honor?  That’s right, zero.  Maybe most impressively, Rodriguez moved over to third base upon his arrival in New York, even though he was a better shortstop than Jeter was.  Alex may have made some poor choices, but he stills casts a much bigger shadow than Derek Jeter ever did.

The most irritating factor in both players’ careers is how their retirements were handled.  In my opinion, there is no doubt that Derek Jeter wanted the retirement tour that he witnessed Mariano Rivera receive in the 2013 season.  That is why Derek Jeter announced his retirement prior to the 2014 season; every team would have to acknowledge the so-called Captain of baseball’s greatest team.  The difference between Rivera and Jeter is quite stark, however.  Rivera is the best reliever of all-time.  Jeter doesn’t come close to legendary shortstops like Cal Ripken Jr., Robin Yount, Ozzie Smith, or Honus Wagner.  A player of Jeter’s caliber deserves to be remembered, but he doesn’t deserve to be treated as an all-time great.  As the season progressed, manager Joe Girardi continued to bat Jeter second even though the Yankees were competing to make the playoffs and Jeter couldn’t hit a lick down the stretch.  Jeter received everything he didn’t deserve in his final season.

Alex Rodriguez also received everything he didn’t deserve in his last year as a New York Yankee.  Rodriguez struggled mightily in 2016; he didn’t hit his weight.  As the Yankees began trading away key players in July, there was widespread speculation that the Yankees would release A-Rod during the season, despite the fact that he still had a year left on his contract he signed a decade ago.  Brian Cashman would release one of the greatest hitters of all-time during his struggles, but he wouldn’t do so for Jeter.  Alex Rodriguez announced that his last game as a New York Yankee would occur on Friday, August 12th.  He ended up smoking a double into the gap to drive in the Yankees’ first run.  Rodriguez received a video tribute recapping his storied career.  He didn’t get a retirement tour.  He wasn’t even allowed to start at third base in his final game.  When asked about the conversation, Girardi told the media, “We thought about it, but he hasn’t done any work,” Girardi said. “We are still in the business of trying to win games.”

So the Yankees weren’t trying to win games in 2014?  After all, they continued to play the plodding Jeter at shortstop everyday and hit him at the top of the lineup.  The New York Yankees can say whatever they want about the situation, but it will never be totally truthful.  Rodriguez made mistakes like every human being on Earth has, but he didn’t deserve to be mistreated the way he was.  He probably will never see his number 13 retired by the Yankees.

For the Yankees’ fans out there that are still arguing that I’m wrong, I know what your main point is.  Many people assume that a leader has to be someone loyal.  A captain is someone who defines what an organization is.  Well, Derek Jeter doesn’t necessarily fit either billing.  When Jeter’s contract expired in 2010, he continued to ask for more money from the Yankees, even though he was in the twilight of his career.  The Yankees weren’t lowballing their shortstop either; Jeter was just greedy.  In reference to defining an organization, Derek Jeter does personify the Yankees’ winning ways.  But the Bronx Bombers have always been an organization that is hated by baseball.  They have always featured slugging superstars like Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle.  New York is one of the most financially powerful teams in the league.  Now, what Yankees’ player comes to mind when you think of the words “hated”, “slugger”, and “rich”?  That’s right, Alex Rodriguez.

The Yankees have never been an organization that has remained loyal to their players.  They told Babe Ruth to take a hike when he got too old.  They left Mickey Mantle unprotected in the 1969 Expansion Draft.  Both of those players are among the greatest to ever grace a field, yet they were stabbed in the back by an organization that they had made successful.  So why does Derek Jeter get the special treatment?  Why does Alex Rodriguez have to be Robin for a Batman who had just about the same career WAR as Scott Rolen?  Look at the numbers- that’s what the Yankees do.  It’s not even a close debate.  Alex Rodriguez was the true Yankee Captain, not Derek Jeter.