Jeter, the My 9 Poll, and Intangibles

by Jason Epstein

Your Jeter post from last night intrigued me, Ed.

They say that “Chicks dig the long ball,” but I imagine that a majority of fans — male and female alike — prefer the Jeters, Dustin Pedroias, and other ballplayers who are known less for hitting home runs and more for the perception of playing the game with reckless abandon (i.e., “the right way”).

Still, I wonder how on Earth did Derek Jeter’s extra-inning, walk-off home run during the greatest World Series of the last decade not muster more than 10 percent of the “My 9″ poll? In the fourth game, he battled the Diamondbacks’ sidearm reliever Byung-Hyun Kim for eight pitches, including three full-count fouls, before lifting the ninth over the right-field wall. Hell, Michael Kay even crowned Jeter “Mr. November” thanks to that one swing of a bat! In contrast, Reggie Jackson needed to hit three in one game and five in the 1977 Series to earn the “Mr. October” moniker!

Compare that with “the flip.” Even if we stipulate that Jeter was not out of position — in more passionate conversations, I wonder whether he should have been covering second base and not wandering near the pitcher’s mound — if Jeremy Giambi slides into home plate, the A’s score, and even if Oakland doesn’t ultimately win the game and the ALDS, no one remembers that play.

As for “the dive,” it was an impressive catch. (Yeah, I cannot find video either! Strange.) Let’s be clear though: Jeter caught the ball on the run — in fair territory, no less — then took two steps before flying into the stands. Yes, he dove, he did not make a diving catch. In contrast, this is a diving catch into the stands. So is this, this, and, yup, this.

Alas, we remember Jeter’s catch because it took place against the hated Red Sox on national television, with a sulking Nomar Garciaparra riding the bench — he was traded shortly thereafter — and as a result of the play, Jeter suffered several facial cuts and bruises.

As for the commenter who breezily declared that “no one else makes that flip play, not even [Omar Vizquel] or Ozzie Smith, the two best fielders of our generation,” forgive me, but this is subjective malarkey. Such Jeterisms are usually spoken by fans who have little to no exposure to any other shortstop in the league, other than maybe Jed Lawrie of the Sox.

Applying that logic, then any Mets fan could say that no other third baseman on the planet possesses the instincts to make this catch. Or, as we are discussing “flip” plays, no one other than Daniel Murphy — yes, Murphy! — has the chutzpah to have pull off this miracle. Or an Indians fan would contend that only Asdrubal Cabrera has the on-field instincts to make this incredible, unscripted play.

Ed, Jeter’s numbers at the plate speak for themselves, including an excellent .377 OBP and .472 SLG in postseason play. He will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer and easily remembered as one of the ten best offensive shortstops to have played the game. (Off the top of my head, I would put him behind Honus Wagner, Alex Rodriguez, Ernie Banks, Arky Vaughan, and probably Cal Ripken, and just ahead of Bill Dahlen, George Davis, and Barry Larkin. Add defense to the mix and he may drop behind Larkin and Pee Wee Reese.)

So while I am not surprised that fans dig “intangibles,” I remain amazed that Jeter’s greatest plate appearance to date garnered so little support in the poll.

Right Field

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