Derek Jeter will be formally inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in July. Unanimous or not, though, he’ll never be on the same plane as Mariano Rivera…
If the trend continues, Jeter will follow Mariano Rivera, who set the high bar last year, which is fitting because Derek Jeter will always follow Mariano Rivera.
Mostly great players are in the baseball hall of fame. And then, there are Hall of Fame Players who have not only a plaque in Cooperstown but an individual standing reserved for only the best of the best.
Mariano Rivera occupies that rare territory – to where visitors to the museum in upstate New York are drawn to read every word and stat on his plaque. They’ll do the same when they find Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Sandy Koufax, and a few others.
With no hesitation or argument, Rivera belongs in the same conversation as these players. A cut above, a player like no other.
Derek Jeter: Unanimous – Really?
My question is this: Does Derek Jeter belong in this rarified air because a unanimous election would seem to suggest he does deserve mention in the same sentence as a Cal Ripken Jr., Nolan Ryan, and Lou Gehrig.
I always say the best test of a player’s career is to give him the “Black Test.” Take a player like Derek Jeter and pull up his page on Baseball-Reference. Then look for bold black stats signifying league leader in that category, a symbol of dominance in the era he played in.
In Jeter’s case, discard the occasions he led the league in plate appearances and at-bats as they have nothing to do with excellence.
What’s left is one occasion he led in runs scored and twice in hits during a career that spanned twenty years. That’s it.
Rivera, in contrast, has four bold markings, and even more significantly, you’ll see three in yellow highlights indicating all-time major league leaders in these categories.
This is only to suggest there are good players, great players, and all-time greats in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Luis Aparicio was a good player, Jeter was a great player, and Rivera was an all-time great.
The distinction is important and significant as we watch this year’s voting conclude in ten days.
HOF Voting – Where We Stand Today
The Baseball Hall of Fame Tracker (BBHOF Tracker) has emerged as a reliable source for fans to watch as the voting develops. With roughly 36 percent tabulated, here’s what the ballot looks like as of January 11, 2020.
The voting is nowhere complete, but you can see some exciting trends beyond the Jeter thing developing.
For one, it looks like the Steroid Era vengeance is drawing to a close with Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens at or near the 75% mark required for election. Outspoken Bad Boy Curt Schilling looks like a shoo-in, as does Larry Walker.
Derek Jeter: A Promise That Will Be Fulfilled
In 2014, the year Derek Jeter retired, I told myself I would stop at nothing to be there in the village of Cooperstown when he gives his acceptance speech in 2020. Six years later, I feel no differently.
For nearly a decade, I drove my Honda Element with the New York license plate “NO2JTR” (Number 2 Jeter) as a small way to express my respect for the way Derek Jeter played the game.
Keeping The Separation From Great and All-Time Great Alive
Derek Jeter was exceptional, and he provided many magical moments as an iconic Yankee. Along with so many Yankees fans, I witnessed nearly every one of them, glued to the TV or at the game.
But there has to be a separation between All-Time Greats and great players when it comes to the HOF.
Here’s a snapshot of the highest percentages of players elected to the HOF to date courtesy of Baseball-Reference:
Derek Jeter belongs in this mix, but not at the top alongside Mariano Rivera. Follow the voting here, and maybe we’ll catch up in Cooperstown on July 26.