By announcing he will retire at the end of the 2014 season, Derek Jeter ignited discussions about his legacy as a player and his place among the all-time great New York Yankees. More specifically, he rekindled the Yankees edition of the Mount Rushmore debate. That is, if the Yankees were to have their own Mount Rushmore composed of four players from any time period, which players’ faces would be depicted?
Considering Babe Ruth is the greatest baseball player who ever lived, he is the most obvious choice for this honor. Nevertheless, the Sultan of Swat does not belong on the Yankees Mount Rushmore. Hear me out before you yell at me in the comments section.
It’s not because his numbers aren’t good enough. In his career, the guy batted .342/.474/.690 with 714 home runs and 2,220 RBIs. He also went 94-46 with a 2.28 ERA as a pitcher – like I said before, he’s the greatest player to ever step on a diamond.
I leave him off the Yankees Mount Rushmore for the same reason Wade Boggs, Johnny Damon and Roger Clemens are ineligible – he played for the Boston Red Sox. You cannot have a guy on your team’s Mount Rushmore who won championships with your greatest rival, no matter how good he was.
The Mount Rushmore debate is not about examining all the players to ever take the field for a team and selecting the best ones (by that standard, Willie Mays could be on the New York Mets Mount Rushmore.) Rather, it is about identifying those who have the highest standing in the franchise. To me, a team’s Mount Rushmore should be made up of players who spent their entire careers with the organization. That limits the Yankees’ candidates to those who played exclusively in pinstripes and disqualifies the Great Bambino from the running.
Thus, I have Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and, yes, Jeter on my Yankees Mount Rushmore. All of them won multiple championships. All of them are Hall of Fame players. All of them are legends. Most importantly, all of them only played for the Yankees.