On Sunday afternoon the New York Yankees beat the Toronto Blue Jays 6-4, and along the way Derek Jeter picked up two hits to pass Paul Molitor for the eighth most hits in MLB history. Jeter now has 3,320 career hits, and by the end of the season he could rank as high as fifth all-time in hits. Furthermore, he likely will end up ranking as the best shortstop to ever play the game, and rightfully so.
In terms of overall regular season career ranks for shortstops, Jeter sits second in hits, first in runs scored, third in home runs, fourth in average, fourth in doubles, sixth in OBP, seventh in RBI and eighth in walks. On top of this pure excellence in the regular season, Jeter holds MLB records for postseason hits, doubles, triples, runs scored and total bases and ranks third in home runs fourth in runs batted in.
Add in 13 All-Star appearances, five Gold Glove Awards and five World Series titles, and it is safe to say Jeter is the the best shortstop ever on paper. Sure statistics aren’t everything, but in a baseball world that is entranced by nostalgia, numbers looking good on paper certainly go a long way.
What really separates Jeter from the pack in terms of pure excellence can not really be defined by numbers but by the professionalism and leadership abilities he possesses. For the last 19 years there has been no question who the heart and soul of the Yankees was, and Jeter was always in control of the clubhouse while leading by example. The 39-year-old was rightfully rewarded for his loyalty and professionalism by becoming captain of the Yankees in 2004, and he has carried the title in the same fashion as the likes of Lou Gehrig and Thurman Munson once did.
Some people will surely end up saying that Jeter wasn’t always defined by sabermetricians as a great defensive shortstop or the most talented player overall, and they would be correct. But he has been the most consistent baseball player over the last two decades, above average defensively and one of the best hitters in the world along the way. Picking up career hit 3,320 only furthers the case for Jeter’s greatness, and it is safe to say that he deserves praise as the best ever to play shortstop in the big leagues.