- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
TAMPA, Fla. -- Derek Jeter didn't want to call the event that happened last Wednesday a news conference, and tried encouraging teammates who had gathered in the room to leave and go about their business. Smartly, no one took him up on his offer, understanding the risk of winding up on the back page of a New York tabloid for actually walking out of the room as Jeter discussed his impending retirement.
Because the players seem to get it, just as many front-office executives get it: Jeter is an all-time great player.
He has been the most publicized and exposed player in the sport during his career, as the shortstop of New York's most storied franchise -- and, in turn, he has been placed under greater scrutiny, to the degree that any tweet or column about Jeter is inevitably batted back at you, attached to a word: overrated.
A chorus has been in refrain for a decade now, and was heard again in the days after he Facebooked his plans. Jeter's defense is beyond terrible, they say; he doesn't hit enough home runs, they say; his postseason numbers are merely a product of the money monster he plays for and the era he plays in, with multiple layers of October games.
But is Jeter really overrated?
Let's start out with the simple numbers: Of all the players who participated in MLB games, ever, only eight have more hits than Jeter's 3,316. If Jeter has a season of 104 or more hits, only five players in history will have more hits: Pete Rose, Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron, Stan Musial and Tris Speaker.
So ... that's pretty good.
You can try to diminish that by throwing the word compiler at him, but here's the thing: If Jeter gets his 104-plus hits, this will mean that nobody will have compiled like him since Rose. That's more hits than any player over the past 30 years or so.
And Jeter has gotten almost all of those hits as a shortstop, which means that for almost two full decades, the Yankees have had one of the best offensive players at a position where premium production is most valued.