Oh, God, coverage of the now nearly-at-hand beginning of the baseball season will once again be dominated by the thoroughly uninteresting news that completely unenforced nominal rules against drug use were systematically violated, as they have been throughout baseball history except that it was cute when
most of the players were white players like Mickey Mantle may have routinely taken performance-enhancing amphetamines cute pills but were upstanding citizens who payed for the love of the game. I just regret that it wasn’t Jeter who was caught, not because I would care but because it would cause sportswriters to claim that it doesn’t actually matter and spare us the empty moralizing.
And just since it’s been a few days since the last flame war on the topic, I thought I’d throw in this from Bill James at his subscription site, which gets at the issue nearly perfectly:
Who was it exactly that said that Jeter was overrated? I don’t think it’s an issue of his being overrated exactly; it is more an issue of his being fawned over. Maybe I’m missing something, but I think most people acknowledge that he’s a great player. Bobby Abreu is a great player, too, but nobody feels compelled to tell you once an hour or so that he is not only a great player but a great team leader, a clutch hitter, a role model for children, a hero to firemen, the greatest baserunner since DiMaggio, has the work ethic of Bear Bryant, the courage of a Braveheart, the modesty of Ghandi, the footwork of Nijinski, the charisma of a movie star and the baseball instincts of John McGraw. But no Yankee broadcast is complete without at least three or four paeans to Jeter’s virtues. It’s unnecessary, it’s childish, and it’s embarrassing.
The one caveat is that he has been overrated as a defensive player, although not necessarily as a player over all (or, if he has been, it’s only because Babe Ruth wasn’t as good as Michael Kay makes Jeter out to be.) But Jeter certainly is a great player, and the way he’s treated by the media and broadcasters (and not just local ones) is utterly embarrassing (and may well have cost him 2 MVP awards he arguably deserved.) And incidentally, it’s weird that Abreu — similar to but somewhat better than Jeter as an offensive player, somewhat less valuable as a defensive player (below-average corner OF vs. really bad SS — how many runs is that?) can’t get a contract.