Mailbag: Is Jeter a Hall of Famer?
Beat reporter Bryan Hoch answers Yankees fans' questions
I was wondering if Derek Jeter's numbers would be Hall of Fame worthy if his career were to end today. He's not a power hitter, doesn't steal a ton of bases and he's had only one season with more than 100 RBIs. I know he's a great leader and great hitter for average, but does he have enough to make the Hall of Fame?
-- Elizabeth C., Scarsdale, N.Y.
The knee-jerk reaction is to say, "of course," but let's look at it. Even though it's easy to project Jeter eventually reaching the 3,000-hit plateau, he would still appear to have a near-sure shot at Cooperstown five years down the road if he retired today. If he does reach 3,000 hits, Jeter would be the fourth shortstop to accomplish the feat, joining Honus Wagner, Robin Yount and Cal Ripken Jr. -- Hall members all, even though Yount left shortstop after the 1984 season.
Realistically, it's just so difficult to imagine voters snubbing Jeter when his day comes, the same way it would five years after Mariano Rivera retires. The official rules of the Hall of Fame stipulate that "voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played."
OK, so let's look at that. Jeter's reputation as a leader, clutch performer and contributions for the Yankees' 1996-2000 World Series dynasty would readily outweigh any arguments some make now about his defensive abilities. Jeter's skills are backed up by eight All-Star selections and two Silver Slugger Awards, among other categories. He has clearly been among the upper echelon of players in his era.
Using a quick glance at tools found online, the sabermetrician Bill James has a few formulas to determine the quality of players' careers and likelihood of Hall of Fame induction. To date, Jeter measures in the class of average Hall of Famers, scoring a 50.9 (the average Hall of Famer is a 50; Babe Ruth is a 100) and is far and away considered a lock for induction, scoring a 221.5 (a likely Hall of Famer is more than 100).
Without belaboring the point, Jeter should do just fine when Cooperstown calls. With a career .317 batting average and 162-game averages of 208 hits, 122 runs scored, 17 home runs and 82 RBIs, Jeter has done fine for his role and shouldn't have much to worry about if he decided never to play another game. Luckily for the Yankees, that isn't the case.
If Joba Chamberlain struggles as a starter, would there be any possibility of the Yankees putting him back in the bullpen midseason?
-- Jesse C., Belleville, N.J.
It seems that way. The Yankees are going to proceed cautiously not only with Chamberlain but also with Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy and the "next wave" as well, swearing that they have pre-set innings limits to watch closely. The Yankees will prepare Chamberlain as a starter during Spring Training, and odds are that he'll at least open the year in the rotation.
From there, it's anyone's guess. The fact that Chamberlain was so dominant last season until the midges attacked in Cleveland bodes well for his credibility as an insurance policy. You'd better believe that Chamberlain's 0.38 ERA as a big league reliever is going to serve as some pretty persuasive talk-radio ammunition should Kyle Farnsworth and LaTroy Hawkins have any trouble holding up the bridge to the ninth inning.
I don't understand why the Yankees let Andy Phillips go. He played perfect defense for the team last year, and aside from his home run total, he beat or matched almost every offensive stat from his 2006 season in roughly half the number of games played.
-- Mike B., Southwick, Mass.
It's easy to root for a guy like Phillips, a legitimately good guy who has had to endure so much heartache. Phillips declined an option to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this offseason and elected free agency when given the chance, and he has found a new home with the Reds, with whom he may have a better shot at making the Opening Day roster.
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With Jason Giambi, Shelley Duncan and Wilson Betemit all under contract, there just seemed to be too many cooks in the kitchen at first base -- actually, some would say there still are. Phillips did the Yankees a favor by going to Triple-A last year and, after working into their starting first baseman for a stretch, likely would have seen playing time in the playoffs if he hadn't been injured. Yet even Phillips would agree that a fresh start might be just what his career needs.
I am glad that the Yanks are leaning away from trading for Johan Santana. Do you see the Yanks going for Bartolo Colon or Livan Hernandez and putting Mike Mussina in a relief role because of his struggles last season?
-- Anthony B., Nutley, N.J.
Never say never on Santana, but for the moment, all seems to be quiet. As far as picking up Colon or Hernandez, the Yankees' mind-set seems to be more toward beginning to lean on the young guys. Senior vice president Hank Steinbrenner insists the Yankees will have the best pitching in baseball within two or three years, and if that's going to happen, it might as well begin taking form now.
One Spring Training battle to watch is Mussina vs. Kennedy. There were so many days last March that Mussina said he was frustrated by inconsistency and felt rushed on the mound -- complaints he also made later in the year. Manager Joe Girardi does envision Mussina in the rotation, but if Mussina struggles in Grapefruit League action and Kennedy is showing promise, that could make the decision tougher.
Apparently the Yankees are beginning to finally drop out of the chase for Santana. Was the issue for the Yanks including another prospect or two? I think that you have to acquire Santana now, especially with the Twins' talks with the Mets heating up.
-- Zach G., New York, N.Y.
All along, the concern has been the price for Santana, both in terms of players and the large contract extension he'd be due. I disagree with you on the Mets. The days when the Yankees would ante up the bidding to keep the Mets off the back pages seem to have passed. If Santana goes to the National League East, the Yankees would only have to worry about him once or twice a year. Don't you think the Red Sox and Yankees could both find a few reasons to smile if Santana wound up in Queens?
What plans do the Yankees have in the near future for Brett Gardner? He had a great season in the Arizona Fall League.
-- Jeff S.
Gardner projects to see Major League duty someday in at least a reserve role, possibly as soon as this season. The Yankees' outfield picture is the same as last season, but Gardner could be a fourth outfielder eventually. He's got speed, can hit for some contact and can flag balls down. Put it this way -- Kevin Thompson logged 23 plate appearances for the Yankees in 2007. Gardner could fill a similar role.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.