Does Derek Jeter have anything left to prove?

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SI’s Tim Marchman has a good piece up this morning in which he breaks out what the numbers and career progression would need to look like in order for Derek Jeter to pass Pete Rose for the all-time hits record.  Upshot: it almost certainly won’t happen, but it’s not impossible.

Personally I’d like to see it simply because Jeter is way more likable than Pete Rose ever was.  Of course that character is probably what will keep him from doing it because as Marchman notes, it takes a pretty shameless guy to hold on for as long as Jeter would need to after his prime in order to make it, and Jeter doesn’t seem like a Pete Rose or Brett Favre kind of guy in that respect.

More interesting for our purposes, though, is Marchman’s discussion of Jeter’s legacy. If you guys think I was disrespectin’ Jeter yesterday by simply saying that he’s overhyped, try this on for size:

What is an issue, more than the hits record he isn’t going to break or the controversies over his inevitable move off of shortstop and his contract that aren’t going to materialize, is Jeter’s legacy. For such a revered winner, Jeter has presided over a lot of failure as captain, from the worst collapse in playoff history to a nearly decade-long run during which absurd payrolls that routinely neared or exceeded $200 million bought not one world championship.

All of this is less his fault than anyone’s, but there are probably college freshmen with no clear memories of the last time Jeter won a ring. It would be nice to think he doesn’t have anything left to prove. But is it really true?

Before you go crazy, do know that Marchman prefaced all of this by saying “let’s stipulate that Jeter is great, as winning a winner as ever won.”

With that out of the way, I’ll say that I don’t think Jeter has anything left to prove.  To the extent the Yankees haven’t won a championship in the past several years it has been a function of (a) chance; and (b) less-than-ideal roster construction by the front office, and it’s not like Jeter could control either of those things.

And let’s remember: despite people complaining that New York is in some sort of title drought, winning a championship in a 30-team league is really tough, even with all of the Yankees’ inherent advantages.  That Jeter found himself on teams that won titles in four of his first five seasons is the anomaly here, not the fact that they haven’t won any since.

I think the only thing left to determine insofar as Derek Jeter’s legacy goes is whether he is “merely” great, as a typical decline between now and the end of his career would establish, or if he’s inner-circle great, as a multi-year continuation of his 2009 resurgence would show.  When you get to that level, however, you’re really splitting hairs, aren’t you?

Yordano Ventura represented the best and worst of baseball’s culture

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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It was reported this morning that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Former prospect Andy Marte was also killed in a separate car accident. Along with Jose Fernandez and Oscar Taveras, the baseball world has lost a lot of young, exciting talent in a very short amount of time.

Ventura was, like all of us, a complex human being. At his best, he was an exciting, talented, emotive pitcher who featured an electric fastball which sat in the mid-90’s and occasionally touched 100 MPH. At his worst, he was an immature, impressionable kid trying to fit in by exacting revenge against batters he felt had wronged him by slinging those electric fastballs at vulnerable areas of their bodies.

Baseball needed Ventura when he was at his best. It is players like him and Fernandez, not Mike Trout, that bring in new fans to the sport. To baseball die-hards, Angels outfielder Mike Trout is the pinnacle of entertainment because we know he’s an otherworldly talent. But to the average fan, Trout is just another player who hits a couple of homers and doesn’t do anything particularly interesting otherwise. Trout is milquetoast. Ventura was never an All-Star, but fans knew who he was because he made his presence felt every time he made a start. He was fun, if sometimes vengeful.

Ventura’s baseball rap sheet is rather lengthy for someone who only pitched parts of four seasons in the big leagues. Early in the 2015 season, Ventura found himself in a handful of benches-clearing incidents in quick succession. On April 12, he jawed with Trout, apparently misunderstanding the motivation behind Trout yelling, “Let’s go!” Though catcher Salvador Perez intervened, Trout’s teammate Albert Pujols ran in from second base and the benches cleared shortly thereafter. On the 18th, some drama between the Athletics and Royals continued. Ventura fired a 99 MPH fastball at Brett Lawrie, resulting in his immediate ejection from the game. More beanball wars ensued in the series finale the following day. Finally, on the 23rd, Ventura hit White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu with a 99 MPH fastball in the fourth inning. Ventura was not ejected… until after the completion of the seventh inning. Walking back to the dugout, Ventura barked at White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton and — you guessed it — the benches cleared. All told, Ventura was fined for his behavior with the Athletics and suspended seven games for the White Sox incident.

In August 2015, Ventura called Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista a “nobody” and accused him of stealing signs. He apologized shortly thereafter. Two months later, during his start in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, Ventura got into it with Jays first base coach Tim Leiper. Nothing happened beyond that, but apparently it was part of the Jays’ plan to try to put Ventura “on tilt.”

Most recently, in June this past season, Ventura hit Orioles third baseman Manny Machado with a pitch. Machado charged the mound and got in at least one punch before the players spilled out onto the field in a blob of royal blue and orange. Ventura was suspended for eight games.

Ventura was by no means a model of civility, but he was a product of baseball’s intransigent culture forcing players to assimilate or be ostracized. The old culture taught players to never show emotion. Hit a home run? Put your head down and circle the bases in a timely fashion or risk taking a fastball to the ribs. Players like Fernandez and Bautista — typically players from Latin countries — challenged those old cultural norms and are, as a result, the vanguard of the new culture. Ventura displayed aspects of each, the worst of the old culture and the best of the new. He was not a one-dimensional person; he was strikingly complex. At one moment willing to use a fastball as a weapon, the next stopping by some kids’ lemonade stand and giving out fist bumps. Baseball is made more entertaining and more interesting by its personalities and Ventura’s was a behemoth, for better or worse. His absence from the sport will be felt.

MLB remembers Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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Following the tragic passing of 25-year-old Yordano Ventura and 33-year-old Andy Marte, both of whom were killed in separate car crashes on Sunday morning, players and executives from around Major League Baseball expressed an outpouring of grief and support for the players’ families and former teams.

Fans have gathered at Kauffman Stadium in memory of the former pitcher.