Derek Jeter has never fared well in advanced defensive statistics, typically ranking somewhere between below average and awful. He also now has five Gold Glove awards and a legion of Yankees fans who’ll swear he’s a great defender, so clearly not everyone cares about defensive statistics.
And that’s fine, but the notion that Jeter, at age 36, was the best defensive shortstop in the American League this season is simply absurd, whether you love defensive statistics, hate defensive statistics, or merely prefer the Ultimate Warrior to Ultimate Zone Rating.
Derek Jeter is a lot of things, including one of the best players of this era and a deserving future Hall of Famer, but he’s not the best defensive shortstop in the American League. He just isn’t. This is as close to a fact as something relatively subjective can get.
As for who was the AL’s best defensive shortstop, Ultimate Zone Rating says Alexei Ramirez of the White Sox and The Fielding Bible electorate agreed. There’s also Cliff Pennington, J.J. Hardy, Cesar Izturis, Elvis Andrus, and … well, the list of shortstops who’re better than Jeter defensively is a long one. And yet Jeter now has more Gold Glove awards than every shortstop in the history of baseball save for Ozzie Smith, Omar Vizquel, Luis Aparicio, and Mark Bellanger. Seriously.
I stopped being shocked or even especially frustrated by the Gold Glove voting somewhere between Rafael Palmeiro winning the award at first base in 1999 despite playing a grand total of 28 games in the field and Jeter winning three in a row from 2004-2006. In fact, at this point I’m far more surprised about this year’s winners at the other eight positions being mostly deserving than I am about Jeter winning yet another completely undeserved award.
David Ortiz had a whale of a final season with the Red Sox. It was so good that he was asked, many, many times, if he was thinking of reversing his retirement decision and coming back for 2017. Ortiz always said no, he was still retiring, occasionally making mention of his aching feet and the physical grind his 40-year-old body was undergoing.
We now know just how much of a grind it was. Indeed, it was extreme. We know this because Dan Dyrek, the Red Sox’ coordinator of sports medicine services, tells it to Rob Bradford of WEEI. Dyrek says that the injuries to Ortiz’s feet, which were often referred to as achilles tendon problems, were way, way more complicated than that, affecting every muscle, bone and tendon in his feet in chain reaction fashion. Dyrek:
“He was essentially playing on stumps. Instead of having this nice, flexible, foot, ankle, calf mechanism to act as a shock absorber, he was playing on stumps. And you can do that for only so long. He was in warrior mode trying to play through this. Once we diagnosed him and saw what was going on and started explaining things to him, there was actually a sense of relief because now he had an explanation of what he was in such excruciating pain.”
That Ortiz was able to even walk through what Dyrek describes is pretty amazing. That he was able to put up a near-MVP season with all of that pain is incredible.
For all of the ups and downs of his personal and professional life, Charlie Sheen is and always has been a passionate baseball fan. Sheen once bought out an entire section of bleachers for an Angels game so he could catch a home run ball (he didn’t catch a home run ball). He starred in “Eight Men Out” and, more notably, “Major League.” That latter film earned him the love and admiration of Indians fans which lasts to this day.
Indeed, the love continues to be so great that, right after the Indians clinched the American League pennant, they began lobbying for Sheen to throw out the first pitch of a World Series game in Cleveland. Yesterday afternoon Sheen took to Twitter, posted a pic of his baseball alter ego, and said that, if called upon, he would serve:
While it’s a big broad comedy, the scene in “Major League” in which Sheen comes out of the bullpen to “Wild Thing” blaring and the fans going nuts is legitimately chill-inducing. The fans at Progressive Field are already going to be amped up for the World Series as it is, but imagine how nuts the place would be if they recreated that scene.
Do it, Indians!
UPDATE: Wait, on reflection, don’t do it, Indians. Sheen is sort of a Trumpian figure in that his high profile craziness often causes us to momentarily forget his legitimate badness. We don’t need a guy like that tossing out the first pitch at the World Series.