Yogi Berra, Derek Jeter

Jeter’s great, but he’s not one of the top five Yankees

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No doubt about it, Derek Jeter is a first-ballot Hall of Famer.  He rates as one of the top 50 position players in major league history, and on Saturday, he became the first Yankee to ever reach 3,000 hits.

The Yankees, though, have had better position players.

Here’s how WAR ranks the top 10:

1. Babe Ruth – 149.6
2. Mickey Mantle – 120.2
3. Lou Gehrig – 118.4
4. Joe DiMaggio – 83.6
5. Derek Jeter – 70.1
6. Yogi Berra – 62.1
7. Bill Dickey – 54.4
8. Willie Randolph – 49.8
9. Bernie Williams – 47.3
10. Tony Lazzeri – 46.6

Pitching included, Ruth’s total is 172.0, barely edging out Barry Bonds for the top spot all-time.

But we already knew Ruth was No. 1. What about Jeter? WAR places him fifth at 70.1. That total places him 55th all time among position players.

I think I’d put him a bit higher than that on the league-wide list.  WAR is giving him plenty of credit for spending his entire career at shortstop, but it’s also punishing him a horrible defensive shortstop.  It says Jeter is 83.8 wins above replacement offensively, but 13.7 wins below replacement defensively.

And I don’t necessarily disagree that Jeter is that bad defensively.  But Jeter deserves some credit beyond the WAR.  He’s been a leading figure on five World Series champions, hitting .309/.377/.472 with 20 homers in 599 postseason at-bats.

WAR isn’t accounting for one bit of that.

So, why does the headline say Jeter isn’t one of the top five Yankees?

Because WAR is punishing Berra far more than it’s punished Jeter.

Catchers, because of their lack of playing time and hard-to-value defensive contributions, score poorly in WAR.  Johnny Bench is 52nd all-time. Ivan Rodriguez is 69th. Berra is 96th. Mike Piazza is 116th.

Berra is better than that.  He was a three-time American League MVP who played for 10 World Series winners.  He’s one of the top three catchers of all-time by any measure, and that trumps Jeter’s accomplishments.

I don’t think it’s too controversial to put Jeter behind Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, DiMaggio and Berra.  That’s quite a crew to trail.  He’d be the all-time great in some organizations, but on the Yankees, he’ll have to settle for coming in sixth.

White Sox ballpark to be renamed “Guaranteed Rate Field”

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 10:  General view as members of the Chicago White Sox and the Minnesota Twins stand for the National Anthem before the White Sox home opener at U.S. Cellular Field on April 10, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Stadium naming rights have long been with us. They’re just a part of the sports landscape now. Some are pretty spiffy despite their corporate underwriting: “Great American Ballpark” could be the name of a sports facility even if it wasn’t also the name of an insurance company. “Progressive Field” could be the name of a field even an anti-corporate dude like Bernie Sanders could appreciate, at least if he’s sloppy with capitalization.

Others are clunky: “Globe Life Park in Arlington” seems to have both adjective and preposition problems, as if it were run through a foreign language translator and then back again to English. The joint in Oakland went by the name O.co Coliseum for a spell. That was for Overstock.com, but it didn’t exactly roll off the tongue.

At the risk of being snobbish, I think it’s fair to say that there are also higher and lower rent names as well. Banks, airlines and beer companies, however crassly commercial they are, seem a bit more respectable and venerable than, say, the fly-by-night dot com companies which named sports facilities for several years. “Chase” and “Coors” aren’t going anyplace. Those places are named after American institutions, even if they’re still corporate institutions. I’m pretty sure that circa 2001 half the stadiums and arenas in the country were named after businesses still being run out of tech incubators in nondescript office parks, their first biggest investment being the naming rights, their second biggest investment being the ping pong table in the break room.

The White Sox have long played in “U.S. Cellular Field.” This is pretty dicey as it is, given that that company is only a regional wireless provider. Fifth largest in the country. Certainly not A-list, and likely far more identifiable to more Americans as the name of a ballpark than the name of a going telecommunications concern, thereby sort of defeating the purpose of naming rights. Which must be why U.S. Cellular is getting out of the naming rights business, leaving the White Sox to find a different naming rights partner:

As the tenth largest mortgage company in the country, is there even any guarantee that Guaranteed Rate will be in business in 2030? If the choices are “it goes under,” “it gets purchased by a larger lender” and “it’s still there,” I am not putting money on the latter choice.

That aside, it’s just a goofy name for a ballpark. It’ll better lend itself to columnist jokes about bad guaranteed contracts for bust veterans than it will to spreading awareness of a financial services company. And don’t even get me started on the dissonance between the ballpark name and its tenant’s ticket price policies:

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Best work on that, guys.

UPDATE: LOL

 

Phillies’ Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz cleared waivers

LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 10:  Ryan Howard #6 of the Philadelphia Phillies follows through on a 3 RBI double in the ninth inning off of Kenley Jansen #74 of the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on August 10,  2016 in Los Angeles, California. Phillies won 6-2.  (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
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ESPN’s Jayson Stark reports that Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard and catcher Carlos Ruiz have both cleared waivers, which means the club can attempt to trade either player unimpeded. Stark adds that two teams are mulling a pursuit of Ruiz, but Howard is “virtually certain” to stay with the Phillies.

Howard, 36, has unimpressive overall stats, as he’s carrying a .198/.252/.445 triple-slash line with 19 home runs and 43 RBI in 286 plate appearances. The Phillies have limited Howard to right-handed pitching by platooning him with Tommy Joseph.

Shockingly, Howard has been one of the best hitters of the second half, as Corinne Landrey explains at FanGraphs. Using wRC+, an all encompassing offensive statistic that sets 100 at average, only Joey Votto has been a more productive hitter since the All-Star break, owning a 226 wRC+ to Howard’s 191. Howard is trailed by Freddie Freeman (179), Adrian Gonzalez (149), and Paul Goldschmidt (140).

Howard is owed the remainder of his $25 million salary for the 2016 season as well as a $10 million buyout for ’17. Despite Howard’s productive second half and even if the Phillies were to cover all of the remaining money owed, there won’t be much of a market for an inconsistent 1B/DH in his mid-30’s who can’t field, can’t run, and can’t hit left-handed pitching.

Ruiz, 37, has had a solid season, batting .261/.368/.352 in 193 plate appearances. Like Howard, Ruiz has lost playing time at his primary position to a younger player — Cameron Rupp, in this case. Ruiz is owed the remainder of his $8.5 million salary and is under contract next season if his controlling club picks up his $4.5 million option. That option may make him even more attractive to interested clubs, as Ruiz is still a valuable catcher. He has accrued 1.3 Wins Above Replacement despite limited playing time and has a reputation for working well with his pitchers. A playoff-bound club could do a lot worse.