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.

Report: Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on Sonny Gray

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 06: Sonny Gray #54 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at the Oakland Coliseum on August 6, 2016 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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The Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on starting pitcher Sonny Gray, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. The Astros have added Charlie Morton this offseason, but the club has been trying to add a big-name starting pitcher to put at the top of the rotation behind Dallas Keuchel.

Gray, 27, was limited to 22 starts in the 2016 season due to a forearm issue. His stats left a lot to be desired, as he finished with a 5-11 record, a 5.69 ERA, and a 94/42 K/BB ratio over 117 innings. Considering how Gray pitched in the previous three years, he’s a good bet to bounce back.

Gray is under team control through 2019, which is a big draw for the Astros. Needless to say, the Athletics would want a haul in terms of prospects. Gray will earn $3.575 million in 2017, having avoided arbitration in his first year of eligibility.

President Obama Welcomes the Cubs to the White House

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As we noted last week, The Chicago Cubs took the unusual step of not waiting until the summer after winning the World Series to make their customary White House visit to meet the president. They did it today, seeing President Obama a few short days before he leaves office.

Despite the fact that Obama is a White Sox fan, he met the Cubs with diplomacy and grace. It’s almost as if he’s been in that business for the past eight years. In return, he was given some gifts by the Cubs: Theo Epstein presented Obama with a No. 44 Cubs jersey, a tile from the center field scoreboard at Wrigley Field, and a lifetime pass to Wrigley as well.

Obama is staying in D.C. after he leaves office this week, hanging around so his daughter can finish high school in the same place she started. Even so, he’s likely going to be back to Chicago a good bit over the rest of his life, so he’ll likely be able to put the free pass to work. Assuming it comes with, like, six companion passes for his Secret Service detail.