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?