Players had their say in SI's poll, now it's my turn
Posted: Friday May 19, 2006 1:18PM; Updated: Friday May 19, 2006 11:14PM
Should Derek Jeter really be the second-highest-paid player in all of baseball?
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
A recent poll in SI asked major league players to name the most overrated player in the game. The winner, by a fairly decent margin, was Derek Jeter, which has sparked outrage from fans and observers. So it got me thinking: Who is the most overrated player?
Well, let's start with Jeter, who was named by nine percent of players. The biggest complaint I heard was that the players who voted for him were just jealous of his fab collection of World Series rings and his status as a well-respected, hard-working, all-around good egg. So what if his numbers aren't gaudy? He plays hard and is good in the clubhouse. OK, there might be something to that. Jeter's got intangibles in spades.
But what are those intangibles really worth? (OK, I know that "intangible" means that they can't be quantified since they're not tangible, but cut me some slack.) How many wins is "being good in the clubhouse" worth? To me, the most instructive thing about Jeter winning this unpopularity contest is that it shows that big leaguers don't buy the argument that being good in the clubhouse is an incredibly valuable asset. They're the ones who voted, so clearly not all of them think that the little things D.J. -- or anyone? -- brings to the table are as important as fans and sportswriters do. And they'd know a little better than we would, wouldn't they?
A look at Jeter's numbers shows that he probably shouldn't be making $20 million. Yes, I know about the diving catch into the stands against the Red Sox and the flip to get Jeremy Giambi at the plate against the A's in a playoff game. Amazing plays, both. But over the course of 162 games, plays like that aren't the reason the Yanks win 60 percent of the time. It's the big extra-base hits, the five-hitters, the saves. Jeter provides a fair number of big plays; he's a productive guy. But that doesn't mean his numbers jibe with his salary and the esteem in which he's held. (Of course, he's not to be blamed for his salary. The Yankees can afford the luxury of overpaying for Jeter, so why hold that against him? It's not like he should give the money back.)
So the verdict on Jeter: a bit overrated. But he's not the most overrated player out there. Not by a long shot.