To understand where Derek Jeter ranks amongst all-time Yankee greats, first, you have to understand how great the Yankees franchise is. Since being founded, the Yankees have won 27 World Series titles, 40 American League pennants, and 18 division titles. All three of those numbers are MLB records and probably will not be touched for a long time.
Now that the Yankee’s elite status is clear, where does Derek Jeter stand? There have been plenty of all-time greats to wear the pinstripes but Jeter is in another category in my opinion. Let’s check it out with a reliable top five list:
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1.) Babe Ruth (1920-1934)
Let’s get this out of the way now, Babe Ruth is the greatest Yankee of all time. There should be zero-argument about this spot on the list. Ruth is even argued as the greatest baseball player to ever touch the diamond. In his career, Ruth hit 714 homers, 2,213 RBI’s, and had a career average of .342 overall.
Not only was Ruth one of the greatest hitters, but he also finished his pitching career with 94 wins and a 2.28 ERA. As a Yankee, Ruth hit 659 homers and had a seven-year stretch where he averaged 49 homers, batted in 151 runs, and hit .353 overall.
Ruth changed the landscape of baseball and forever deserves a top spot in baseball’s story. Babe Ruth again is no doubt the greatest Yankee of all time. From his tremendous power at the plate to being one of the best pitchers of his time as well, the Great Bambino holds steady in the number one spot.
2.) Lou Gehrig (1923-1939)
Lou Gehrig, “The Iron Horse”, was the hardest working player to ever play baseball. Firstly, Gehrig holds the number two spot quite firmly over any other Yankee. Second, Gehrig has the second-longest streak for consecutive games played (2,130) thus his nickname fits well. Gehrig was the perfect addition to the 1920s Yankees alongside Babe Ruth. He was the RBI machine in his playing career in which he led the league five times. Gehrig hit 150+ RBIs seven times and hit 170+ RBIs three times. Gehrig’s best season hitting was when he ended the season with 185 RBIs in 1931.
Gehrig came into New York with a big name to play within Babe Ruth. Ruth hit the homers while Gehrig hit the RBIs and the two greatest hitters of that era tore a path through their competition. Gehrig’s sixteen seasons proved to be some of the greatest performances in the game of baseball. When Gehrig passed, his number 4 was the first number retired in baseball history. Lou Gehrig easily holds this spot.
3.) Mickey Mantle (1951-1968)
Mickey Mantle was yet another slugger for the Yankees that could punish the baseball. Mantle was essentially part of the post-Ruth/Gehrig era which was nothing short of amazing. Mantle played in twelve World Series and won seven of them (1951–53, 1956, 1958, 1961–62). He also became one of the Yankees new home run hitters and even led the league in homers four times.
His best home run season (54 homers) just so happened to be the year his teammate Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth’s single-season homer record. Mantle also led the league in runs scored and RBIs including a triple crown in 1956.
That is a lot of numbers but Mantle destroyed the baseball despite numerous injuries in his career. Mantle was a huge piece in the Yankees’ continued dominance in the 50s and early 60s. Mantle comes in at number three only because the two above him were just that dominant only a short time before he arrived in New York. Mickey Mantle is one of the greatest baseball players ever, he just happened to play for the franchise that had Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth on their roster before him.
4.) Joe DiMaggio (1936-1951)
Joe DiMaggio comes in at number four as yet another consistent hitter and even better fielder for the Yankees. In his time with New York, DiMaggio hit 361 homers and batted .325 overall. DiMaggio was also praised as a very skilled centerfielder and was essentially flawless when on the field. DiMaggio complemented his fielding with his hitting skills considering he holds the MLB record 56 game hitting streak.
I find it crazy the Yankees managed to find a way for all of these superstars to be on their team. DiMaggio won nine World Series titles in his 13-year career including winning four titles in his first four seasons (never been done before in all American major sports).
Considering who his predecessors were, DiMaggio clearly made the most of his time in New York. DiMaggio comes in this low on the list only because his stat board was not nearly as bright as his Yankee ancestors above him on this list. Do not get me wrong, DiMaggio might not have lit the stat book up like the others, but he still is in the top five. Think about all the Yankee superstars, top five is still really really good.
5.) Derek Jeter (1995-2014)
Some Yankee fans might not agree with me putting Jeter at five, but hear me out. In his long tenure with the Yankees, which was his entire career, Jeter deserves this spot with his numbers.
Jeter is the ONLY PLAYER to have more than 250 home runs, 350 stolen bases, and a career batting average higher than .300. He also added five World Series titles to his resume and holds MLB playoff records for postseason hits, total bases, and runs scored. Only two players have hit more home runs in the playoffs than Jeter. Is that not enough to convince you? Hold my beer.
Derek Jeter’s career 3,465 hits sit below only five players in MLB history. He led the league in hits twice and racked up eight seasons with more than 200 hits. Jeter has more hits than ANYONE who made their debut after 1963. Jeter is also the ONLY Yankee player in team history to have 3,000 hits.
Think about who has been a Yankee before him, four of them are above him on this list. The fact that Jeter leads the Yankees franchise in three categories (hits, steals, and games played as a Yankee) shows why he deserves the final spot in this top five list.
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