Would Derek Jeter Have Been "Regular" In Kansas City?
Manny Ramirez made an appearance on WEEI yesterday and stated that Derek Jeter would've been a regular player in Kansas City. Is this true?
A Brief Overview on the Kansas City Royals:
The Kansas City Royals have been a part of Major League Baseball since the 1969 season. In their 53 year history they've won 2 World Series (1985, 2015), been to 2 others (1980, 2014), have had 9 postseason appearances, and have won their division 7 times. To say they've been a successful franchise is overselling them, to say they've been unsuccessful is underselling them. They've been a team with some great years, but overall a pretty average team- they have a total 4025-4386 (.479 WP%) record. They've won World Series' at a clip to be expected- if expecting true parity in baseball- given the number of teams in the league since they entered in 1969.
The most famous Kansas City Royal, by far, is third baseman George Brett. He spent his entire 21-year career in Kansas City with the Royals from 1973 through 1993. He's arguably a Top-3 third baseman in the history of the MLB and comfortably Top-5. He finished his career with 88.6 bWAR/84.6 fWAR, 3154 Hits, 317 Home Runs, 1596 RBI's, and an extended triple-slash of .305/.369/.487 (.857 OPS/135 OPS+/132 wRC+). Brett was a World Series Champion (1985), won an MVP award in 1980, was a 13-time All-Star, 3-time Silver Slugger, 1-time Gold Glover, and had 3 batting titles.
Other notable Royals include Brett Saberhagen, Kevin Appier, Dan Quisenberry, Amos Otis, and Willie Wilson. In more recent years, players like Carlos Beltran, Zack Greinke, Alex Gordon, and Salvador Perez would likely make up a Top-5 list.
A Brief History on Derek Jeter:
A first round pick- 6th Overall- in the 1992 MLB First Year Player draft, Derek Jeter came out of Central High School in Kalamazoo, MI. After getting drafted, Jeter started his professional career with the GCL Yankees in the Gulf Coast League (Rookie) and was moved up to the Class-A Greensboro Hornets by the end of the 1992 season. In 1993, Jeter spent his entire season back with the Greensboro Hornets. For 1994, Jeter was moved quick as he started with the Tampa Yankees (Class-A+), moved to the Albany-Colonie Yankees (Double-A), and quickly up to the Columbus Clippers (Triple-A) by the end of the year. In 1995, Jeter spent a majority of the year with the Columbus Clippers while making a few quick stints at the MLB level. In 1996, Derek Jeter broke camp with the New York Yankees and for the next 20 years, everything was set into place.
Derek Jeter finished his career as a Top-10 shortstop of all time after playing shortstop for the New York Yankees from 1995-2014. Over the course of his career, Jeter finished with a +71.3 bWAR/+73.0 fWAR, 3465 Hits, 260 Home Runs, 1311 RBI's, and an extended triple-slash of .310/.377/.440 (.817 OPS/115 OPS+/119 wRC+). Jeter was a 5-time World Champion, a Rookie of the Year Award winner in 1996, a 14-time All-Star, 5-time Silver Slugger, 5-time Gold Glover, and a World Series MVP.
So, what if Derek Jeter hit the same as a Kansas City Royal?
The Kansas City Royals (1995-2014):
The Kansas City Royals during Derek Jeter's tenure in New York were not a good team. They finished with an above-.500 record just 3 times and made the playoffs just once (2014) over 20 years. Their overall record from 1995-2014 was 1405-1803 (.438 WP%). To put it into perspective, the Royals had more 100+ loss seasons (4) during this time than they had winning seasons.
During this period of Royals history, their three best hitters were:
Alex Gordon (2007-2014): 28.4 bWAR/26.1 fWAR
Carlos Beltran (1998-2004): 24.8 bWAR/24.9 fWAR
Mike Sweeney (1995-2007): 23.3 bWAR/20.2 fWAR
During this time some other stars like the aforementioned Zack Greinke and Kevin Appier, as well as players like Johnny Damon, Lorenzo Cain, and Salvador Perez. However, even with Derek Jeter around it's not likely the Royals would've played to much- if any- team accolades.
Derek Jeter would've been a superstar stuck on a team going nowhere.
But, would he have been a regular guy? By no means at all.
Comparing Jeter to Brett:
If you don't want to read about this, I'll keep it short and sweet: George Brett was the better player to Derek Jeter. HOWEVER, Jeter does make a compelling case.
Both players achieved instant future Hall-of-Fame inductions once they reached 3,000 hits. However, though Jeter played just 40 more games than Brett during their careers, he also had 311 more hits. Jeter also comes out on batting average and on-base percentage (.310/.377 to .305/.369), though thanks in part to hitting 57 more home runs, Brett had the much higher slugging (.487/.440). It's a close case.
You may want to point to OPS+ or wRC+, where Brett comes out far above Jeter (135/132 to 115/119), though I'd argue this is also still comparably close when we consider the era's in which these two guys played. George Brett played through the 1970's and 1980's, leaving the sport before the steroid era began. Derek Jeter started his career right as steroids started to push normal batting lines into a different level, yet he still came out as an above-average hitter. Would Brett still have had as high OPS+ if he played when Jeter did? I think it's fair to say Jeter would've been seen as a better hitter had he put up the same statistics two decades earlier.
Side-Note: Derek Jeter and Paul Molitor (3319 Hits, 234 Home Runs, .306/.369/.448 triple-slash) have very similar career stat lines, with Jeter having more hits, home runs, a better AVG, OBP, and a just slightly worse SLG by just .008 points. Yet, Molitor has an OPS+ and wRC+ of 122. He played from 1978-1998. Because of this, I think it is fair to say transplanting Jeter in the 1970's-1980's would've had similar OPS+/wRC+ figures to George Brett.
Now, the easy end to this argument is that George Brett has a higher bWAR and fWAR than Jeter (88.6/84.6 to 71.3/73.0). WAR is supposed to be era-independent and even gives a bonus- via the calculation itself (bWAR) or by UZR (fWAR)- to shortstops. But, if we're looking at Jeter as a Royal, it's only fair to compare him to the best Royal their was.
Which, brings me to my final point:
Derek Jeter Would've Still Been an All-Time Great:
In New York, Derek Jeter is a god. In Kansas City, George Brett is a god. But, had Derek Jeter also been a Kansas City player, he would've been a god.
It's hard to consider the player with the 6th most hits in MLB history as nothing short of an all-time great. It's hard to consider a player with Jeter's legacy (even not counting his postseason successes and clutch-factor) as someone not in the upper echelon of the Hall-of-Fame.
All things being equal, I think this quote is just "Manny Being Manny".
I also think Foolish Baseball on his second channel "Foolish Bailey" also said it very well: Derek Jeter has gotten to the point that he is seen as so overrated that people underrate him. (Check out his video on the topic here.)
Derek Jeter was an all-time baseball player. He transcended an era of steroids and massive home runs by playing the game the way he knew he could best by being a hitter. He also did so without any allegations of cheating and by being one of very few superstar athletes in this generation to not have a massive persona or ego and he stayed out of the spotlight as much as he could. (Heck, he only just got a Twitter and Instagram account!)
Derek Jeter is one of the best. He still would've been one of the best regardless of where he played. To say otherwise is to be ignorant.