Thursday, September 25, 2008

Gehrig vs. Jeter? Why Would You Bother?

Those who know me will tell you that I'm usually not too eager to defend Derek Jeter's merits as a ballplayer. I think the media says more than enough about a guy who's making $19 Million a year for 150 singles and below-average defense. However, I spotted something in my local newspaper that I couldn't resist. We again, turn our attention to the editorial section of the New York Daily News, for this nugget of wisdom from Ralph Buffalino:

Consider The Stats
Farmingdale, L.I.: Being a Yankee fan, I'm not taking anything away from Derek Jeter, but consider that when Lou Gehrig played, there were only 154 games a year, not 162. multiply that eight additional games a year by 12 years. that's 96 games. That's a lot more at-bats.

So yes, we're talking about Jeter's new "Yankee Stadium Hits Record" and it's legitimacy.

Consider that Gehrig was baseball's original Iron Man. In fact, his nickname was The Iron Horse, and the guy rarely, if ever, missed a game.

Then consider that Jeter missed 43 games in 2003 with a shoulder separation suffered when Blue Jays catcher, Ken Huckaby divebombed him at 3rd Base (and yes, I remembered that it was Huckaby without looking it up.)

Also, yes, the season is 8 games longer than it used to be. Presumably that's 4 home games, and 4 road games. So that margin of 96 games is instantly trimmed to only 48.

Furthermore, factor into this equation that Jeter has been forced by his coaches over the years, to take the occasional day off.

Ultimately, Jeter has a total of 9091 career plate appearances as a major leaguer. Gehrig had 9660 plate appearances. There are no split-stats on Gehrig to look at for specifics, but if anything, Gehrig probably had slightly more Yankee Stadium at-bats than Jeter.

Am I trying to shit on Lou Gehrig? Hells no. I'm simply point out the futility of this person's argument and the sentiment that Jeter somehow isn't deserving of this "record."

If you want evidence that Gehrig was clearly the better ballplayer, you need look no further than his 493 career home runs (287 more than Jeter) and his career .340/.447/.632 (OPS+ 179). Jeter sits at a less-impressive .316/.387/.458 (OPS+ 121).

Lou Gehrig was an absolute beast. He was an incredible baseball player by any standards by which a baseball player has ever been measured, or ever will be measured. Gehrig OPS'd over 1.000... for his ENTIRE CAREER. That is immense. He drew almost 2 walks for every strikeout. And he struck out less than once, for every 10 at bats.

Not to mention the fact that he batted .295/.410/.523 with 29 homers and 114 RBI in 1938... while suffering the advancing effects of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, the disease that ultimately killed him soon after.

Gehrig's performance in 1938 has got to be the greatest act of human resilience in the history of professional sports.

And the irony is, that while we know now that ALS was killing Gehrig in 1938, he just thought that he was declining with age.

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