New York Yankees legend Derek Jeter highlights the 2020 Hall of Fame ballot, but should he be a unanimous selection in January?
The 2020 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot is headlined by none other than New York Yankees legend Derek Jeter. An icon for roughly 20 seasons, this is the first year Jeter is eligible for a selection. After such an illustrious career, it begs the question: Should Jeter be a unanimous vote?
When looking at the ballot, there is a bevy of popular and deserving names. Jeter’s name shines the brightest, though, and it’s highly likely he leads this ballot in votes. And while being a first-ballot Hall of Famer is an incredible honor, being a unanimous selection is nearly unheard of.
Only one player in the history of baseball has earned a unanimous selection into the Hall of Fame. That would be the great Mariano Rivera, who was inducted in 2019.
A first-ballot case
Jeter’s case for the Hall of Fame is rock solid. He was consistently one of the league’s best contact hitters with the durability of being available nearly every season. Even the biggest detractors of Jeter must admit his impact in the box gave the Yankees an advantage every game.
A five-time World Series champion and 14-time All-Star, Jeter’s career OPS+ sits at 115. In eight of his seasons, Jeter recorded an OPS+ north of 120. That means his OPS was at least 20% better than the league average. During an era where shortstops were just beginning to be known for their bats, that’s some strong consistency.
His 3,465 career hits are the sixth-most in baseball history. His career WAR of 72.4 is 12th-most among shortstops. The average WAR for shortstops currently in the Hall of Fame sits at 67.0. Among shortstops, Jeter has the sixth-most home runs (260), the eighth-most RBIs (1,311) and the fifth-most doubles (544).
Jeter’s defense is likely what will keep him from being a unanimous selection. While he was an incredibly smooth defender, there were valid questions about his range. This is especially true later in his career. To the naked eye, Jeter’s defense is fine, but the metrics say otherwise (-152 DRS).
Still, this shouldn’t detract Jeter’s argument to be a first-ballot selection. It should certainly be accounted for during the voting process. However, it likely gets overshadowed due to his consistency, leadership and insane hitting ability at one of the most demanding positions in baseball.
Take defensive metrics as you will, but they are likely to play a role in the voting.
As Jeter’s career gets dissected, his performance in the postseason must certainly be accounted for. While many argue there is no such thing as clutch, there is a tangible difference playing the game in the postseason. It’s astounding to see what Jeter accomplished during his postseason career.
Jeter played a full season’s worth of games in the postseason (158). In those games, he slashed .308/.374/.838 with 200 hits, 20 home runs and 62 RBIs. Just as his defensive issues must be accounted for, Jeter’s penchant for coming through in October also needs to be included.
Jeter is going to headline this class all the way to a first-ballot selection. However, and as great as he was, he isn’t deserving of a unanimous selection. His career WAR (72.4) is 88th in baseball history. While he’s deserving of a first-ballot selection, a unanimous vote is strictly for the elites.
This shouldn’t take away from Jeter’s accomplishments. He’s one of the greatest shortstops to ever play the game and was an impeccable role model for an entire generation. His leadership, consistency and hitting abilities will make him a first-ballot Hall of Famer and one of the greatest Yankees to have ever played the game.