Derek Jeter was one of the greatest Defensive shortstops ever. I watched him his whole career — and it was his DEFENSE — not his Offense — that I loved watching. From the moment he came up — and made a spectacular running-full-sprint-over-his-shoulder catch into the outfield in an early season game — that I realized he was different than previous Yankee shortstops I’d seen to that point. Including Bucky Dent who was considered an excellent defender, and all other Yankee shortstops since 1973 when I started following the team.
But people’s views of Derek Jeter’s defense vary. Some of it is due to Bill James-esq one-dimensional statistical analysis. Some of it is jealousy from fans of other teams. But even some Yankee fans who watched Jeter every day say he was overrated defensively. To that — one must remember the important element of TIME.
Some Yankee fans only watched Jeter in his last 5 or 6 years in the league — when he was between the ages of 35 to 40. That was a very different Jeter, defensively, then the Jeter of his youth in his 20’s.
Brian Cashman Speaks on Jeter’s Defense
In an interview in the off season of 2021 — in November just before the strike/lockout — Brian Cashman dished on Jeter’s defense — and how it did become a concern when Jeter hit the age of 37-38.
Said Cashman: “Did those discussions happen back then? Oh yea. Internally? No question about it. Towards the end.. But you’re talking about a thoroughbred. A Secretariat who ran the race for how long? How many years was DJ going? 20 years.. so when you’re talking about the 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th year or whatever it was — and if you’re really being authentic and legitimate in the position that you’re in, and if your coaches are sharing that type of same information and you obviously have data and feedback and scouting and stuff like that, you’re forced to have those types of discussions.”
“And so — and this is public — I wanted a meeting with Derek about his range and everything else, and to his credit, he connected with a new strength and conditioning program that significantly improved his range and allowed him to remain at shortstop and allowed him to turn back the clock a little bit. And those discussions — if that wasn’t the case — who knows what would have happened. But he addressed that head on — and I think the true champions — and Derek clearly was that — would want to know what their problems are and what their deficiencies are and any competitor is going to then either try to prove you wrong or fix the problem or both — and that is where the magic always happens with those great competitors.”
“But the one thing I’ve learned over the course of time is that there are a lot of people who aren’t willing to have those diplomatic confrontations or discussions in the hopes of finding a higher ground for a better outcome for yourself and your team and the fans. Some people are afraid to have those discussions — with the great ones — and that’s where things can’t be as good as they are now, if you’re unwilling.”
Brian Cashman was asked if the Yankees had discussions with Derek Jeter to move to centerfield toward the end of his career:
"To his credit, he connected with a new strength and conditioning program that significantly improved his range and allowed him to remain at shortstop" pic.twitter.com/xi0SYK8Zby
— Yankees Videos (@snyyankees) November 10, 2021
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Jeter was the best defensive shortstop I ever saw with Yankees. I remember Jim Mason and Fred Stanley and Bucky Dent. Robertson. Meacham. Jeter was a big step up from that. Huge step up.