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No. 2 is the best SS in history ... case closed

By Mike DiMauro

Publication: The Day

Published February 14. 2014 4:00AM

They will argue Honus Wagner. As if they just got off the golf course with him. Except that Mr. Wagner's last game was in 1917. You'd have to be roughly 107 years old to have seen him play.

They will argue Ernie Banks. Except that Banks played more games at first base in his career (1,259) than shortstop (1,125).

They will argue Cal Ripken. Except that Ripken has fewer hits, runs scored and a lower OPS, a combination of on base and slugging percentages.

I will argue Derek Jeter.

The greatest shortstop in the history of baseball.

So there.

Really want to argue this one? The omnipresent, anti-Yankee bias isn't going to help you. There's Derek Jeter and then there's everybody else.

Although I'll say this much: Until the other day when he announced this would be his last season, I never thought about Jeter's legacy to baseball as much as his legacy to the Yankees. He is a frame of reference: The Ruth era, the DiMaggio era, the Mantle era, the Mattingly era, the Jeter era.

There is no higher praise.

But his impending retirement has triggered a number of national retrospectives, all of which lead to the inevitable conclusion. Use whatever measure you'd like. Derek Jeter is the greatest shortstop in the history of baseball.

From MLB.com: "Although Jeter, 39, has drawn praise over the years for his character, leadership and other impeccable intangibles, his tangible accomplishments are what stand out. In fact, they clearly establish him as one of the most prolific Yankees, and shortstops, of all time.

"Jeter can boast 3,316 hits, first among Yankees and active players and second among shortstops, with Wagner's 3,430 clearly within reach. He also is the Yanks' all-time leader in games (2,602), at-bats (10,614) and stolen bases (348); second in doubles (525); third in runs (1,876); fifth in walks (1,047); sixth in RBIs (1,261); seventh in batting average (.312); and ninth in home runs (256).

"Among shortstops, Jeter is first in runs, third in homers, fourth in doubles and average, sixth in on-base percentage, seventh in RBIs and eighth in walks. And unlike Jeter, many other elite shortstops moved elsewhere on the diamond later in their career."

And have we mentioned he has five rings?

Pretty good tangibles, no?

Any real-time measure of Jeter's accomplishments should include real-time context. Jeter played shortstop for the New York Yankees during one of the most notable eras in the history of the team with the most history. The world's biggest fishbowl. And never, never, never, never did he do or say anything to embarrass himself or the franchise, even in the most intrusive media generation in our history.

Moreover, Jeter is tied with Mariano Rivera for behavior all public figures should emulate. Apologists leaned on considerable psychobabble to explain, for example, Richard Sherman's recent foibles. It's not that complicated. If Jeter had made the baseball equivalent of the same play as Sherman, would he have hollered into the cameras? Would he have called attention to himself?

Remember this one and write it down: If you ever wonder how to act in social situations, think W.W.J.D. (What Would Jeter Do?)

I know some of you just hate this.

Heh, heh, heh.

Nothing you can do about it.

Here's something else to hate: The Yankees, whose farm system gets mocked more than the WNBA, drafted the greatest relief pitcher and shortstop in the history of baseball within two years of each other. Send up a flare next another franchise turns that trick.

Jeter's decision to go out after this season will likely prohibit him from becoming a modern day Mantle. Yankee fans to this day cringe at the idea of him limping around the outfield in the late '60s. Jeter will go out as Rivera did.

I have no doubt the "Nomar's better" crowd will concoct their own set of arbitrary evaluations to discredit Jeter and his accomplishments. Huff and puff all you want.

The greatest shortstop in the history of baseball wears No. 2 in Pinstripes.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.

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