Well, I'm going to go out on a limb here and be one of those annoying baseball people to say that Derek Jeter, who announced his retirement following this season earlier in the week, will be accepting his Hall of Fame plaque on a warm summer day in 2019, his first year of eligibility. I hear fans are already trying to book hotel rooms nearly six years in advance for Derek's day in the sun. And they are right to do so.
I wrote the following for the excellent baseball website HallofVeryGood.com last fall on what makes Jeter a HOF lock:
In the late 1990s, Derek Jeter wasn’t the best shortstop in the American League. Alex Rodriguez was. Jeter wasn’t the second best, either. Nomar Garciaparra was. But is there any question that Jeter will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame the first shot he gets five years after retirement?
None at all.
First and foremost, Derek Jeter is a first ballot Hall of Famer because he represents everything that’s still right about the game of baseball. In the mold of another Yankees captain of a bygone era, Lou Gehrig, Jeter maintained a pristine image in the media capital of the world and was not just admired and liked by teammates and opponents, but idolized by some (see Troy Tulowitzki).
Now for his numbers. His 3,000 hits alone should make him an automatic for enshrinement. But add to that achievement his .312 batting average, 256 homeruns for a shortstop, and 1,876 runs scored, and he has been one of the greatest offensive middle-infielders of all-time.
His fielding, while not as flamboyant or spectacular as, say, Ozzie Smith, was good enough to win five Gold Glove awards in an era when one of his contemporaries was Omar Vizquel.
And how about those rings? Five of them in the era of expanded playoffs. And he shined brightest on the biggest stage—the World Series—batting .321 and always seemed to find a way to hit the big homerun when the Yankees needed it most.
Perhaps no play exemplified the pure essence of what Jeter gave the Yankees more than the “flip play” that saved the Yankees’ 2001 season in the ALCS against the A’s in Game 3. As shown by that play, it was his intangibles, instincts and leadership abilities he brought to the table that will be his lasting legacy.
Jeter is a (first ballot) Hall of Fame lock.