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August 20, 2004

On-field performance vs. entertainment
by TVerik

The true sabermetric types who read this blog may not like to hear it, but I suspect that Jeter fans will. Conventional Wisdom, exemplified by Tim McCarver and Michael Kay, seems to hold that Derek Jeter’s intangibles are very valuable to his team and that this cannot be measured statistically.

Some of our sabermetric brethren seem to delight in reducing Jeter to the sum total of his measurable numbers. They insist that his intangibles are way overvalued by the public at large.

This may be true; as a matter of fact, I’m reasonably sure that it’s true. But they define “value” in a narrow, baseball-related way. The object of an offense is to score runs, and scoring runs results directly in wins.

I submit that we fans really enjoy some parts of baseball that are not overly valuable in a wins vs. losses kind of way. In tonight’s game, Jeter covered third base, making Vladimir Guerrero out at third trying to advance on a single. Does Derek deserve the Nobel Prize for this contribution? No. Did it help the Yankees win the game? Babe Ruth resurrected wouldn’t have helped them tonight. Was it a play that all shortstops should make? I don’t really know, but I doubt it.

Derek Jeter, the ballplayer, did something small to help his team. It didn’t really help. But Derek Jeter, the entertainer, gave millions of fans a certain sense of satisfaction.

The Mariners are going through a horrendous year. But their fans still watch (although their numbers are reduced). They won’t be winning a pennant. So why do people pay attention? Because they’re entertained; the results of the game are secondary in some cases.

I don’t even know if one argument supports another here. Is DJ generally overrated? Is Derek valuable to his team? He certainly is. Does Jeter make the games somewhat more interesting for viewers? I could point to a hundred good examples of this.

But please weigh in on this issue. It’s just my opinion.