Don't forget about Jeter
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - I didn't know Derek Jeter did a Charles Barkley impression.

When asked about his offseason in a press conference at the New York Yankees' spring training facility in Tampa, Florida, Jeter said it was "terrible ... absolutely terrible."

Riding a scooter around a 30,000-square-foot mansion doesn't sound too terrible (or as Barkley would pronounce it, "turr-a-bull") to me but hey, I guess Jeter and I just have different tastes.

The last time we saw Jeter he was on the ground writhing in pain. The ankle Jeter broke in Game 1 of last year's ALCS has healed, but his reputation hasn't.

Once revered as the best shortstop in baseball, Jeter's fantasy stock has plummeted to new lows on the eve of the 2013 season. The 38-year-old is ranked 15th among shortstops and 186th overall in ESPN's latest fantasy rankings.

Is everybody in Bristol a Red Sox fan or is Jeter's snub warranted?

All players see their skills decline as they get older so it's unreasonable to expect Jeter to play the way he did when he was in his late 20s or even his early 30s. But come on, there can't really be 14 shortstops better than Jeter, right?

If there are, I'd love to know where they're hiding. Jeter's .316 batting average last season was fifth-best among all American League hitters and the captain's highest since 2009, when Jeter finished third in MVP voting behind Joe Mauer and teammate Mark Teixeira.

In a lot of ways, 2012 was a renaissance season for the All-Star shortstop. His power stroke returned (15 homers, third-most among AL shortstops). His on base percentage (.362) was higher than it had been in the last three seasons. Even his glove work improved from a season earlier (.980 fielding percentage, 10 errors in 2012 versus .972 and 12 in 2011).

I'm shocked that Jeter's fantasy prospects have been met with such pessimism this offseason. Jeter's ankle injury happened four months ago and the Yankees' lineup looks as potent as ever. Nick Swisher defected to Cleveland and A-Rod's hip surgery will keep him out a while, but Kevin Youkilis and a healthy Brett Gardner are more than adequate replacements.

The only areas of weakness for Jeter last season were stolen bases (career-low nine thefts) and RBI (finished with 58, his lowest total since 2003). Jeter made up for these deficiencies by leading the league in hits (216, three shy of his personal best set during the 1999 campaign) and finishing ninth in runs scored (99).

I'm not sure what else there is to gripe about. Jeter has proven year after year that he's still one of the game's most consistent hitters. He's not going to belt 24 home runs again like he did in 1999, but how many guys can say they've hit .290 or better in 16 of their last 17 seasons? Not too many.

Jeter, who recorded his eighth 200-hit season in 2012 (only Pete Rose, Ichiro Suzuki and Ty Cobb have more), is approaching some pretty significant milestones. Jeter can climb from 10th to sixth on the all-time hits list with 127 base knocks in 2013. If by some miracle he reaches 212 hits this season, he'll pass Tris Speaker for fifth in that category.

Jeter has always been a prodigious run scorer and will have a chance to cement his place among the all-time greats with another productive season in 2013. He needs only 30 runs to surpass Alex Rodriguez for 10th all-time (A-Rod won't have a chance to catch up until after the All-Star break because of his injury) and if he touches home 83 times, Jeter will be one ahead of Stan Musial (1,949 runs in 22 seasons) for ninth.

For those concerned about Jeter's durability, consider this. In 17 big league seasons (we're not including 1995 when Jeter appeared in just 15 games), Jeter has played 150 games or more 13 times. In two of the seasons he didn't, Jeter played 149 (1998) and 148 games (2000) respectively. Jeter's only prolonged absences occurred in 2003 (dislocated his shoulder on Opening Day) and then again in 2011 when he dealt with a bum calf (missed 31 games).

Marco Scutaro (.306, 7 HR, 74 RBI, nine steals) and Erick Aybar (.290, 8 HR, 45 RBI, 20 steals) are ranked higher than Jeter?

Please. I'd take Jeter any day. So should you.




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Jesse Pantuosco at jpantuosco@sportsnetwork.com.

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