It has been the question that has driven N.Y. baseball fans around the water cooler for the past nine years: Reyes or Jeter? This may seem like an odd time to have this discussion with Jeter being on the tail end of his career and Reyes bringing his shaved eyebrows down to Miami, but it’s time we settle the score once and for all. Let’s face it, this may be the last time a Mets fan has the opportunity to have a discussion like this for a very long time so why not have some fun with it? I have heard this discussion take place between Mets and Yankees fans over and over again. Most of the time I would just walk away nodding my head because it ends up sounding like two cavemen arguing over who invented the wheel. Yankees fans would elect Jeter president in 2012 if they could, so it was nice for Mets fans to have someone to throw in their face the past eight or nine years. I would get a kick out of hearing Yankees fans make ridiculous claims in Jeter’s favor, and Mets fans respond with their ridiculous statements in favor of Reyes. I have to admit, that is one of the main reasons why I am going to miss Reyes not being a Met anymore.
But the question still remains: If you were a G.M. of a baseball organization, who would you want to build your team around if we rewind to the beginning of their respective careers? Jeter or Reyes?
The question is not as easy as it seems. Yankees fans cry Jeter, and Mets fans shout Reyes. While I am a Mets fan, I am a baseball enthusiast above all, and do not have any animosity towards the Yankees. That is why I am the perfect New Yorker to finally bring this debate to a close. After reading this, you will no longer ponder the question of Reyes or Jeter.
As I stated earlier, the question seems easy to answer. Jeter is an icon. Jeter is a Yankee legend. Jeter is a role model. Jeter gave us new meaning when we talk about number two. But erase his fairy tale career. Would you build your team around him? Do his tools blow you away? The answer is no. Jeter has above average tools but I don’t think there is a single scout who would agree with you if you said Jeter had better tools than Reyes. Reyes is lightning on the base paths. Reyes can hit for contact and power. Reyes is as smooth as Yoplait at shortstop. So Jeter has the resume, but Reyes has the tools. Who do you pick?
Mets fans would argue that if you put Jeter on any team other than the Yankees and he would not be who he is today. Their meaning being that his skill set is not legendary, although he has found a way to propel himself into super stardom. I couldn’t disagree more. First of all, you cannot discredit anything the man has done because there is no way you can tell for certain that he would not have become a legend with some other organization. Just like we can’t assume that Reyes’s ridiculous skill set would lead to legendary status had he played in pinstripes. This idea of Jeter being great because he is a Yankee is completely irrelevant. If you want to make the argument that he is a legend simply because he was a Yankee, then the only way I would agree is if you said he was so proud to put that uniform on each and every day, that he squeezed out every ounce of talent that he was given. If that’s the case, then being a Yankee did help him along the way. But don’t discredit the man because of his situation. Plain and simple, Jeter was born with the “it” factor. The “it” factor takes guys who may not have the best tools and abilities, and turns them into legends. Larry Bird. Joe Montana. Derek Jeter. All had the “it” factor. It guides them. It drives them. It puts them in the right place at the right time. Remember when Jeter made that play against the Athletics in the playoffs where he was totally out of position? He had no business being where he was. He cut the ball off between home plate and first base, and somehow turned out to be in the perfect spot. To this day I scratch my head and wonder what Jeter was doing there. It was the “it” factor.
That’s the difference in a nutshell between Reyes and Jeter. When I watch Reyes, I feel like I’m being cheated. He is so talented and yet I can’t stop feeling like he’s leaving something on the table. Jeter dives head first into the stands…Reyes goes out dancing the nights before games. When I’m scratching my head about Jeter, it’s usually because he just did something amazing and I can’t believe what I saw. When I scratch my head about Reyes, it’s usually because I can’t believe what a bone-headed play I just witnessed from such a talented player.
Coca-Cola or Pepsi? Bird or Magic? McDonald’s or Burger King? Jeter or Reyes? I think it’s time to answer the question. Maybe the question is easier to answer than I thought. Jeter is a ball player. He is a gamer. He is the captain. He is my pick. The fastest car doesn’t always win the race; the better driver will usually find a way to win even if his car isn’t as fast as his opponent. The biggest fighter doesn’t always win the fight; it’s usually the fighter who displays more heart that wins. The smartest person doesn’t always score higher on the test; it’s usually the person who studies the most that scores the highest. While Reyes may have the talent to win a M.V.P. award one day, I will always have room on my team for a Hall of Famer. When I need a pinch runner for #2, that’s when I’ll call for #7.
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