For years on the internet, there was a sizable cottage industry built on the claim that Derek Jeter was overrated. In the five years since Jeter retired, new takes in that vein have grown sparse. And don't we miss them? This week, with Jeter falling just short of becoming the second player to win unanimous selection to the Hall of Fame, we've seen a minor revival of this old genre. Maybe one of those old pieces caused the lone holdout among the voters to lose his or her grip on reality.
Maybe the no-Jeter voter was right. He clearly would have been the most overrated unanimous Hall of Famer. There was an overwhelming consensus last year that Jeter's former teammate Mariano Rivera was the game's best relief pitcher ever. The few detractors about Rivera's Hall candidacy were those who believe relief pitchers have no place in Cooperstown. But if you are going to include relievers, there's no argument against Rivera being enshrined. He was the best ever at what he did. No one ever credibly referred to Rivera as overrated.
Few claim that Jeter is the best shortstop ever, but there are some who make that argument -- loudly. When the analysis and think pieces about Jeter's defense began to spread during the early part of this century, he crossed that rare threshold through which someone is so commonly referred to as overrated that he ends up underrated, and that too leads to a kind of counter-backlash. Few would deny Jeter's overall greatness, but the discussion was always about how much of that greatness was rubbed out by his defense.
Let's begin with this set of rankings of the top 25 career shortstops. Keep in mind the word "career." The rankings reflect our analysis last week, when we published our annual piece that slots Hall of Famers into tiers. There are some additional names introduced here, which we'll get to. This list is our starting point: