Across Derek Jeter's illustrious 20-year career, the iconic shortstop accomplished nearly everything that a Major League Baseball player can strive for.
The Captain won five World Series titles, appeared in 14 All-Star Games, was awarded Rookie of the Year during his first full season in 1996 and, of course, was elected to the Hall of Fame in January.
As Mark Feinsand of MLB.com pointed out earlier this week, the only notable accomplishment missing from Jeter's spectacular résumé was an American League MVP Award.
Many point to 2006 as the year Jeter should have won an MVP. The Yankees' shortstop hit .343 across 154 games that year, scoring 118 runs and driving in 97. Not only did he steal 34 bags – a career high – but Jeter won a Gold Glove Award (his third in a row) and a Silver Slugger Award for his standout performance at shortstop on both sides of the ball.
All that being said, Jeter wound up second in the race for MVP. Minnesota's Justin Morneau – a power-hitting first baseman in his age-25 season – was atop the ballot, finishing 14 points ahead of the Yankees' shortstop.
Here's a snippet of Feinsand's comprehensive breakdown:
Morneau hit .321 with 34 home runs and 130 RBIs, pacing a Twins offense that finished eighth in the AL in runs scored. The numbers were impressive, though based solely on those three traditional stats, one could argue that David Ortiz (.287/54/137), Jermaine Dye (.315/44/120), Travis Hafner (.308/42/117) or Vladimir Guerrero (.329/33/116) should have been right there with Morneau.
Seven players posted a higher OPS than Morneau's .934, including five over 1.000 (Hafner, Manny Ramirez, Ortiz, Jim Thome and Dye) along with Joe Mauer, whose .936 bettered his teammate by a narrow margin.
Jeter, who was second in the league with a .343 average and collected 214 hits, 118 runs scored, 97 RBIs and 34 stolen bases, won the AL’s Hank Aaron Award that season. Jeter also collected his third consecutive Gold Glove Award at shortstop, a premium defensive position compared to first base.
In revisiting the debate as to who should have won MVP in the American League that season, MLB.com gathered 15 writers to re-vote. On the ballot were all 33 players that received at least one vote in 2006.
Here's how Feinsand and his colleagues voted:
|Top Five in 2006||New Top Five (in 2020)|
Justin Morneau MIN
Derek Jeter NYY
Derek Jeter NYY
David Ortiz BOS
David Ortiz BOS
Johan Santana MIN
Frank Thomas OAK
Grady Sizemore CLE
Jermaine Dye CWS
Travis Hafner CLE
There you have it. Derek Jeter's performance in 2006 was in fact considered enough to win the AL MVP Award (in retrospect). Meanwhile, Morneau dropped out of the top five entirely.
Looking back, you can make the argument that Morneau wasn't even the best player on his team that season. Backstop Joe Mauer and southpaw Johan Santana both had tremendous campaigns, but finished sixth and seventh on the 2006 ballot.
The game has changed quite a bit since then, with more value being placed on certain statistical categories. Santana led the American League in WAR in 2006 (7.6), which was exactly two full points higher than Jeter (5.6). Mornaeu finished with a 4.3 WAR, ranked 19th in the AL.
Feinsand recalls the "outrage" that transpired in 2006 after Jeter was snubbed of the award. The Captain's best shot after '06 was when he finished third in the race for AL MVP in 2009 – Mauer won that year with Jeter's teammate Mark Teixeira in second place.
Similar to how he fell one vote shy of unanimity in his candidacy for an invitation to Cooperstown this year, his inability to win an MVP Award won't be a blemish on Jeter's legacy.
For more on the 2006 MVP race, check out Feinsand's piece on MLB.com right here.
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