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It’s 1996 in the United States. Baseball season is well underway, as it is mid-July. In New York, rookie shortstop Derek Jeter is having a great season, and is the A.L. Rookie of the Year front runner. Move all the way to the west coast, and in Seattle, second-year star Alex Rodriguez is crushing the ball, and having an MVP-worthy season. In Pawtucket, with the Red Sox Triple-A affiliate, Nomar Garciaparra is tearing up the minors, and will definitely be called up later in the season. From 1996-2003, these three superstars were the best shortstops in the league, but in what order do they rank? Ask a New Yorker and they say Jeter is the best for sure. Go to Boston and they say Nomah is the premier shortstop. Travel to Seattle, or Texas and ask a Mariners or Rangers fan, and they’ll respond with A-Rod’s name. So who is the best? Who ranks 2nd? And who is the one that ends up with the bronze medal? I am here today to dive into the juicy advanced stats, and answer this complex question.
Photo: Rod Mar / The Seattle Times
Alex Rodriguez was absurd during this 8-year span, hitting .311, with a total of 298 home runs, 969 RBI’s, 303 doubles, and 170 stolen bases. He had 7 All-Star seasons, 7 Silver Sluggers, 2 Gold Gloves, 1 batting title, 1 MVP, and 3 other top 5 finishes in the voting. He led the league in hits once, total bases 3 times, homers 3 times, runs 3 times, doubles once, and RBI once. He had a total WAR (wins above replacement) of 64.3, and a 9.5 defensive WAR. That's just pure dominance.
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Jeter wasn’t quite as good as his friend A-Rod, but he had a respectable .281 average, with 127 dingers, 608 RBI’s, 235 doubles, and 178 stolen bases. He was in 5 All-Star Games, but had 0 Silver Sluggers, and 0 Gold Gloves. He did have a Rookie of the Year, and 1 top 5 MVP finish. Jeter did lead the league in runs and hits once each, and compiled a total of 40.9 WAR along with an ugly -1.7 defensive WAR. Those are solid numbers, but nowhere near Alex.
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Nomah was extremely good but dealt with injuries, and barely played in ‘96, since he was a prospect, but his numbers speak for themselves. He hit .324, with 173 bombs, 669 RBI’s, 272, and 82 steals. He had 5 All-Star appearances, 1 Silver Slugger, 0 Gold Gloves, a Rookie of the Year, and 1 top 5 MVP finish. He also had the extraordinary ability to not strike out, as he never struck out over 100 times, unlike Jeter and A-Rod. Garciaparra led the league in hits, doubles, and triples, 1 time each, and had back-to-back batting titles, in ‘99, and ‘00. Nomar had a total of 41.2 WAR, accompanied by a defensive WAR of 9.6 in that 8-year span. Though he played less than Jeter he still had better numbers.
Now that I showed all of their numbers, and accomplishments, take a minute and rank these 3 shortstops, and compare it to my list which will be below:
#1 - Alex Rodriguez, Seattle/Texas
#2 - Nomar Garicaparra, Boston
#3 - Derek Jeter, New York (AL)
This better be your list because there is no freakin’ way that you can have Derek Sanderson Jeter over Anthony Nomar Garciaparra. Nomar is pretty close to Rodriguez, as he was more consistent over that time frame but A-Rod was taking special vitamins that made his offensive numbers go off the charts overall. Though Garciaparra never made the Hall-of-Fame because of injuries, and A-Roid, because of PED’s, it was nevertheless a good time for baseball.
Note: All of the stats were gathered from Baseball Reference.