Why Jeter's HOF career is incomparable

September 7th, 2021

As nears his induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame, we’re all looking for new ways to mark an occasion seen as inevitable for more than a decade.

Well, here’s one succinct way to put Jeter’s extraordinary career into context:

No player in Major League Baseball history has played more games, scored more runs or collected more hits -- during an era in which his team made the playoffs every year -- than Jeter.

For the purposes of this discussion, let’s consider the longest postseason streaks in MLB history:

Braves: 14 years (1991-93 and 1995-2005)
Yankees: 13 years (1995-2007)
Dodgers: eight years (2013-20, active)

Over the Yankees’ 13-year streak, Jeter led the team in games (1,835), runs (1,379) and hits (2,356). The Yanks won four World Series during that streak, then added a fifth in 2009 -- one year after the streak ended. Jeter was omnipresent on our television sets every October, earning a place in the American sports consciousness that is unique among players of his generation -- and has been unmatched since.

Hall of Famer Chipper Jones led the Braves in games (1,651), runs (1,101) and hits (1,811) from 1991-2005, but he did not surpass Jeter’s totals through the Yankees’ 13-year run, even when including statistics from the strike-shortened 1994 season. Notably, Atlanta won one World Series during its record-setting streak of playoff appearances.

Jones made his Major League debut in September 1993, when the Braves already were on the verge of their third consecutive National League West title. Jeter had played 15 games with the Yankees when their streak began with a 1995 AL Wild Card berth; he won the AL Rookie of the Year Award as the Yanks’ everyday shortstop in ’96.

Comparisons to the contemporary Dodgers are even more striking. Los Angeles is the reigning World Series champion, with a roster of past and future MVP and Cy Young Award winners, but the team does not have a Jeter.

Jeter’s career is distinguished by the fact that the Yankees started winning World Series championships as soon as he became their everyday shortstop in his age-22 season. The Dodgers, by contrast, didn’t win a title until the eighth year of their streak.

Justin Turner led the Dodgers in games (796), runs (420) and hits (810) from 2013-20 -- he didn't join the team until '14 -- but he entered this season more than 1,500 behind Jeter in the category of “most hits collected during a streak of playoff appearances.”

While the Yankees’ championship run was characterized by the Core Four, the Dodgers are known for their interchangeability. After Turner, those who played the most games for the Dodgers from 2013-20 -- Joc Pederson, Yasiel Puig and Adrián González -- aren’t with the organization anymore.

Turner, 36, is having a typically productive season, with an .829 OPS while earning his second career All-Star appearance. By the time Jeter was the age Turner is now, he’d accumulated 2,926 career hits and five World Series championships.

For Turner and the Dodgers to equal the Jeter/Yankees standard -- five World Series championships, 13 straight postseason appearances -- they would need to make the playoffs each year through 2025 while winning every Fall Classic but one. When the '25 season is over, Turner will be a few weeks away from turning 41.

To be sure, Dodgers star Mookie Betts is a potential Hall of Famer with two World Series rings. The 28-year-old has already achieved two things -- win a batting title and an MVP Award -- that eluded Jeter. Betts, still an elite defender, has also equaled Jeter’s five career Gold Gloves.

Yet Betts didn’t arrive in L.A. until Year 8 of the Dodgers’ streak. In fact, his Red Sox defeated the Dodgers in the 2018 World Series. Betts’ clutch moments in the postseason, his two-way brilliance and his regard within the sport are all Jeter-esque, but through no fault of his own, he wasn’t there for the start of this Dodgers era.

Thus Jeter stands alone in the steadiness of his contributions and the consistency of his winning. There’s never been a player like him. The superlatives you will hear from Cooperstown this week are thoroughly deserved.