There are a number of exciting variables about the Yankees Phillies World Series, but when you look at the middle of the infield, behold the skill.
Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins and Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter may have decidedly different personalities, but they are a show unto themselves.
Their role on their teams is also very defined, though Jeter stands as the designated captain. Still, it's no secret that the Phillies is Rollins team, his status not only due to his being a farm grown Phillie, but also for his ability to rile the teammates and the masses.
Not every player wants to put themselves out there in the media the way Rollins will. His fearless proclamations have angered or inspired a roll of the eyes, but you have to appreciate his confidence. If the Phillies were "the team to beat", he must've known it. Or at least he wanted to believe it and hoped his teammates did, too.
Rollins appears to be the flashier player. Has Jeter been more celebrated because of the uniform? Perhaps. But that shouldn't be a problem for any baseball fan when the fact is, the teams he helped lead to the World Series three years in a row were the best in the game. He made his name doing extraordinary things in October and November, when players must be better than they have all season. He proved his ability in high pressure situations early on. Rollins didn't get that chance until 2007.
As the all-time hits leader at his position, it's hard to argue who the better hitting shortstop is.
But Jeter's defensive abilities have been a major debate for years. No one questions Rollins skill level at short. Jeter's range has been questioned, to the point that the University of Pennsylvania released a study finding him to be the worst defensive player in baseball. In 2009 he finished the regular season with a .985 fielding percentage. And in an interesting statistic created by John Dewan, Jeter was first in "Revised Zone Rating." The stat counts how many times a player gets a ball into his zone and converts it to an out.
Rollins in comparison, finished with an only slightly better fielding percentage of .990. In his 10 year career he has an overall fielding percentage of .983. Jeter? In fifteen years, he's posted a fielding percentage of .976.
Some glaring differences exist, though. Rollins has made just 41 career throwing errors, while Jeter has made 99. Still, it's a difficult comparison, considering Jeter has played five years longer. But with a 99 career total in errors, Rollins trumps Jeter who has made 213 overall errors thus far. As an aside, Barry Larkin made 235 in his nineteen year career.
Jeter may not be the best defensive shortstop, but he's the best hitting shortstop and that's the meat, the stuff fans sink their teeth into. It's why he's the leader of his ball club. It's why he's "Mr. November."
Rollins has stood firm in his leadership. He's never backed down. Also the stuff of leaders. He's a five-tool player, with 20 bases stolen in every season of his career since 2001. In 2003 he hit 42 doubles. He broke a franchise record in 2005, when he went on a 36-game hitting streak, breaking Ed Delahanty's 1899 record.
What it all boils down to is October and November. Jeter has been there. A lot. Rollins has now been there, and been all the way, and he has another chance to prove his abilities in the Fall Classic.
Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriquez was asked about both men and he put it like this:
“...Two Hall of Fame shortstops, and two great leaders.”
There can be no debating that statement. (Oh, go ahead if you must...)
FUNNY FACT: Did you know that Rollins statement in 2007 about being "The Team To Beat" in the NLE, was followed by, "But, that's only on paper"?
Both Rollins and Jeter were named Rookie of The Year: Jeter in 1997, Rollins in 2001
Rollins is a three-time All Star, while Jeter has been voted in ten times.