Here's the first installment of an every-once-in-a-while feature here at SB Nation New York called Who's Better? But it's not going to be one of those easy ones, where we pit a New York Yankees player against one from the New York Mets. With a few exceptions, Yankee fans will vote for the Yankee and Met fans will vote for the Met, so what does that prove? Only that fans are loyal to their favorite team. Instead, we'll make it hard. Would I be channeling Tiki Barber and acting too insensitively if I used the phrase Sophie's Choice here? That's what we want to do, though, make it hard for the voter, but in turn it will be more fun with fascinating results. So we'll begin with two Yankee legends, both of whom played their first game in pinstripes in 1995.
With Derek Jeter taking a forced hiatus from his quest for 3,000 hits, this is a good time to stand back and take a look at his career. We know that he's a shoe-in to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, five, six or seven years after he plays his last game. We also know for sure that his teammate Mariano Rivera will be enshrined in Cooperstown when (or is it if?) he calls it quits. And they'll both have a permanent home in Monument Park. So the question of the day is: Who's better? Or more specifically, who has had the better career? Rivera has aged more gracefully than Jeter and is better at his job right now than the shortstop is, but who has been better over the past 16 seasons or so? That's what we want to find out.
Though neither player possesses the charisma of a Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle or Reggie Jackson, the guarded Jeter and quiet Rivera have, for the most part, avoided controversy throughout their careers, and they prepare and play the game in exemplary fashion. And they've piled up the accolades and awards, as well. Jeter has a World Series and All-Star Game MVP (both in 2000), a Rookie of the Year Award, five Gold Gloves and 11 All-Star Game appearances, while Rivera has a World Series (1999) and LCS (2003) MVP, five AL Rolaids Relief Man of the Year honors and eight All-Star Game appearances. Here are their career numbers to chew on as you make your gut-wrenching decision:
REGULAR SEASON: Games: 2,357; Batting Average: .312; OBP: .383; Slugging: .449; OPS: .832; Hits: 2,994; Runs: 1,724; Doubles: 477; Triples: 62; Home Runs: 236; RBIs: 1,155; Walks: 971; Stolen Bases: 330
POSTSEASON: Games: 147; Batting Average: .309; OBP: .377; Slugging .472; OPS: .850; Hits: 185; Runs: 101; Doubles: 30; Triples: 4; Home Runs: 20; RBIs: 57 (World Series line: .321/.384/.449 -- that's eerily similar to his regular-season line, but of course, it's a lot harder to hit in the World Series than during the season, with better pitcher and much more pressure, so it makes it all the more impressive.)
REGULAR SEASON: Games: 1,005; Saves: 575; Record: 75-56; ERA: 2.22; WHIP: 1.05
POSTSEASON: Games: 94; Saves: 42; Record: 8-1; ERA: 0.71; WHIP: 0.77 (World Series: Games: 24; Saves: 11; Record: 2-1; ERA: 0.99 ERA; WHIP: 0.96)
It's not going to be easy, but vote now!