When comparing the totality of their careers, was former St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols really inferior to Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter?
The St. Louis Cardinals have the most World Series wins of any National League team, with 11 titles. The New York Yankees lead the American League, and all of baseball, with a whopping 27 championships. As such, it’s no surprise several all-time greats from each franchise appear on ESPN’s recent ranking of the top 100 MLB players in history.
While no evaluation will ever satisfy everyone, there has been some strong pushback regarding a player from each of these two hallowed franchises and their ranking relative to each other on this list. Albert Pujols, who had a magnificent 11 seasons with the Cardinals before departing for the Angels and reaching some significant career milestones, is No. 30. Derek Jeter, a five-time world champion with the Bronx Bombers who also had many sterling achievements during his illustrious career, is No. 28.
Being considered among the 30 greatest baseball players of all time is wonderful recognition, but are these two contemporaries positioned correctly relative to each other? There is a strong case to be made that they are not, that Pujols was the better player over his 21 seasons (and counting?) than Jeter during his two decades in the majors.
There are numerous ways to evaluate players and compare their performances to one another. Triple Crown numbers, triple-slash percentages, awards, WAR totals – the list goes on. For this comparison, we’ll consider offense (including baserunning), defense, and milestones/awards.
Before we dive in, a note: One thing that benefits this comparison is the similar number of plate appearances and at-bats these two all-time greats have. Pujols has 12690 PA vs. 12602 for Jeter, and AB totals are 11,114 for Pujols and 11,195 for Jeter. They’re within less than one percent of each other in both categories.
Now, on to the comparison. Readers undoubtedly have their opinions already, but let’s see how the details shake out.