Fair or unfair, legacy is always defined by championships and with 27 World Series titles, the New York Yankees have left hundreds of players with a favorable legacy. The argument for and against a particular player’s impact on titles will be forever debated and forever pointless.

There is no denying Derek Jeter’s on and off-the-field contributions directly contributed to five World Series title during his 20 years in pinstripes, but there is an intriguing statistical argument that involves a lesser-known Hall of Famer.

Paul Molitor dashed around the bases as a Brewer, Blue Jay and Twin before landing in Cooperstown in 2004. Like Jeter, he played for two decades, but many of those 21 seasons, 3300-plus hits and 505 stolen bases were lost in the shuffle of organizational mediocrity. Opposing players and fans did not always gush at his presence, request autographs or issue repeated standing ovations during his final All-Star game appearance. With the exception of locals and diehards, very few even knew Molitor closed an illustrious career with his hometown Minnesota Twins from 1996-1998.

There is nothing wrong with Derek Jeter or the lovefest that follows the Yankees across the country in 2014. He is a living baseball legend, a tremendous ambassador for the game and should be forever celebrated as one of the greatest ballplayers of all-time. However, Molitor’s numbers suggest that a change in draft day fortune could have vaulted the former Minnesota Golden Gopher into the spotlight of the pinstripes.

Again, to be clear to all the Yankee lovers having a panic attack, this is not a debate as to whether Derek Jeter is a legend that deserves to be celebrated and one day enshrined in Cooperstown. This is simply offering a perspective to one of the lesser-known Hall of Famer inductees over the last few decades.

Consider the following statistical comparison for the two entering the 2014 season:

Games Batting Average Home Runs RBI Hits Runs Doubles Triples Walks Stolen Bases
Derek Jeter 2,602 .312 256 1,256 3,316 1,876 525 65 1,047 348
Paul Molitor 2,683 .306 234 1,307 3,319 1,782 605 115 1,094 504

Yes, Jeter has already passed or will pass Molitor in many categories including games played, RBI, hits and walks during his final season, but the numbers are eerily similar and none elicit an embarrassingly favorable reaction for the captain.

We all know the glaring weakness in Molitor’s resume: 1 World Series title. While nothing to scoff at, it pales in comparison to Jeter’s five crowns and vaults him from a simple future Hall of Famer and fan favorite, to the prodigal son of the Bronx.

Jeter also boasts five Gold Gloves to Molitor’s zero and managed to check the Rookie of the Year box. Both will finish their careers with 12 season of batting .300-plus and one World Series MVP, but the Yankees legend has five more All-Star game appearances.

Molitor did not depart baseball on a 162-game lovefest tour, nor did he barely receive a wink from the national media after a little-publicized retirement announcement in December 1998. The now-Twins fielding and baserunning coach remains one of the unfortunate forgotten sons of baseball in the 1980’s and 90’s.


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Photos Courtesy: AP