Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Which colleges produce the most NFL talent?

Anyone who follows football in depth understands that the process of being a successful NFL pro is a gradual one. With the changes in technology, the national interest in collegiate recruiting has skyrocketed in recent years (see Yahoo buying for 100 million dollars). Many athletes are sullied with bombastic comparisons to NFL and collegiate legends the second they step foot onto a high school gridiron as 15 year old kids. In reality, most of these kids never live up to their supposed potential. Yet, for the few hundred who continue to develop and grow physically as superb athletes, they then must endure a new set of challenges on the collegiate landscape. Again, more comparisons are thrust upon them, and yet again, even more are weeded out - and only a couple hundred finish college with the opportunity to play in the NFL. From that point, only a margin of those who make it into the NFL (whether drafted or not and regardless of which round) actually go onto have successful NFL careers.

So I have decided to compose a list of the ten most successful collegiate programs since the year 2000 (collegiate year 1999 - NFL draft year 2000) in terms of generating NFL talent. I have developed my own point system which operates as follows:

1) Draft pick points are allotted as follows:
1st - 3.5 points
2nd - 3 points
3rd - 2.5 points
4th - 2 points
5th - 1.5 points
6th - 1 point
7th - .5 points

2) Each NFL starter per school is worth 10 points.
3) Each NFL pro bowler per school is worth 15 points. Perennial Pro Bowlers (3+) are awarded another 5.
4) Each NFL player with a career of 5+ years per school is worth 5 points.
5) Each NFL player per roster is worth 1 point.

Obviously, this is not to simply gauge which school has the most players in the NFL (Miami, 61), or which school has the most first round draft picks (Miami also). That would simplify the manner too much. This study is more so interested in which schools turn out both the most and the best talent. While my point system slightly favors performance over mere presence, it does not seem fair to simply credit a university for having the most players when many of those players may be solely backups or minimal contributors.

A few notes about the point system:

1) This is by no means scientific. The system certainly has its fair share of holes. For example, Texas only gets 29.5 for Vince Young. Young's rating is slightly discredited since he is only a rookie. In four years he could be worth 41.5, the maximum value. Furthermore, teams get no credit for projected starters from draft picks. So essentially, while Laron Landry and Brady Quinn will by all means be starters for the respective teams, they were only worth 4.5 points. This makes a difference for teams like LSU with 4 first round draft picks who could potentially start, because that would be an extra 40 points, enough to move them ahead of Florida (even with Jarvis Moss and Reggie Nelson starting).

2) I've given schools credit for ALL of their current starters and Pro Bowlers. While this may somewhat skew the rankings, it's not a large enough point difference to move one school ahead of another. I felt by not including the players it would skew the rankings worse, because part of the reason some of the younger players may not be pro bowlers at this point, is due to the fact that some of the older guys are still holding down that spot. Also, I counted as a starter anyone who started consistently (more than 8 games or so in a given year), credit for being a starter. However, players who are penciled in as starters, do not receive starter points. For example Broderick Bunkley from Florida State will be a starter this year, but played minimally last year. He does not count for a starter.

3) Schools are not awarded for having a player who was an UDFA. Since a 7th round pick was worth .5, it wouldn't make much of a difference anyways. If that player turned out well, he was still rewarded points for his performance, just not his draft status.

4) All roster numbers were taken from, which has a player listing by their respective schools. All draft pick numbers were taken from

5) This list was compiled of teams that have at least 35 players in the NFL. All other schools I eliminated, figuring they wouldn't have enough players to compete with these.

Anyways, after all the number crunching these are the rankings I've arrived at:

1) The University of Miami - 834.5

And its not even close. Was there really any question about this though? I think most ardent followers of college and NFL football are well aware that Miami has been a veritable NFL talent factory since 2000. And its not just quantity (though they have produced the most players), their quality is stellar. Since just 2000, Miami has produced Pro Bowlers Ed Reed, Jeremy Shockey, Sean Taylor, Frank Gore, Clinton Portis, and Andre Johnson.

All told, they have an outstanding 28 starters, and 16 Pro Bowlers.

Player Total: 61
Draft Pick Total - 148.5
Starters: 28 - 280
Pro Bowlers: 16 - 235
Exp.: 22 - 110
Grand Total: 834.5

2) Florida State University - 646.5

When I first composed the list, I completely figured the Seminoles wrong. As I expected, they were no. 2. The Seminoles have some of the best at a couple positions, the best LT - Walter Jones and the best WLB - Derrick Brooks. Couple that with stars Javon Walker, Warrick Dunn, Samari Rolle, Anquan Boldin and rising stars Ernie Sims, Kamerion Wimbley, Alex Barron and Michael Boulware and the Noles can't be ashamed of their production.

Player Total: 49
Draft Pick Total: 122.5
Starters: 22 - 220
Pro Bowlers: 10 - 160
Exp: 19 - 95

Grand total: 646.5

3) THE Ohio State University 642.5

Ohio State falls just behind Miami in sheer number of pros produced, with 60. While the USC/Texas 2005 National Championship game consistently gets the billing as the "Biggest Star Studded National Championship Game Ever", its my sneaking suspicion Ohio State and Miami's 2003 showdown may have actually been better. Coincidentally, those were the 2 best National Championship games this decade. Its hard to argue with the top flights guys Ohio State has churned out: Nate Clements, Orlando Pace, Shawn Springs, Terry Glenn - these are all Pro Bowl performers (Le'Charles Bentley deserves a mention, because he was well on his way to being one of the best in the game before suffering a career set back injury). But Ohio State's real testament is their emerging talent. Guys like Will Smith, A.J. Hawk, Nick Mangold, Chris Gamble and Mike Nugent are well on their way to superstardom and perennially Pro Bowling.

Player Total: 60
Draft Pick Total Total: 127.5
Starters: 25 - 250
Pro Bowlers: 7 - 110
Exp.: 19 - 95
Grand total: 642.5

4) The University of Georgia - 640.5

I would bet my bottom dollar that anyone who is not a Bulldog fan is shocked by this one. Not that other fanbases don't recognize Georgia as a perennial college football power, but I suspect most didn't think they would fall this high. But that is simply not the case. Since 2000, Georgia has basically fielded an NFL defensive line every year. Check out their list of just defensive linemen - Richard Seymour, Marcus Stroud, Robert Geathers, Phillip Daniels and Charles Grant. David Pollack gets an honorable mention, because he seemed well on his way to stardom, before his tragic injury. Oh yeah, and there's that one other guy you might have heard of, Champ Bailey.

Georgia Lacks the Pro Bowl power of Miami (like everyone else), but they have produced an outstanding 26 NFL starters. The only measurement which places them behind Ohio State is the sheer number of players produced.

Player total: 55
Draft Pick Total: 95.5
Starters: 26 - 260
Pro Bowlers: 6 - 115
Exp.: 23 - 115
Grand Total: 640.5

5) The University of Michigan - 613.5

Michigan has long been one of the top producers of NFL talent. It's little surprise that they crack the top 5. Michigan has long been seen as one of the top QB manufacturers in college football. However, currently they have only 1 starter in the NFL at the QB position. Luckily for them, he's widely considered either 1 or 1a by every imaginable source (depending how much you like Peyton Manning). Tom Brady headlines an exceptional lot produced by Michigan. Charles Woodson and Ty Law have at times been considered two of the very best CBs in the league. But their offensive linemen are remarkable, Jon Jansen, Jon Runyan, Jeff Backus, Maurice Williams, and of course, Steve Hutchinson. Toss in a handful of more than solid contributors: Cato June, Amani Toomer, Shantee Orr, Braylon Edwards, James Hall and Ian Gold and its easy to see why they are ranked so high.

Player Total: 58
Draft Pick Total: 80.5
Starters: 22 - 220
Pro Bolwers: 7 - 125
Exp.: 26 - 130
Grand total: 613.5

6) The University of Tennessee - 562.5

There's a reason Phil Fulmer is considered one of the best in the business, just take a quick glance over the talent line up in the NFL, and its easy to recognize why. Tennessee has produced a smattering of talent which covers all areas of the football field. They've produced a handful of solid wide receivers: Donte Stallworth, Peerless Price, Cedrick Wilson (soon to come Robert Meachem). More than a couple great defensive linemen Albert Haynesworth, Leonard Little, Shaun Ellis and John Henderson. Two very good running backs in Jamal Lewis and Travis Henry. A Pro Bowl TE in Jason Witten. And of course, the crowning jewel for the Volunteers, Peyton Manning.

Player Total: 52
Draft Pick Total: 105.5
Starters: 21 - 210
Pro Bowlers: 6 - 95
Exp.: 20 - 100
Grand total: 562.5

7) University of Florida - 486.5

Florida might be best known for the fact that for all the high flying offenses Steve Spurrier produced, their NFL talent at the QB and WR positions never panned out at the next level. But it's impossible to ignore the girth of talent they have produced on the other side of the ball. Jevon Kearse (who, when healthy, is one of the best in the game) headlines the staff which also fields Lito Sheppard, Ian Scott, Mike Peterson, Channing Crowder, Kevin Carter, Alex Brown and Gerard Warren. This is not to say they haven't produced any offensive talent. Max Starks is a more than capable OT and Darrell Jackson is a highly regarded WR. You also can't neglect to mention Fred Taylor, who quietly racks up thousand yards season as he goes.

Player Total: 55
Draft Pick Total: 91.5
Starters: 18 - 180
Pro Bowlers: 3 - 50
Exp: 22 - 110
Grand total: 486.5

8) Louisiana State University - 471.5

Though a major talent void struck Baton Rouge throughout the 90's and the major instate talent fled to other schools (Warrick Dunn, Travis Minor to name a couple), LSU has rebounded nicely and once again rebuilt an extremely strong talent base, thanks in part to both Gerry Dinardo and Nick Saban. LSU alums lack the high profile superstardom of most other schools on the list, with the most recognizable names being Anthony "Booger" McFarland, Kevin Mawae, Alan Faneca, and now Joseph Addai. But they have produced a great number of quality NFL players. Marcus Spears, Andrew Whitworth, Michael Clayton, Corey Webster, Bradie James, Devery Henderson, Eddie Kennison, Kevin Faulk, and Robert Royal are all more than capable NFL players. But the real strength of LSU lies in the future. With 4 NFL 1st round draft picks this year (including 2 in the top 10 and #1 overall) and a good chance at 2 more next year, LSU could easily shoot up these rankings in a matter of years.

Player Total: 53
Draft Pick Total: 68.5
Starters: 19 - 190
Pro Bowlers: 4 (2) - 70
Exp.: 18 - 90
Grand Total: 471.5

9) The University of Texas - 435

What is perhaps the most impressive about texas cracking the top 10 is the fact that of the current top 10, they 13 fewer players than the next lowest school (Florida State). Texas has produced top flight NFL talent for ages, Mack Brown certainly didn't introduce the concept to Austin, though he may have perfected it. Texas has produced a montage of NFL players ranging from DL (Shaun Rogers, Cory Redding, Marcus Tubbs and Casey Hampton) to RBs (Ricky Williams, Priest Holmes, Cedric Benson) to DBs (Quentin Jammer, Michael Huff). Not to mention WR Roy Williams and LB Derrick Johnson. Then of course, the poster boy for Longhorn football, Vince Young. As far as these ratings go, Texas achieves more with less than anyone on the list.

Player Total: 36
Draft Pick Total: 79
Starters: 16 - 160
Probowlers: 6 - 100
Exp.: 12 - 60

10) University of Nebraska - 410

Nebraska has been a collegiate powerhouse throughout history, making a Bowl game every year since 1969. Eons of talent have travelled through Lincoln, on their way to successful NFL careers. Though Nebraska now is not as dominant as Nebraska of the 90's, they still produce a very good crop of NFL talent on a yearly basis. Headlining the solid list is RB Ahman Green, though while on the downside of his career, had 4-5 brilliant years in the early 2000's. Nebraska alums which also contribute are Richie Incognito, Cory Schlesinger, Scott Shanle, Correll Buckhalter, Josh Bullocks, Mike, Josh and Kris Brown, Demorrio Williams, Kyle Larson and Kyle Vanden Bosch. Though none of the players stand out as perennial bests at their respective positions, each is a more than capable pro, who have been highly effective throughout their careers.

Player Total: 42
Draft Pick Total: 68
Starters: 17 - 170
Probowlers: 3 - 50
Exp.: 16 - 80
Grand total: 410

Best of the Rest:

11) Auburn - 401
12) Cal - 387.5
13) Southern Cal - 377
14) Notre Dame - 358
15) Penn State - 339
16) Virginia Tech - 322.5
17) OU - 309

I was a bit surprised to see USC this low, even more surprised to see Cal head of them. However, USC should sky rocket up the listen, because the aggregated talent in Los Angeles seemingly grows by the second, with new superstars on the rise seemingly daily. Pete Carroll's recruiting will no doubt launch USC not only into the top 10, but near the top of the list.

I was also shocked to see Oklahoma at the bottom. To me, it ultimately makes what Bob Stoops does all the more impressive. Particularly beating Florida State in the National Championship while having really only one superstar player - Roy Williams. OU's recruiting classes have been substantially improved lately - should be scary to see what Bob can do with that.

The SEC absolutely dominates the list. All told, the SEC teams in the top 10 produced 215 NFL players. Those 4 teams alone have produced enough talent to field 4 entire 53 man NFL rosters. They also produced 84 starters. Which is nearly enough to field 4 teams with starting caliber talent at every position. They unquestionably produce the most talent with double the amount of teams on the list of any other conference. And Auburn was barely on the outside looking in - being just 9 points from the ten spot.

Looking at recruiting classes and draft classes of the past couple years, LSU and USC have the most potential to shoot up the list. Ohio State's recruiting has been down a bit, while Miami and Florida State have been struggling. Florida and Notre Dame could also make a substantial move if they continue their level of recruiting success.

While I didn't do player breakdowns according to their original state of origin, I think its impossible to ignore the prominance of the 3 major Florida schools on the list, considering a good collection of their recruits come from their home state. Long ranked as one of the top recruiting states along with Texas and California, I think Florida not doubt produces the most talent in the land.

You may personally disagree with my list or its ordering and that's fine, but I tried my best to find some sort of statistical argument for this question and while I don't think my formula is by any means superb, I do think its a good indicator of which schools currently have contributed to the NFL talent base.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Blood and Guts of Derek Jeter: What A-Rod Doesn't Understand

The other sports are just sports. Baseball is a love. ~Bryant Gumbel, 1981

If you follow baseball this quote likely hits home with you. No one had to teach you to love baseball, you just did. When you showed up at the park you found an inherent beauty in the freshly groomed outfield grass, and perfectly chalked lines heading from home to first and third to home. Nothing tastes better than a ballpark frank and a beer. Even if your seats were absolutely terrible, there was something downright beautiful about being at the park.

In keeping with this love, there is nothing better than watching guys play that you can simply tell just love the game. They may not even be the best players, but they run out every ground ball, they hustle onto the field after the national anthem. They dive in the dirt any time any such opportunity presents itself. Those hard nose classic players like Pete Rose and Ty Cobb - however hated they may be, are still infinitely loved among baseball aficionados and not just because they are great, but because they loved the game - and they played like it.

In 2000, when Alex Rodriguez was anointed a 252 million dollar contract by then Texas Rangers General Manager John Hart (the single most lucrative athletic contract in sports history), major expectations were singularly foisted upon one of Major League Baseball's up and coming young superstars. After 3 personally successful seasons (though the team struggled mightily), A-rod grew impatient with the lack of success and with agent Scott Boras, began looking for other options. This was obviously complicated by the magnitude of his contract. In many ways, he seemed entirely unmovable - only certain teams would be able to handle the financial burden he brought with him.

Fortunately for A-rod, baseball's biggest franchise came calling. In 2003 Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, notorious for opening his wallet to bring home baseball's biggest names - Roger Clemens (on more than one occasion) and Reggie Jackson to name a couple - negotiated a trade sending rising star Alfonso Soriano and some prospects to be named to the Rangers for Rodriguez.

Yankee fans were flooded with excitement. Fresh off new Yankee hero Aaron Boone's miraculous game winning homerun versus the Red Sox in the 2003 ALCS, he was ousted from his position by the incumbent superstar. Rodriguez got his wish - finally playing on a perennial contender, but with it came sacrifices - surrendering his career position - shortstop - to Yankee captain Derek Jeter, to move to third; and surrendering his career number - 3 - because it had long since been retired in honor of Yankee great, George Herman Ruth - better known as the "Babe".

A-rod amicably accepted his new role, excited to be apart of a team which undoubtedly would contend for a World Series birth every year. However, 2004 proved to be a troubling year for A-rod. Playing for the Yankees brought a new set of pressures - both from the media and his new boss. The Yankees win. Period. That's just what they do. A-rod's only job was to help the Yankees win. Personally, A-rod's batting average, homerun, slugging percentage, on base percentage and RBI totals dropped. Furthermore, his struggles at 3rd were greatly noted - as he fumbled around trying to find comfort at the position.

The ever impatient Yankee fans quickly became impatient. However, the Yankees trod along into the playoffs, racking up 101 wins and winning the Eastern division. They mowed through the Minnesota Twins in the American League Divisional Series, 3-1, A-rod growing quickly back into favor, going 8 for 19 with a HR.

Yet again the Yankees found themselves matched against the Boston Red Sox in the American League Championship Series - the baseball public knowing the Red Sox would inevitably tumble again - just as history dictated. The Yankees cruised to a fast start, jumping out to a 3 games to none lead, winning the Game 3 19-8 no less. After jumping out to an early 2-0 lead in Game 4, the Red Sox fired back in the 5th inning, taking the lead 3-2 off the bat of Boston hero David "Big Papi" Ortiz, who hit a 2 run single. But the lead was short lived as the Yankees fired back the very next inning, scoring 2 more. The score stuck unti the bottom of the ninth.

Future Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera came in and the baseball world watched, as the Red Sox seemingly helplessly let another slip away to the Yankees. After Rivera walked Kevin Millar to begin the inning, the Red Sox quickly subbed the speedy Dave Roberts as a pinch runner. On the first pitch Roberts took off for second and cleanly swiped the bag. Bill Mueller then singled and Roberts scored - effectively sending the game to extra innings. In the bottom of the 12th Manny Ramirez stepped up to the plate and hit a single. Yet again, Boston hero Big Papi stepped to the plate. This time blasting a walk-off homerun, giving the Red Sox the extra inning victory. The rest is history. A-rod was an unimpressive 8 for 31 in the series, but he did belt 2 homeruns.

And that is the closest Alex Rodriguez has ever come to a World Series. In 2005 and 2006 Rodriguez returned to his dominant offensive form. His 2005 was so impressive, he won the MVP, belting 48 homeruns and knocking in 130 runs. The Yankees again made the playoffs, only be quickly ousted by the Anahiem Angels in 5 games. A-rod struggled mightily in those games, managing only 2 hits in 15 at bats. In 2006 A-rod's production dropped slightly from 2005, but again the Yankees cruised into the playoffs, only to be ousted from the first round again. This time in 4 games and A-rod managed only 1 hit in 14 at bats.

Throughout the 2005 and 2006 seasons A-rod endured an onslaught of boos and harassment from the Yankee faithful. Casual observers found this criticism to be wholly undeserved, citing A-rod spectacular regular season production. Furthermore, Rodriguez had never been a troublemaker off the field, and was generally considered a well-respected individual away from the game. Those more in tune with the baseball world, saw some merit to the criticism, citing his monster contract and utter lack of productivity in the playoffs. Questions began to swirl - Could A-rod perform on the big stage? Was Steinbrenner's pressure too much? Was the New York media getting to him? Were the fans getting to him? Dozens upon dozens of questions were hashed and rehashed on ESPN and FoxSports and any sports coverage network, publication, and website daily.

Suddenly the debate turned in a new direction - A-rod vs. Jeter. Who was the better player - the big contract slugger or the longtime Yankee hero? Murmurings arose of a personal conflict between the two, only further embroiling the situation. Yankee fans' hatred for A-rod seemed to read new heights. But the question is: Why does everyone hate A-rod?

Baseball analysts would be quick to tell you that A-rod is despised and Jeter is beloved simply because of their post-season production. For all his career, Jeter has been viewed as a winner - since his '96 Rookie of the Year campaign, when the Yankees won their first World Series in 18 years. A-rod on the other hand has played on teams which were never truly contenders, in fact losing to Jeter's Yankees in the 2000 ALCS was as far as he'd gotten before becoming a Yankee.

But that's a far too simple assumption and assertion for the game of baseball. Even in a game where stats seemingly reign as the God of the baseball world, justifying Yankee hatred for A-rod as opposed to Yankee adoration for Jeter is far too systematic.

It comes down to one simply factor: A-rod doesn't love the game. And Yankee fans know it.

To say A-rod doesn't enjoy playing baseball would be a brash overstatement. But to say that he loves it, would be entirely untrue.

When you stack Derek Jeter up next to A-rod in terms of sheer statistical production, let's face it, Rodriguez trumps him in many major categories - homeruns, rbis, slugging percentage. In others Jeter has a slight edge - average, on base percentage and hits (by about 100 - his greatest advantage). These differences could easily be chalked up to the type of player each is - A-Rod the power hitting slugger, who drives in runs and hits in the middle of the lineup. Jeter on the other hand is more of a singles hitting, get on base type of guy, who scores runs and bats at the top of the lineup. As far as fielding goes, A-rod won two Gold Gloves before Jeter ever did. In fact, Jeter did not win a Gold Glove until A-rod became his teammate and moved to 3rd base (Jeter has since won 3 straight). A-rod's fielding percentage as a whole is slightly below Jeter's (.974 to .975); while A-rod's fielding percentage at SS is slightly above Jeter's (.977 to .975). So defensively it's essentially a draw.

But therein lies the problem: If A-rod is essentially producing just the same, if not better than Jeter, why does he receive all the hatred? Jeter's had his fair share of poor playoff performances, including a 6 for 40 in that same 2004 ALCS against Boston where A-rod struggled.

So I return again to that simple fact: A-rod does not love the game.

What evidence do we have to support this claim?

Well, the year 2000 is a tremendous starting point. When A-rod's free agent year approached, he made it abundantly clear he was leaving Seattle. He wanted the big pay day the Seattle Mariners simply would not (or probably could not) give him. Ranger owner Tom Hicks came calling to the tune of 252 million. A year later, Jeter was met with the same opportunity, to strike it rich in free agency. He opted instead, to stay with the Yankees (striking it rich to the tune of 189 million over 10 years). Some would casually dismiss this and say, "A-rod simply wanted to play for a contender and Jeter already had that luxury." But that just doesn't fly considering A-rod's 2000 Mariners made the ALCS and gave the Yankees a run for their money, finally losing in 6. In fact, the very next year, the Mariners won more games. It wasn't about "playing for a contender" - it was about making a payday. And that he did. It must be noted that Jeter did as well, but after signing his contract, CNNSI reported that he had this to say, "I never intended to play elsewhere," Jeter said, "and to be honest with you, never intended to look elsewhere." A-rod's intentions were not the same. Sure, Jeter was fortunate enough to play for a team which could both contend and afford to give him that mega contract, but he made his intentions clear: I want to be here.

Fast forward to July 1st of 2004. Deep into the 12th inning in another heated matchup with the Boston Red Sox, the game is tied 3-3. With two out and runner on second and third, Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek hits a lazy pop up which is sailing towards foul territory on the 3rd base line. While A-rod slowly trots backwards watching the ball float foul, Jeter streaks towards the stands, making a beautiful back hand catch and launching himself into the stands. Seconds later he rises to his feet, his face cut and bleeding. Ball in his glove. Watch the video and watch A-rod lazily trot. He never so much as thought about risking himself for that ball, whereas Jeter, knowing full well the limits of Yankee stadium, (where he had played for 8 seasons at this point)went after the ball like a man on fire. He made the catch. Then a trip to the hospital. The Yankees won that game.
Here's the video: Jeter dives into stands

Fast forward now to later that same month. Before the Red Sox went on their magical run to the World Series, they encountered the Yankees on numerous occassions. On a rainy Saturday in July, and Rodriguez at bat in the 3rd inning, a pitch sailed in his direction, plunking him squarely on the elbow. Rodriguez began his trot towards first yelling at then Red Sox pitcher Bronson Arroyo. Varitek stood between the pitcher and Rodriguez, attempting to ward off potential conflict. Rodriguez and Varitek began jawing, Rodriguez using language he would later admit which was "strong and ugly" according to CBS sports. Varitek, the grizzled captain of the Sox took offense and promptly shoved Rodriguez, which further escalated the brawl to bench clearing mayhem. After home plate umpire Bruce Froemming restored order, he ejected Rodriguez and Kenny Lofton of the Yankees and Varitek and Gabe Kapler of the Sox. The Red Sox went on to win the game in dramatic fashion, with Bill Mueller hitting a game winning 2 run homerun off Yankee closer Rivera.

Some could perceive A-rod's actions as passionate, but they were hard to perceive as such. The Yankees were up 3-0 at this point and obviously already had Arroyo on the ropes. A-rod could have much more sensibly helped his team by trotting to first - preserving himself for later at bats and opportunities to knock in runs. If he wanted to convey that he was not intimidated, a simple glare towards Arroyo as he trotted down the line would have easily accomplished this. But for whatever reason he felt like opening his mouth. He then proceeded to open his mouth to the wily Red Sox captain, which is what erupted the brawl. It's as if he had become some enraptured in his big money contract, his value if you will, that he felt the need to say, "Hey, do you know who you are throwing at? I'm worth 252 million dollars?" I realize this is highly speculative, but for what other reason did he feel the need to say something? Its as if he were honestly personally offended that Arroyo hit him. I can't pretend to know what Jeter would have done in this situation, but it seems to me he would have trotted to first base, maybe said a little something, but let it be done with. Regardless, A-rod getting fired up didn't propel his team to new heights - a old trick Braves manager Bobby Cox, or current Cubs manager Lou Pinella seem to have perfected. It instead served as a major distraction - and gobs of unnecessary negative media attention - of which he already had aplenty. The Yankees went on to lose the game. Very much unlike Jeter's team first effort diving into the stands just weeks before, A-rod's selfish actions hindered his team's success.

Fast forward again, now to 2007. On July 6th, Alex Rodriguez crushed his 493rd career homerun. A seemingly inconsequential number. However, this homerun tied him for 22nd all-time in baseball history. And with what player? None other than Yankee legend Lou Gehrig. When approached after the game by a reporter with this feat, A-rod's response was this: "Cool." That's it. Not only did his single comment simply forsake the Baseball gods, he didn't seem to see any significance to the fact that he had just tied a Yankee and baseball legend - one of the greatest players to ever grace the diamond. Earlier in the year Jeter hit a lazy grounder which turned into hit number 2215, passing another Yankee legend Joe Dimaggio for 5th all-time in Yankee hits. In the tunnel from the locker room to the field there is a sign hanging which reads "I want to thank the good Lord for making me a Yankee," the immortal words of Dimaggio himself. Jeter touches this sign each night when heading to the field. He understands the importance, the history. Yet when asked Jeter downplayed the achievement, saying totals like that come when you play for so long. In a post game interview, with a dirt stained uniform, he responded, "Anytime you mention his name its something special. But more importantly we won the game." The reporter persisted asking him about it again and whether or not he got goosebumps, Jeter again replied, "Oh no question, you know the fans here are great, anytime they something like that it makes you feel good, but you have to put things in perspective, and the biggest thing we need to worry about right now is getting wins." So not only does A-rod express not a single sentiment of baseball history, he doesn't even defer and discuss the importance of helping the team. Jeter single handedly trumps him, accomplishing both in two short answers. He both deferred his accomplishment and brought up the importance that his team wins. Yet another reason why he will be infinitely more loved by Yankees fans than A-rod ever will.

When you strip away all the physical attributes and contract details and playoff performances, the singular difference between Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter is this: Jeter loves the game.

A-rod plays it like he's paid to.
Jeter plays it like a kid.
A-rod wants personal accomplishment.
Jeter wants to win.
A-rod could careless about the records, unless he has them.
Jeter respects the records and doesn't even view his accomplishments in context of them.

Though I've seemingly strayed from my opening paragraph's about the fan's love affair with the game of baseball, it all comes full circle now. People love baseball. And people love watching people play baseball that love to play baseball. Alex Rodriguez does not love playing baseball. And that is why people do not love Alex Rodriguez.