Buckle up…

“You just never know with these things. Both parties need to be happy with the deal, and that may make things more complicated, I don’t know.

“There’s always the possibility that things could get messy.”

Cue the record scratch…or ipod skip.

And just like that, in a very measured but convincing tone, Hal Steinbrenner established some very important parameters surrounding Derek Jeter’s upcoming contract negotiations, and the message was strong.

This will not be as easy as most people thought.

I’m not most people.

This is a layup, inside the leather, a gimme. There’s no chance Derek Jeter plays anywhere but the Bronx next season.

Zero.

True. But the Yanks are already digging in, and they are absolutely right in doing so.

Internally, the Yankees have already established a number, and while they’re willing to pay for history (3,000 hits) and the past (iconic status, championships), the check will not be blank.

Not even close.

Nor should it be.

“I’ve got to do my job on behalf of the partnership and our partners and everybody else involved in the organization,”Steinbrenner continued. [Brother and co-chairman] Hank and I need to keep a level head and realize that we’re running a business here. We have to remain somewhat objective and we’re going to do that.”

Did anyone else see that coming, especially this early in the process?

Chess match, underway.

Immediately, Camp Captain returned serve, and they did so effectively, an extension of Jeter himself: classy, but firm. Short, but relatively sweet.

“While it is not our intent to negotiate the terms of Derek’s free-agent contract in a public forum,” Close told AOL FanHouse, “we do agree with Hal’s and Brian [Cashman, the GM]’s recent comments that this contract is about business and winning championships. Clearly, baseball is a business, and Derek’s impact on the sport’s most valuable franchise cannot be overstated. Moreover, no athlete embodies the spirit of a champion more than Derek Jeter.”

Translation: forget the .270 average and shoddy OBP% and diminishing range, we’re focusing on the brand.

Not exactly a bloodbath, but Jeter’s future is now playing out in a very public forum. Eventually, that was going to happen anyway, but the ticking on the clock started even earlier than I anticipated.

Which means everyone in this city with a sports pulse has already weighed in.

Let’s hit the phones, shall we?

“BUT THE YANKEES OWE DEREK JETER! HE’S ‘DA CAPTAIN! Pay ‘da guy whatever he wants!”

“We all want Jeter to retire a Yankee, but he’s not the player he once was, how can  he possibly ask for A-Rod money?”

Ahhhh, A-Rod money. Even when the spotlight is clearly on someone else, Alex Rodriguez’s presence and contract becomes a central theme.

However, in reality, it should have zero impact. The Yankees don’t owe Jeter that type of money because quite frankly, Jeter couldn’t drive in 125 runs if you spotted him 30 on April Day.

More beloved Yankee? Not even close, Jeter by a mile.

Better player? A Rod, and at this point, it’s not even close.

The Yankees owe Jeter one thing, and one thing only: a classy negotiation period moving forward. On that level, they need to reciprocate, you bet. Derek has clearly earned that.

But monetarily speaking, they owe him nothing.

Why?

Because they’ve paid the captain quite well, and they’ve done so for a very, very long time, long before they needed to. They’ve already done “the right thing.”

To the tune of more than $200 million dollars.

Now, consider how the Cardinals have treated Albert Pujols.

While Jeter remains poised to become the first Yankee ever to eclipse 3,000 hits, Albert Pujols has already established himself as one of the greatest right-handed hitters of all-time:

Manny Ramirez. Jimmy Foxx. Yes, he’s in that class.

Now, consider that despite 3 MVP’s, Albert Pujols has consistently lagged behind Jeter in terms of contractual value, despite being much younger and much better.

In 2009, at the age of 29, Pujols earned $14.4 million, punishing opposing pitchers nightly. Pujols smashed 47 HR’s and drove in 135 while batting a robust .327. He also led all of baseball in OBP%, OPS, slugging% and total bases.

In 2003, at the same age, Jeter earned $15.6 million, while leading the league in nothing. He hit 10 HR’s, drove in 52 runs, and finished 21st in the MVP voting.

The point–and this is what most people miss–remains that excluding batting average, Derek Jeter has been paid like an elite player for well over a decade, despite inferior numbers.

He’s always been very, very good, and yes, some seasons, he’s been among the Top 10-15 players in the game.

He’s a champion, an ambassador, and he’s absolutely a Yankee.

For life.

However, the time has come for Derek Jeter to look in the mirror, and admit to himself what no man ever wants to admit: that he’s simply not as good as he used to be.

He’s not as fast on the bases, and his throws across the diamond are now minus the zip of the early 2000’s.

I won’t even waste your time on his diminished range. Thanks to all the math geeks who never made it past T-ball, that’s been covered for a few years now.

He’s a singles hitter, and he’s also become a double-play machine.

Yes, he has value, but he is no longer good enough to dictate the terms. He didn’t have a bad month last year, he had a bad year–at the worst possible time.

His  camp will now negotiate more on what he was, and not what he is, and for a sport that measures success thru stats more than others, it’s impossible to ignore this stretch:

June: .243

July: .245

August: .239

September: .276

“But he’s a postseason legend, that’s where his true value lays!”

Sure, but what happened THIS postseason? Instead it was a carry over from the regular season, which in the past always meant good things for Jeter and good things for the Yankees.

Not this October.

40 AB’s

10 Hits

2 Runs

2 RBI

.250 BA

.286 OBP

It’s never fun watching an aging icon slow down, I get it. Especially someone who has so clearly “done it the right way.”

But compounding that with an unreasonable contract only hurts the franchise, and the last time I checked, it’s the New York Yankees.

Not the New York Jeters.

Three years, captain, and with all due respect: take it, or leave it.

Advertisements
Leave a comment

2 Comments

  1. bdegrande

     /  11/17/2010

    I have no idea why you are so down on Jeter.

    First off, in a very bad year for him, he was still better than almost every SS in the league. .270 with double digit HR and SB and a Gold Glove is not an awful year except by his standards.

    Second, your MVP argument is ridiculous. Jeter bats first or second, and those hitters NEVER win MVPs. How many did Rickey Henderson win, and he was the best top of the order hitter ever? The writers just vote for big RBI titles, sometimes ignoring dozens of better players. Anyone who legitimately thought Justin Mourneau deserved the MVP over Jeter shouldn’t even watch baseball, let alone vote for MVP.

    Jeter’s numbers are also depressed by being a right handed hitter in Yankee Stadium. If he had played in Fenway or Baltimore, he would have 400 or so HR, a higher batting average, and it would be obvious to even sportswriters what a great player he is.

    Even as is, I don’t buy that Pujols is better. Jeter is one of the top five players at his position in history, and I think Pujols may or may not wind up there – and Jeter plays a much more important defensive position well.

    The Jeter is a lousy SS myth is promoted by people that no nothing about statistics (and I say that as someone who has taken college courses and attended SABR meetings as far back as the ’70s). Just because a statistic CLAIMS to measure defense doesn’t mean that it does. I laugh when people talk about defensive “metrics”, todsy’s defensive stats are half a step above judging fielders by fielding percentage.

    Hint, if Jeter were a bad SS, Yankee fans would have been screaming for Alex Rodriguex, a good defensive SS, to be playing the position. That never happened, The people in Baseball America wouldn’t be rating Jeter among the top SS for many years, and, yes, he wouldn’t still be winning Gold Gloves.

    Do you notice that discussion of his range always centers on “he can’t go to his left”? That’s because he makes the play in the hole as well as anyone, and anyone who claimed he couldn’t go to his right would be an idiot. At any rate, even if Jeter doesn’t have the range he once had, his smarts, positioning, hands, and arm would still make him a good shortstop.

    Sorry, if Cashman spends huge money on crappy pitcher after crappy pitcher, and then decides that Jeter (or Rivera) is where he should play hardball, and doesn’t sign them, he should be fired on the spot.

    Cliff Lee would be another mistake, by the way.

  2. I’ve been saying much the same thing about Jeter for a while now, BT. The problem is that his ego, which helped him to get where he is now, won’t allow him to consider that he’s anything less than a superstar.

    I hope it’s resolved soon.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: