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Jeter Vs. The Yankees: The Five Most Important Issues to Consider

Posted on November 26, 2010 by Don Spieles

Jeter, the Yankee captain, is asking for more than he's worth, while the Yankees are offering far less than Jeter deserves.

It’s the day after Thanksgiving, so the only thing on most minds is Christmas shopping and antacid tablets.  This probably doesn’t apply to baseball GM’s, especially Brian Cashman of the Yankees.

While the Yankees have feelers out to Cliff Lee, and despite the fact that the roster, as is, would make them a sure 2011 contender, Cashman is on the radar of many a Yankee fan.  He has developed the reputation of doing things that any GM would do if he had the Yankee bankroll behind him, but overall, many see it as a situation where Cashman only need to avoid screwing things up and the powerhouse team will prevail.

Of course, the main item in Yankee headlines right now is the ongoing negotiation with Derek Jeter, the iconic Yankee short-stop who is a free agent this year.  Unnamed sources from the Jeter side of things claim that this year’s AL gold-glover for the position is looking for a six year deal worth $150 million.  Cashman and the Yankees, on the other hand, had offered a much lower $45 million for three years.

While Jeter’s request seems insanely high, the Yankees are offering what most feel is just short of an insult to the 11 time all-star.  The majority of talking heads believe that the two sides will eventually come to an agreement.

For the sake of common perspective, here are the five most important factors that everyone should be keeping in mind about the Yankee/Jeter saga.

5. Jeter is the Yankees

Like it or not, the Yankees are a team that has a ton of fans, but roughly ten times as many people who root against them.  While the reasons for both are better left to another article, the relevant point here is that Jeter is an exception to the love’em or hate’em mentality regarding the franchise.

While Jeter’s talent level is debated, and while most are sure that his best years are past, Jeter has been the dictionary definition of class.  He has had zero scandals or controversy associated with his time in pinstripes.  He has been noted for his hard work and leadership skills pretty much from the get go.

Jeter is the team captain and his leadership position is not only important, but just about irreplaceable.  If Jeter is not a Yankee next season, who would be the locker room (positive) presence?  Posada is due to be relegated to DH-ing due to physical limitations.  If Pettitte even returns next season, it’s hard to be a leader in a once a week role.  Perhaps Cano is a possibility, but the bottom line is that Jeter would be sorely missed.

4.  The Yankees are supposed to be all about history and tradition.

When your fan base wear t-shirts with a running tally of your championships, your franchise needs to embrace history.  When you have huge monuments in your outfield dedicated to the likes of Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Miller Huggins, Joe DiMaggio, and Lou Gehrig, not to mention no less than 23 plaques and 15 retired numbers, you need to be fond of your past.  If your stadium is a $2.3 billion replica of your previous stadium, you must respect tradition.

While you would lose an argument trying to put Jeter on the same pedestal as the above legends, the idea that Jeter is beloved cannot be denied.  “Mr. November”, contrived as that title might seem, makes Jeter a walking, talking symbol of the Yankees resurgence to prominence.  He is a product of their farm system and a reminder that it was a return to that method of player development and a departure from the buying overpriced talent (that their late owner, George Steinbrenner practically invented) that has put the Yankees at the top of the MLB food chain.

While most Jeter detractors argue that the past is just that–the past, talking about the icon that he is is wrapped up in what he’s done.  It is not the same as paying him for the past.

Even if it is the fiscally smart thing to do, if Cashman lets Jeter go he has a lot of issues to contend with in the realm of the intangible romantic aspect of baseball.  That is an aspect that Yankee fans contend to care a lot about.

3. Jeter is 36

As the game is played today, there is some room for aging players.  The 40 year old Jim Thome is one of the premier DH’s in baseball. Jamie Moyer continues to be a solid starter on the mound.  The problem for Derek Jeter is he doesn’t hit 30 home runs a season and his curve ball is lousy.  As a short stop, being a veteran is not really a plus.

If Jeter gets his request he will be 42 at the end of his contract.  The idea that even the compulsive spending Yankees would want to spend $25 million for a short stop in his early forties is unrealistic.

There is always the possibility of Jeter moving to another position, but where might that be?  First and third bases are locked up until 2016 and 2017, respectively.  Their current second baseman, Robinson Cano, will be playing in pinstripes until at least 2013 unless he has a huge drop-off in production.  Plus, if he continues to be the player he’s been recently, he’ll be 31 at when he needs a new contract and would look to be a better investment.

Jeter is not a great candidate for designated hitter, batting right-handed and possessing average-to-below-average power.  Also, for the most part, Jeter’s past is not an issue.  He has been well compensated for the time he has spent with the Yankees thus far.  His price tag should be hanging on his innings to come, not his innings gone by.

If the Yankees pay Jeter what he’s asking they will be guilty of massively overpaying.  That is a given, but remember that it certainly would not be the first time they have done so.

2. There is still a recession on.

That massively expensive stadium has, as it turns out, massively overpriced seats—at least they seem so.  One of the big stories in 2009 was the one about the Yankees not being able to fill the seats behind home plate (at upwards of $2500 a pop) and having to lower the cost to get people in the spots where the camera’s are focused most often.

The atmosphere is not as good as when A-Rod got his gigantic contract, not even as good as it was a couple years ago when the franchise signed Sabathia, Burnett, and Teixeira.

The Yankees have said as much as that they would like to see what other franchises would be willing to offer Jeter, sort of as a meter-stick, knowing that no one is going to go too high, let alone as high as where Jeter and his agent Casey Close are asking.

The Yankees can afford almost any price, but will GM Brian Cashman stick to pure economics or will he consider the intangibles?

1. 3000 is the important number.

There is one major exception to the whole “don’t live in the past” line of thinking.  Derek Jeter has 2,926 hits.  In all of his 15 full seasons in the Majors, he has never gotten less than 156 hits.  He will get 3000 in 2011, barring an early, season ending injury.

Jeter wants to get number 3000 as a Yankee.  The fans want him to do it, too.  The Yankees better want is, because it is a huge deal for history (see above.)  Major League Baseball wants Jeter to get that 3000th hit with the Yankees, too, because for as much as they talk about competitive parity, if Jeter would sign with someone like Baltimore or Texas and complete the feat in one of those uniforms, it’s just not as cool for the game.

There have been 27 players to reach 3000 hits.  Not one of them did it in Yankee pinstripes.  If they sign him, Derek Jeter will be the first, and that should be very important to the Yankees.


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