Negotiations with Derek Jeter and the New York Yankees are being conducted widely under the assumption that Derek doesn't have any leverage other than the PR backlash the Yankees would get should the unthinkable ever happen and he sign elsewhere. Let me be the first to say that the reports of Derek Jeter's imminent demise have been widely exaggerated.
Derek Jeter will turn 37 before the 2011 All-Star break; and he's older than any other starting shortstop in the league. The 2010 American League Gold Glove winner's (that's actually an oxymoron) offensive production dropped off drastically in 2010 from what we are accustomed to seeing. The reality however is that it was still pretty productive year.
For all the noise about how bad Derek Jeter's 2010 campaign was, he still led the major leagues in runs scored for a short stop with 111. While many will chalk that up to batting leadoff in the Yankees stacked line-up, that's 20% more (19) than the 92 times Hanley Ramirez' crossed the plate, and H-Ram is widely viewed as the best offensive shortstop in the game. The game is about scoring runs isn't it? In the end, from an offensive standpoint, if you are not scoring a run or driving one in, nothing else really matters does it?
For those of you who are convinced that no matter what I say, the runs Jeter scored were byproduct of the batters hitting behind him, consider that Jeter also had the most hits of any short stop in MLB with 179. Somehow I think he managed to do that part by himself..... Also, Derek was right with the leaders among MLB shortstops in walks with 63 (Hanley Ramirez and Elvis Andrus had 64.) Lastly, among short stops, Jeter's .340 on base percentage ranked only behind Troy Tulowitzki, Hanley Ramirez, Stephen Drew, Starlin Castro and Elvis Andrus. With Derek Jeter plastered among the leaders in so many offensive categories, exactly how bad really was his 2010 campaign?
I'll point out that the Yankee Capitan's 10 home runs and 67 RBI from the leadoff spot was nothing to sneeze at and his 18 stolen bases showed that he's not exactly an old man just yet either. Derek Jeter is eight months older than Vladimir Guerrero. You saw the AL playoffs this year, who looked older to you?
All that being said, it's been widely reported that the New York Yankees are offering Derek Jeter a three-year contract for $21 million a year and that Jeter wants a minimum of four years.
From the moment the Texas Rangers recorded the biggest accounting upset in MLB playoff history, all eyes in New York turned towards this negotiation. Fans really haven't made a big deal about it, because like Mariano Rivera, is there anyone who really thinks for a moment that either of these two guys would sign with a different team?
It was just weeks ago when some pundits thought the Capitan would become a player / manager or the Yankees. Anymore talk of that that is going to have to wait three years now as Joe Girardi just signed on for another tre'.
Those of you who live and die pinstripes may remember the infamous Bernie Williams negotiations. For those who don't, I'll bring to your attention that Bernie Williams had a pretty intense contract squabble with the Yankees while negotiating his last multi-year deal and the Boston Red Sox (yes the Boston Red Sox) offered him more money. Bernie came dangerously close to taking it and in the years since, when asked about the topic, Bernie has clearly stated that if the Yankees had not upped their offer at the last minute, that he would have packed his bags for Boston. Yankee fans around the world to this day rationalize this unthinkable act as Williams just having used the Red Sox as a bargaining chip, but Bernie new that it was going to be his last big payday and truly wanted to get as much as he could. And who could blame him? Any of us who are sane would have done the same thing in our own professions.
So how big would the topic rule the news world if Jeter so much as entertained an offer from another team, even just to gain some leverage in his negotiations? Now let's turn it up a notch and think what the media frenzy would look like if the Red Sox engaged him? What if they signed him?
If you are the Boston Red Sox or a fan of Rex Sox Nation, whether you have any interest in Jeter actually playing for your team, how awesome would it be to pull a 'reverse Babe Ruth' and have Jeter on the roster. You could hate the guy with every fiber of your being, but to take a swipe at the Yankees, you would do it in a heartbeat. Besides, correct me if I'm wrong but isn't Derek Jeter still a better player than Marco Scutaro? Look at the stats and you tell me.
Could you imagine Derek Jeter playing for the Red Sox and hitting a game winning extra innings single in Yankee Stadium! Whoa Nellie! Would there be a bigger story in the world of sports?
My point in all of this is not that Jeter will be playing for Boston (although I still can't get over the fact that I just wrote that); it's that the Yankees truly are playing hardball with him.
This week we've had hardball comments come from team Co-Owner Hal Steinbrenner, GM Brian Cashman, and now look at the quotes coming from Yankees president, Randy Levine, yesterday as he attempts to complement Jeter while sending the message that he's not worth the money he once was for his on field performance at the same time. Levine can't complete a thought that's not an oxymoron (two points for me for using oxymoron twice in the same article.)
"All I can say is we think he's a great Yankee, we think he's been a great Yankee and we've been great for him and this is the best place for him. But he's a free agent and he's allowed to test the market and do whatever he wants."
"He's a baseball player, it's a player negotiation. Everything he is and who he is gets factored in. But this isn't a licensing deal or a commercial rights deal. He's a baseball player. But with that said, you can't take away from who he is. He brings a lot to the organization and we bring a lot to him."
"Derek Jeter is a great Yankee, a great player. That said, now is a different negotiation than 10 years ago."
And how about ESPN reporting that, according to a source, there is at least one voice inside the Yankees' hierarchy urging the front office to play hard ball with Jeter.
"Tell him the deal is three years at $15 million a year, take it or leave it," the person taking the hard-line approach said. "Wait him out and he'll wind up taking it. Where's he gonna go, Cincinnati?"
How many times have we heard, "The Jeter negotiations with the Yankees will be done with class and dignity." Are these people smoking weed? No one, not even the Yankees are just going to hand over millions of dollars for absolutely no reason (unless it's to Kei Igawa. BTW – can you believe that the Yankees will still have to pay him in 2011! )
Given the fact that the Yankees truly appear to be playing hardball with the face of the franchise and its most marketable commodity, and the fact that despite the "Jeter's is too old and can't play anymore" proclamations, that the guy can actually still play; how great would it be for the game of baseball and the attention to the sport if the Red Sox were to come in and bowl Jeter over with a 5 year $100 million offer. Hey, until Cliff Lee signs with the Yankees and we get to have Yankees Haters up in arms about it, what the hell else are we going to talk about? Does anyone want to talk about whether Dan Uggla will hit more home runs or make more errors in Atlanta? How about how Sandy Alderson's San Diego connections will bring Adrian Gonzalez to the Mets?
I don't have a dog in the fight, so I couldn't give a whirly bird what happens here or how much the Yankees ultimately pay him. Short of him ever actually going to the Red Sox, this isn't even news to me. Interestingly however our readers certainly don't have any consensus whatsoever as to what Derek Jeter is presently he's worth as you guys seem to be all over the place!
Place your vote and see what your piers are thinking.
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Mike Cardano is the founder of Around the Horn Baseball & Xtra Point Football.
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