“This is the way the Yankees want the conversation about Derek Jeter to go,” writes Mike Lupica in today’s Daily News. “They have arrived at what they think is a fair contract for Jeter and if he doesn’t accept it, he’s being greedy and unreasonable and unrealistic, and should go test the market.”
Lupica, of course, doesn’t care a whit about Derek Jeter, but he’s happy to have an opportunity to use him as a club to bash the Yankees. Ironically, for once he’s right.
Derek Jeter is being greedy, unreasonable, and unrealistic. And if he goes out to test the market he’s only going to be humiliated. What he’s going to find is that the market, for all intents and purposes, is the New York Yankees.
Let me say it plain: Derek Jeter had been my daughter’s favorite player since she was old enough to recognize his baseball card (and mine, as well), and it’s going to make us both soul-sick if he winds up anywhere but in the Bronx. And anyone who has read this space over the years knows that I’m all for players making all the money they can while they can.
That said, the Yankees’ offer of $45 million for three years is fair, and Jeter knows it. One very simple fact proves that: he won’t get that money from anyone else. Jeter is not only less than an average shortstop, he batted just .270 last year with very little power and has limited range in the field – and he’s likely to be even less so as he gets older.
As I’ve had occasion to note, no team has ever won a championship with a shortstop as old as Jeter will be next year. Not only is he going to be commanding a big chunk of money if he accepts the Yankees odder, he’s going to be blocking the development of a new player at a key position for the next few years. Because, let’s fact the truth, Jeter not only can’t play shortstop that well anymore, he can’t really play any other position.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but you will remember a couple of years ago Alex Rodriguez let Scott Boras push him into declaring himself a free agent so Boras could bully the Yankees into pumping up A-Rod’s deal. What they found, of course, is that since no one else was going to match the Yankees offer, they had to compromise with the front office. And Rodriguez’s worth a few years ago is a hell of a lot more than Jeter’s worth right now. The least that needs to be said is that Rodriguez finally put a clamp on his agent and told him to seal the deal. He at least showed a tad of humility. That’s exactly what Jeter needs to do now.
“You know,” Lupica writes in that cloying rhetorical manner, “who’s the only one who can fix this now? Hal Steinbrenner.” No, Mike, the only one who can fix this mess is Derek Jeter himself. He needs to acknowledge that he is now at best a mediocre ballplayer, that he needs to take a pay cut, and that $45 million is, after all, a lot of money and a fair price for his market value – a more than fair price.
Jeter’s agent, Casey Close, made a bad comparison a few days ago when he said that his client was as great a figure in Yankee lore as Babe Ruth. For the sake of argument, let’s say that that is true. Well, Close and Jeter and virtually everyone else in the New York media seems to forget that there came a time in 1935 when Babe Ruth was no longer the most valuable player in baseball and the Yankees dealt him to the Boston Braves. And the Babe was a more valuable player at age 39 than Jeter is now.