SportsProf

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Playing Hardball With a Hall of Famer

The Yankees' GM, Brian Cashman, might consider getting a steel cage and fighting shortstop Derek Jeter's agent, Casey Close, in it. In a nutshell, the Yankees have told their icon to look for another offer to test the market, and USA Today reported today that they won't offer him arbitration. It's difficult for a front office to deal with a demigod, and it's difficult for demigods to accept their mortality. When this type of stalemate happens, it's a mess.

It's hard to fathom any franchise, including the one of the most means, to offer a declining (in skills if not in leadership) shortstop more than 3 years at $15 million per year when he's 36 years old. So while many have much admiration for Jeter, he's probably not being realistic, even if the Yankees foolishly agreed to pay A-Rod half of Fort Knox for him to play until he's 42. In the coin of the realm, Jeter might not believe he warrants A-Rod's annual salary, but he probably believes that with all he's done for the franchise, he's owed a longer contract. And what Derek Jeter doesn't realize that even in the Bronx, where the team seems to play with "Monopoly" money, there isn't always enough to satisfy anyone. But baseball is a business, sometimes brutally so, and what Derek Jeter is seeing now is that even with all that's he's done, players get paid for performance, especially in the last portions of their careers. There is no consideration for potential, and there is, especially now, in this economy, only a small premium for past greatness.

It's a tough reckoning, and it's hard to watch it publicly. But the faceless Yankees have a better point, and what Derek Jeter might find is that he'll get a better offer, and then, perhaps, have to deal with the reality that he's just another guy in Baltimore, Houston or Anaheim, and not the leader of the Yankees. And then he'll have to decide whether he'd rather be the iconic #2 in Yankee pinstripes who played his whole career for the same team, or, like many Hall of Famers, a fading star on an also-ran team with a more than half-empty stadium. If he chooses the latter, he'll get a premium; if he chooses the former, he'll have to agree to a discount that takes into account the value of playing before adoring crowds in a city that he loves and that loves him back. How much is that worth to him?

We'll all find out soon enough.


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