Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I'm On The Outside, I'm Lookin' In

  • I can see through you; see your true colors...

...inside you're ugly. Ugly like me....

This implication that Derek Jeter is "above" a gauche and self-serving money-grab in his negotiations with the Yankees is coming apart before our very eyes.

Are you surprised?


Well, you shouldn't be.

As much as we try to craft these characterizations of an above-reproach entity for worship; to believe the press releases and personalities designed to portray that which is convenient and salable for all involved, it never approaches reality.


Not by a longshot.

So Derek Jeter's facade of a ruthless warrior on the field and classy, mom-loving, respectable American hero is being torn to shreds by the growing chasm between his contract demands and the Yankees offer; an offer that----when taking everything into account----is more than fair.

The whole Jeter mythology has a basis in truth, but he was never this Sesame Street character who drank milk and fought for truth and justice as a role model for parents to hold up as a totem for their children's admiration. As a latter-day Frank Sinatra who men wanted to be and women wanted to be with, Jeter fit neatly into the mold the Yankees, Jeter, MLB and advertising agencies wanted to present.

Like most myths that have a foundation of accuracy, Jeter's image took on a life of its own and the participants were more than willing to partake for their own ends. One of the reasons that Alex Rodriguez and Jeter had their falling out was the knowledge that A-Rod had of the "real" Jeter; the cagey self-promoter who shielded himself like a publicly respectable and benevolent businessman who, behind-the-scenes, didn't hesitate to manipulate in the interest of achieving his own ends.

A-Rod was lambasted for his comments that precipitated their estrangement, but was he wrong? Jeter was on a great team; he wasn't one of the players about whom teams had to fret; and Jeter's image was something of a falsehood. A-Rod's the better player and always was----A-Rod's PED use or not.

George Steinbrenner was reluctant to give Jeter the long-term contract (and save a lot of money) before it was absolutely necessary because he too knew of the reality----a reality that if it started to leak to the masses----would severely compromise that which took so long to build and, in the process, made everyone a lot of money.

There's a dichotomy between "Derek Jeter" the Yankee legend; and Derek Jeter the human being.

This is not to imply that Jeter is a hypocrite, but as was proven in-season as he was hammered for not standing up for "honesty" and "fair play" when he faked having been hit by a pitch vs the Rays, it's not a nice, neat story with Jeter. Like anything else, there's an ambiguity; a grayness in the Jeter vacuum.

The schoolyard, "cool kid" freezing out of A-Rod until he was sufficiently chastised was borderline cruel. Jeter's eventual nod to the fans that it was okay to accept the epitome of what was "wrong" with the Yankees teams----the collection of A-Rod-level stars who'd never won----was tantamount to bullying; but the bullying had no face; no fingerprints; it was in the wind, but everyone knew. They knew what Jeter was up to; that he was tacitly telling A-Rod, "I'm the boss around here; and you'd better accept it sooner rather than later."

What of Chad Curtis? Curtis had the sheer audacity to question Jeter as Jeter stood around joking with A-Rod during a legitimate fistfight between the Yankees and Mariners. It's one thing if it's a typical "bench clearing brawl" in which a more apropos description would be a milling around session in which most everyone joins the fray to keep up appearances, but when people (led by Joe Girardi) are trading punches; when Don Zimmer is collapsing on the field, where does Jeter get off standing on the sidelines joking with someone in an opposing uniform, then ostracizing and eventually sowing the seeds for the jettisoning of Curtis? Curtis was 100% right and courageous in his critique knowing that as soon as he opened his mouth, he signed his pinstripe death warrant.

Now, in some circles, the Yankees are being cast as doing Jeter wrong by refusing to be emotionally extorted and overpaying for services rendered. At what point is Jeter going to have his actions questioned? He's done a great job of hiding in the cocoon; Jorge Posada enacts the Jeter clubhouse edicts with brutal efficiency; Jeter's refrained from comment in the current negotiations as agent Casey Close referred to the Yankees position as "baffling".

Precisely what's "baffling"?

The Yankees aren't lowballing Jeter. They have the money to pay him for the aforementioned services rendered; for his past; for what he's done off the field as well as on. I happen to think Jeter will have a good year next year and return to a highly productive player. But the Yankees are under no obligation to pay him forever. How long do they have to compensate him for the past when he's no longer worth what he once was----leadership and intangibles aside?

When Brian Cashman suggests Jeter test the market to see if there's anything comparable out there, it's not a threat; it's not a frustrated, "go ahead, leave"; it's a shrug that says Jeter's not going to come anywhere close to a 3-year, $45 million deal elsewhere; nor would he have the cachet inherent in being the leader of the most famous team in sports; of wearing that same uniform for his whole career; of being above mercenary tactics.

The reality is that Jeter would get half that amount of money from the Cardinals, Giants or any other shortstop hungry team.

Where's he going?

Does Jeter want to go down this road and sully that image as his career enters its twilight?

The Yankees are not scrimping to save a few dollars here; they're paying Jeter above-and-beyond what he's going to be worth; what he'd get on the open market.

And if Jeter is so offended by this; if he wants to compare a stupid contract Hank Steinbrenner doled out on A-Rod without okay from his GM; if he thinks he's being "insulted" by the Yankees generous offer, then he should leave.

We all know he won't, but if this progresses much further, that Teflon Derek aura of protection from any and all negativity will wear thin; and it's not the Yankees who are going to be cast as the villains. It's not simply that Jeter will look like a "bad" guy; it could be worse. It could be that the Derek Jeter whose image has been masterfully built and maintained for so long will disappear.

It's enough already with this. Does Jeter want to jeopardize his aesthetic on and off the field?

Jeter's poker face is cracking.

He's starting to look bad and neither side can withstand that. Now or ever.

They'd better get this straightened out.


  • Reality check:

It's becoming clear that the Hot Stove Previews are becoming more of an obstacle than a boon to my work here; it's time to bag it. I'll discuss teams and their off-season planning and scheming as the Fall/Winter moves along.

Part of leadership is knowing when to change tactics.

I was on with Sal at SportsFan Buzz today. You can click on the links and listen on I-Tunes or directly. Dig it!!!


She-Fan said...

Jeter's not the one who's been talking. His agent made one comment about the "baffling" negotiations strategy, which felt to Close like an arbitration hearing. And I agree. While it's true that $45 million isn't peanuts, for the Yankees to look at this strictly in terms of numbers (STATS) is just silly. Jeter doesn't want to play forever. Give him another year and some company stock and everyone will be happy.

Jeff said...

I think you could write a book -- a deep, psychological profile -- about Derek Jeter.

Then you should call it:

"Grayness in the Jeter Vacuum"


Anonymous said...

You can try to make Jeter out to be the bad guy here, but...

As much as the Yankees made Jeter, Jeter made the Yankees for the past 15 years. No Jeter, no House that George Built, No YES, no Adidas contract. With Jeter the Yankees are a billion dollar franchise. Without him, they're still worth a ton...but not that magical 10 digit kingdom.

Time for the Steinbrenners to stop being greedy and admit that for all of their machinations, Jeter puts fannies in the seats more than any Yankee since Mantle. Pay him for that, as well as his performance.

Matt said...

I like how you describe Cashman's quote as a shrug. Both parties know this is nothing more than a game of chicken, only this time Cashman's driving a freight-train.

Brooklyn Trolley Blogger said...

Cashman Corleone (as Wally Matthews referred to him in a Tweet to me); He's turned into a stone cold GM. I don't see where either side did anything wrong yet.
And today on Michael Kay's show it was said the parties are $50 to $100 million apart in the negotiations. If that is true, that's an astonishing number to be off by. And if it is true, then Jeter and his camp are out of their minds. I don't fault them for trying. In a way you can place blame on the Yankees' history on wantonly spending on other team's players and stepping on the tail of their own. It's an interesting dynamic and an odd time and person to draw lines in the sand with. I do think Jeter's camp needs to be more sensible though. The ARod contract is as viable a chip for Jeter as any he might think he has.

NapLajoieonSteroids said...

You are playing up the melodrama as if you were writing a soap opera [As the Bronx Burns?] Like any top athlete, Jeter wouldn't be Jeter if he didn't think he was worth an infinite amount. That's why these guys usually have to be forced to leave because they never acknowledge that their time is up. Jeter wants his money and years because Jeter still thinks he's worth the money and years. The Yankees (and us normal people) don't; it is just going to take time to work something out.

As for his sainthood- anyone with half a brain has always seen that Jeter isn't a saint but a man who holds grudges real well. That A-Rod contract is probably what is holding up negotiations, because Jeter will always resent A-Rod for saying anything.

But I say, "Big Deal!" these are minor issues that are getting blown out of proportion because of the players involved. Every time Cashman sneezes, the NY press has another Jeter article to sell papers. In the end, no one is going to look foolish on this; Jeter will be back with a nice paycheck and the Steinbrenners will gladly be ready to sell "Mr.November/Mr.3000" t-shirts...I'm sure they even have his plaque ready.

None of this is a big deal and this article is Joel Sherman-esque filler.

Come'on Mr.Prince! Write something daring, like how the Pirates will turn around their operation or if the Cardinals will be able to keep Albert Pujols. Better yet, stick to beating baseball mathematics with a baseball bat and keep up the good work.