Monday, November 29, 2010

The JeterCa$h Monster

  • Hard lines:

The multiple entendre in the title was intentional.

It's hard for crafted creatures fulfill their objective. Their creation---rife with a declared and reasonable intent----rarely achieves the goal. Stitched together with bodyparts from the nearby cemetery, a Frankenstein monster has the potential to spiral out of control; the creator may not know how to stop it once it's unleashed.

The Derek Jeter-Yankees negotiation is a growing monster with potential for endless destruction.

Had the Yankees not been so intent on refusing to negotiate contract extensions before zero hour, this mess might not have happened.

It's one thing to have an organizational philosophy that precludes any and all talk of new deals for veterans until it's absolutely necessary, but there are times when exceptions must be made even if it sends the rest of the troops into a fit of whining.

Derek Jeter was one of those cases.

What would've happened had the Yankees approached Jeter----quietly in late 2008----and suggested a 2-3 year contract extension through 2013? The money is essentially irrelevant, as is Jeter's performance. There wouldn't have been this press war; nor would there be the back-and-forth accusations, lines in the sand, and staring contests that are making both sides look bad.

There are times to be steadfast in a clerical way and there are times to make exceptions based on reality and pragmatism.

When running an organization, there has to be nuance and flexibility based on aspects that may not show up in the bottom line stats, finances and public response; there has to be an overall understanding with everyone when the statement "Jeter is a special case" is made.

In a sense, what the Yankees have done with Jeter is in the same ballpark as George Steinbrenner's costly refusal to follow the new trend in baseball of signing young players to long-term extensions in an attempt to preclude expensive arbitration awards, contentious hearings and the first few years of free agency.

Understandable, but stupid.

While I've been critical of teams making preemptive signings before the proper time, there are times to follow through on an aggressive betrayal of "organizational philosophy".

I was against the long-term contracts to which the Rays signed Evan Longoria and the Rockies signed Troy Tulowitzki. Longoria's contract was signed before he'd been in the big leagues a month; Tulowitzki's after his Rookie of the Year season in 2007 (in which he, ironically, drew comparisons to Jeter in young leadership and quiet cool).

In retrospect, they were astute maneuvers. In fact, the Longoria contract has been called----in stat zombie circles----the most value-laden contract in baseball history.

That's not my department, but if I were a GM, I'd take such numbers crunching seriously and think long and hard about making such a move before a Jeter-type situation occurs.

Josh Hamilton is another interesting case study as he comes off his MVP season for the pennant-winning Rangers. Call me unforgiving and disbelieving, but I'm reluctant to dole $100 million on a former hard-core drug addict. Great player or not, there's always going to be that spectre hovering over him and I'd be remiss in my duties as an executive if I didn't take that into account before committing that amount of money to him.

In short, as much as teams try to stick each and every player into the same box of neutrality, it can't happen. There are special cases like Jeter who have earned a pass from these "rules" that aren't really rules, but are conscious decisions to make the lives of the front office easier. Had the Yankees understood and adhered to that flexibility and comprehended what could happen----what is happening----they could've avoided this escalating war of words that is not only ruining Jeter's aesthetic, but is making everyone look petty and terrible.

Had reality set in beforehand, they could've dodged it. The Jeter-Yankees deal will get done; he's not going anywhere; but it could've been cleaner for all involved.

Most of the vitriol will be left behind once Jeter's standing in front of the Yankees logo shaking hands with Brian Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner; as Michael Kay is in blissful ecstasy in a corner of the press room; as the flashbulbs pop; as the fans breathe a sigh of relief; as the media writes their lovestruck stories as to the genesis of the positive result. Everyone will be friends again.

Most of it will be forgotten.

But not all.

There will be some residue of the distasteful press war currently occurring.

It will take some time to forgive; and neither side will soon forget.

  • Free agent fliers:

The Marlins have signed Javier Vazquez to a 1-year contract worth $7 million. In addition to that, they gave him a no-trade clause and agreed not to offer him arbitration after next season----MLBTR Story.

As terrible as Vazquez was with the Yankees, this is a worthwhile shot for both the Marlins and Vazquez. Similar to a college course in which the lowest grade on a test is tossed out, there are ancillary factors to Vazquez's awful 2010 season.

Because he was so rancid as a Yankee and his velocity was non-existent by the end of the season, there are pratfalls to signing him; that said, the Marlins have nothing to lose with a veteran who, in 2009, was one of the best pitchers in baseball pitching for the Braves. Vazquez appears to be allergic to Yankee pinstripes; it was a mistake for them to bring him back.

Back in the National League East and with the carrot of getting a long-term deal with a rejuvenating year of 200-innings and 12-15 wins, Vazquez could get a 2-3 year contract after next year; worst case scenario, he'll be in the exact same position a year from now. Another team will be willing to sign him to an incentive-laden contract regardless of how he pitches if he proves himself healthy.

Another free agent pitcher who's been great rather than just durable and good is Brandon Webb.

Webb is a free agent who hasn't pitched in 2-years; he also happens to have been one of the best pitchers in baseball since his debut in 2003. While he's absolutely worth a gamble, what would concern me if I were in the Webb camp are the teams that are pursuing him.

According to MLBTR, the interested teams are: the Rockies, Cubs, Pirates, Twins, Rangers and Nationals.

I don't see any of the usual suspects----the Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies, Dodgers, Cardinals----who would: A) have the money to risk on a pitcher like Webb; and B) have been known to sign pitchers from whom they have no idea what they're getting just to see if he can return to some semblance of form.

Webb has reportedly shown no velocity whatsoever in his bullpen sessions and if teams with the money to spend on a pitcher who was once great are shying away from him, it's a bad sign. It doesn't sound as if he's going to get much in terms of guarantees and if his stuff is gone, there's a chance we could see an Alex Fernandez situation where he can't come back from shoulder surgery.

Right now, it doesn't sound good.

I was on with Sal at SportsFan Buzz Wednesday talking about the Hot Stove; the Mets; Derek Jeter; post-season award winners; and other stuff. You can click on the link here directly or here for Sal's site to listen on I-Tunes.


Jeff said...

I'd never -- in a million years -- give Hamilton a crazy big contract unless it were laden with clauses that would protect from and prohibit the type of behavior that destroyed his career once before. Not to say I wouldn't pay him what he's worth... but I'd protect myself/team.

She-Fan said...

I agree that the Yankees might have avoided the current Jeter mess if they'd made an exception and signed him to an extension earlier. But would the negotiations have been "quieter?" Nothing having to do with the Yankees ever stays quiet.

mike fierman said...

I wonder if texas will be able to appeal to Hamilton's "christianity" and blackmail him with his past. subtly of course...