Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Why The Yankees Will Regret Their Treatment of Derek Jeter

This article was originally posted at

One day we will all look back at shake our respective heads at the Yankees’ handling of the Derek Jeter contract negotiations. Some of us are doing it as we speak. How can a storied franchise like the New York Yankees consistently treat their superstars like common trash? They did it to Bernie Williams, they are publicly doing it to Derek Jeter, and privately to Mariano Rivera.

The Yankees brass told us that it’s business as usual. This would be a business negotiation. So why, then, did it turn so ugly and personal? The Yankees have publicly bashed the face of their franchise, unmercifully. They have turned Derek Jeter into just another shortstop. He’s aging, they say, his skills are diminishing. He’s not much better, if at all, than the other shortstops in the league. Not only is this an ugly negotiation, but now they are trashing one of the best Yankees to ever wear the pinstripes.

What do you do when, or if, he signs? Then you sing his praises again? You tell him, and the fans, that it was just business? That all is well? Because all is, certainly, not well. When Jeter takes his spot among the best of the best, we will remember these negotiations. We will remember your words about a steady, uber successful captain who you now call selfish. Cashman publicly is telling Jeter to shop himself around. He’s daring him to find a better offer.

All this after the Yankees gave ARod the richest contract in baseball history. The guy with the bad hip. The guy whose skills are also diminishing. The guy who needed to join Jeter to win a World Series ring. But they paid ARod for his potential milestones. They gave him money from the YES network. They rewarded him after he gave the team a black eye with his admitted steroid use. (Quick reminder here, it was Derek Jeter who had the team attend ARod’s press conference and show public support for him. It was Jeter who helped get ARod back on track. But that doesn’t matter to the Yankees.)

Need I remind you that Derek Jeter won another gold glove this season? And yes, sabermetric geeks, his range isn’t great. However his knowledge and preparation are. He scouts batters and puts himself in the right spot almost all of the time. He had 6 errors last season. 6. His fielding percentage was .989 and he had the highest zone rating, by far. And by the way, he played 151 games at short, not bad for an old guy. Jeter’s sure hands, strong arm, and accuracy are never talked about. Why? Because they’re not convenient to the Yankees and NY media’s agenda.

Let’s talk about Jeter’s worst statistical season at the plate. He batted .270 with 10 HR’s and 67 RBI’s. Jeter’s average was down 40 points off his career numbers. He had his worst OBP and slugging percentages as well. It was definitely a bad year at the plate for the Captain. But was it THAT bad? Let’s investigate.

For a team that is worried about Jeter’s age, he had the most at bat’s in his career. His 111 runs scored ranks among his best years ever. He walked 63 times, which is right in line with his career average. His 10 HR’s was the exact same number he hit three times before. How about his 67 RBI’s? That’s not even in his bottom 3 worst seasons. His 106 strikeouts on the year? You guessed it, right in line with his average. Jeter also stole 18 bases, once again not bad for an old guy.

Since Jeter is old, he must have deteriorated in the second half of the season right? No. Jeter sat down with Kevin Long and worked on his swing. Over the last month of the season Jeter hit .444 with an OBP of .524. From the leadoff spot, the first at bat of the game, Jeter’s average was .304 on the season. Derek’s average at home was .295, again not too shabby. But the Yankees can be successful without him, right? Well… In the 92 wins the Yankees had, Jeet hit .288 with 9 HR’s and 52 RBI’s. In their losses the Captain hit .243 with 1 HR and 15 RBI’s. Hmm, you can make the case as Jeter goes, so goes the Yankees.

Now in Jeter’s worst year at the plate, you have to figure he’d be in the bottom half of the Majors compared to other shortstops, right? Right? Wow, this is getting awkward. Jeter is in the top 10, among Major League shortstops, in average, doubles, OPS, and OBP. He ranks first in at bats, runs, and third in walks. For you sabermetric fans, Jeter ranks 6th in BB/K and 4th in runs created. What that last stat means is you can’t say he has so many runs because he plays on the Yankees. He earned enough runs to be fourth in the majors. And remember, this was his worst season at the plate. Chew on that.

Now let’s talk about the media, some fans, and Yankees’ brass portraying Jeter as the ‘villain.’ This really gets my blood boiling. The media and Yankees fans make the case, that in this economy Jeter should be happy with 3 yrs at $15 million per. He’s just being greedy, they say, and will make sky high ticket prices go even higher. Well, idiots, listen up. The Yankees just raised ticket prices. Why? Well, it wasn’t to pay Jeter. They raised them because YOU are making a profit on some seats by selling them on Stubhub. So the Yankees decided they wanted a piece of the action and raised the prices. Classy organization, right?

And since when did we all become anti-capitalist? “Yeah, he should take a pay cut and not try to make so much money! Doesn’t he have enough? He’s getting paid so much to play a game! Shouldn’t he do it for the love of the game???” Let’s see your wallet and ego deal with a pay cut. You are the same morons who want the Yankees to overpay for Cliff Lee. If you’re going to be stupid, at least be consistent. Do you think the Yankees are hurting for cash? Do you hear them complaining they shouldn’t be making sky high profits? Did they care when Hank signed ARod til 2017?

Speaking of good old Hank, guess who popped up again! Hank told the media, in reference to Jeter, “We already made these guys very, very rich.” Well, your dad did Hank. And Jeter made him very, very, very rich as well. And your dad made you rich. So while we complete this circle, why don’t we take away some of your unearned fortune to pay Jeter? Go back to cleaning up the horse’s shit and go away.

Is it really unreasonable to believe that Derek Jeter won’t make the Yankees double their investment back? You don’t think they’ve made hundreds of millions off of #2? I wonder how many jerseys he’s sold for them. I wonder how many t-shirts. I wonder how many people go to the game just to see Derek Jeter. I bet those numbers are substantially high. And, oh by the way, Jeter will reach 3,000 hits this season. That’s a merchandising cash cow. And how many people will buy tickets or tune in to YES for several games to see that happen?

Let’s get real here. If Jeter plays long enough, he is on pace to break Pete Rose’s all time hits record. I’m not saying he’ll do it, but I bet it will keep people very interested to see how close he can get. Isn’t that the same reason they kept ARod? Except Jeter’s doing it the right way. No off field drama (until, the idiots in the front office intervened this year), no on field drama, no steroids, no hgh, no problems. Derek is the poster boy for playing the game clean and is the most recognizable athlete in sports. But the Yankees keep knocking him down, and dragging his name through the mud, because that’s how they treat future hall of famers.

When I think about it, I don’t recall Cashman taking a pay cut this year. But I do recall having to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to improve the pitching staff because he sucks at evaluating talent. I really admire the Burnett deal Brian, great job. And now you’re going to spend over $100 million dollars on Lee, a guy who you, coincidentally, could have had last year had you not screwed up the trade. He’s the same guy who knocked the Yankees out of the playoffs. Thanks.

I also find it amusing that you won’t offer Jeter arbitration. Are you afraid the arbitrator will make you pay him $20 million for next season? Are you afraid he’ll have the bounce back year we all know is coming? I believe you are. Because then you’ll really have to pay him. And the fact that you are telling Jeter to shop around and talk to other teams is disgusting. You’re only telling him that because he already declared he’s not leaving the Yankees, and you know other teams don’t want to be used to escalate his price. They know if they bid on Jeter, you’ll run up prices on players they want. You think you’re being smart, when you’re really just being sleazy.

Many have asked me how I think this would go if George was still around, and in his prime. I am almost 100% positive how it would go. George would say the Yankees made Jeter rich. He’d point out his short falls. And the fans (the real ones, not this current group of pansies) would push back against George. And then George would overpay Jeter, and remind him of it for the length of the contract. But it wouldn’t go on this long. And Jeter would get paid. The current Yankees’ management like to say they are businessmen without the emotion that George brought. But they are tossing the same unnecessary bombs, without the pay day after it. There will be no hug and private apology that George would have given. They push away their stars, and homegrown talent, to get big names who can’t perform in New York. And they don’t respect the players who help them keep their jobs.

My wish is that Jeter would say he’s had enough. I hope he’d take a one year deal elsewhere. Go to the Mets, or better yet, the Red Sox and break 3,000 hits there. Go to a team who will respect you, and fans who will appreciate you. Then see just how badly the Yankees and their fans want you back. Sometimes absence makes the heart grow fonder. Sometimes you need time away to help make things clear. Because Derek, they don’t have a replacement for you. Not at shortstop, not as a leader, not as a Captain, and certainly not as a public relations ace. They need you just as much as they say you need them. And don’t you ever forget it.