“It’s Not Personal, Sonny. It’s Strictly Business”
Much has been written about the Derek Jeter situation. I was talking to my brother-in-law last week about it, and I brought up some relevant and relatively obscure illustrative points. One, that I love, is Tom Seaver’s incredulity at ownership’s shock that players, the most competitive people on Earth, were equally fierce at the bargaining table. I also made it clear that fans have convinced themselves, wrongly, that somehow Jeter is “different” than the rest. Pleased with my unique insight, I opened The New York Times to read some of these same points. So, forgive me if you’ve already heard some of what you read below.
The Yankees initial offer is, by any reasonable accounts, more than generous and by no means am I pro-management. Fifteen million dollars per year, for three years, already includes the Yankee premium that we all recognize must be there. Jeter’s value to the Bombers is more than his value to any other team in baseball. Even Derek must know that. Coming off a bad year, at an advanced age – who else will pay that much?
Just look westward. The Rockies signed the best YOUNG shortstop to a 7-year, $134 million dollar deal. If Troy Tulowitzki is valued (I won’t say worth) at $19 million per year, how can Jeter, ten years older, be priced at even $15 mil?
For a slob like me, and most fans, it’s easy to say “$15 million is a shitload of money. How can he be pissed off about that?” For Derek, it’s a 25% cut in pay and, getting back to Tom Terrific’s point, for athletes already super-sensitive to all signs of “disrespect,” it is a slap in the face. That both sides are upset, publicly, is regrettable. The new era Steinbrenners are most likely going to be as despicable as younger George was, before he was canonized in his dementia. Jeter’s agent, Casey Close, is married to Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson, so his judgment on what is “fair and balanced” is already questionable.
An idea being floated about is that if King George were alive this never would have happened. Really. How many fans recall the unceremonious dumping of Reggie Jackson after the 1981 season? Granted Jackson was no Jeter in terms of dignity or Yankee service, but Jeter is no Jackson in the realm of publicity and power. Jax’ initial year with the Angels, when he led the AL in homers (and strikeouts), embarrassed the hell out of George, but letting him head to Cali was wise. Beginning in ’83, Reggie began a rapid descent. He was 35 years old when the New Yorkers let him go.
Will anyone else offer Jeter more to lure him from the Bronx? No way, no how. Long gone are the days when the Yankees would sign Luis Tiant just to stick it to the Red Sox.
Even signing Johnny Damon for the same spiteful purposes seems like eons ago. The Red Sox never had the same meanness of character, or balls, to do to the Yankees as the Yanks did to them, but in these Theo Epstein times, they wouldn’t do it because it makes no sense. And Jeter wouldn’t keep his pristine reputation, or national endorsements, if he’s the 2012 starting shortstop for the Royals.
Ever think of how much Derek Jeter and Eminem share? Both raised in Michigan, both the biggest stars of the last decade, both diddled Mariah Carey. But does Jeter have a Mathers-like recovery in store? Probably not, but whether he has a comeback from his dismal season or not, he will be in pinstripes, to the joy of Yankees fans who’ll go crazy as they once again hear Bob Sheppard announce his “De-rek Jee-tuh” as he steps to the plate.
Have no doubt though, that this team’s best days are behind it.
Born in Brooklyn, Jeff Katz now writes about music, baseball and whatever else heâ€™s obsessing on from his new home base in Cooperstown, New York. His story about Sandy Koufax was included in the anthology Play It Again, and his latest book, The Kansas City Aâ€™s & The Wrong Half of the Yankees was published in 2007. Jeffâ€™s â€œwhat ifâ€ history of rock and roll, Maybe Baby (or, You Know That It Would Be Untrue), has garnered worldwide readership, with a new story posted on backbeat Fridays (the 2nd and 4th of every month).