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Derek Jeter and the yakosphere

Derek Jeter

Derek Jeter Photo Credit: Getty Images

Rest in peace, Leslie Nielsen. We'll never have another umpire quite like Nielsen's Frank Drebin pretending to be Enrico Palazzo pretending to be an ump. 

Enjoyed a few days off and paid attention to the baseball stuff in the yakosphere (copyright Neil Best), which - given the slowdown of the holiday weekend - was pretty much all about Derek Jeter.

As far as we know, the Yankees' offer to Jeter remains at three years and $45 million as of early Monday morning, when I'm writing this, and Anthony Rieber confrimed that Jeter wants a four- or five-year deal for about $23 million or $24 million per season. I'd expect this to be a busy week on the Jeter, Cliff Lee and Mariano Rivera fronts, with progress being made on all three.

In the meantime let's address some of the stuff out there being said and asked about Jeter and the Yankees, either by other media or by fans:

--"Why are the Yankees being so hard-edged in their comments?"

Agreed that Brian Cashman's comments last week did come off as quite strong, and were intended to do so. Why? Because the Yankees came into these negotiations knowing there could be trouble. And because they had long ago dismissed the mythology about Jeter being the perfect baseball player and team captain.

Remember that Brian Cashman and Randy Levine were in their current positions when Jeter and the Yankees agreed upon the 10-year, $189-million contract that set us up for the current situation and that Hal Steinbrenner, while not actively involved in running the Yankees at the time, was certainly in the loop. They know that Jeter and his agent Casey Close fought hard for that package and that there was no talk of pride of being a Yankee or only caring about winning.

Again: All within Jeter's rights. But a) it doesn't match the mythology, and b) people are human. The Yankees have been a little like George Costanza in this "Seinfeld" episode. George couldn't want to use the "jerk store" line. The Yankees eagerly anticipated another venture into the negotiating arena against Jeter, only this time with more leverage.

And they've lived with Jeter all of these years, so they know he ain't perfect. Remember, when free agent CC Sabathia voiced concerns about the Yankees' clubhouse to Cashman, the GM admitted to the big lefty that the clubhouse was "broken." 

That's because Jeter, the team captain, could never work through his issues with Alex Rodriguez (and he apparently still can't, since you'd be naive to think Jeter's current contract demands have nothing to do with A-Rod). It's because Jeter did not help create an open, welcoming environment.

Look, I crushed Carl Pavano during his time in the Bronx, but that's me standing on the outside. Jeter, as the team captain, crushed him just as much, never trying to forge a peace between Pavano and the rest of the team.

It did indeed take the arrival of Sabathia - and even A.J. Burnett a little bit, at least in his first year - to eliminate the "Choose a side, Jeter or A-Rod" - vibe that existed in the Yankees' clubhouse for a long time.

All of this history, I believe, helped the tension escalate quickly.

--"The Yankees are hurting their brand by creating such rancor."

Eh. Their brand ultimately is winning, isn't it? The marketing of the history of that winning is an important subset, but if the Yankees turned into a last-place team, I doubt they'd still be selling out the new Stadium

Look at it this way: The Yankees weren't particularly nice with Andy Pettitte following the 2003 season, and Pettitte left for Houston, and it hurt them because a) the Yankees couldn't sufficiently replace Pettitte, and their starting-pitching inadequacies helped keep them out of a World Series in 2004 through 2006, and b) Pettitte still was very good and helped the 2005 Astros reach the World Series.

Then, after the 2006 season, the Yankees pushed Bernie Williams out the door, and it didn't hurt them because a) Williams just retired (or at least, never played again), and b) while the Yankees didn't make the 2007 World Series, it wasn't because they could've used another DH/outfielder, as Williams was by that point.

Therefore: If Jeter comes back, which I remain convinced he will, then no damage done. It's all business. If he actually leaves (which he wont')?  Then we'd have to see how Jeter did with his new team (which he won't be joining, as he's staying with the Yankees), and how Jeter's replacement (which there won't be) fares with the Yankees. As Rieber documents, the list of Plan B shortstops isn't particularly appealing. 

--"Jeter's value with the Yankees goes far beyond the field." 

I don't see it. How? As an ambassador of goodwill? As a symbol of past Yankees greatness?

Sure, Jeter has had his non-baseball highlights. Most notably, he addressed the crowd following the final game at original (sort of) Yankee Stadium, and he did so again this past season when the Yankees honored George Steinbrenner and Bob Sheppard, after the two men died within two days of each other. In both instances, he was terrific. He was indeed a value add, as the kids say.

But those were very specific situations. It's not like that's a marketable skill for Jeter. He can't go to the Red Sox and bring the video of those speeches. Nor can the Yankees think, "Well, OK, the next time we move or someone really important dies, we've got Jeter."

Jeter's value comes from his play. As we've discussed here before, the fact that he has been such a great player - a slam-dunk, first-ballot Hall of Famer - often gets overshadowed by the mythology of his character.

--"Is this Jeter's agent over-reaching with the demands and comments, or is it Jeter himself?"

No shot that Close so much as picks up the phone to call the Yankees without Jeter's full knowledge. Close is an excellent agent. Like another excellent agent, Scott Boras, did last year with Johnny Damon vis-a-vis the Yankees, Close misread the current state of the Yankees.

He probably thought Jeter would be taken care of the way A-Rod was, or the way the Phillies took care of another Close client, Ryan Howard. But those players were still near the top of their game when they cashed in.

I don't buy into the notion that Jeter is on a permanent decline. To the contrary, I think his 2011 season will be superior to his 2010, just based on his impressive track record. From a negotiating standpoint, however, Jeter picked a lousy time to have the worst season of his career.

--What else do we have as we kick off a busy week? Javier Vazquez signed with the Marlins, a decent, relatively low-risk signing for Florida. As long as Vazquez doesn't have some serious arm problem that contributed to his lack of velocity with the Yankees - if he can either get that velocity back or come up with new ways to compensate for the power outage - he should be a good middle-rotation guy in the National League.

That the Yankees get a sandwich-round draft pick for Vazquez's departure, having offered Vazquez arbitration, makes their Vazquez trade a percentage point of two better. Keep in mind that the Yankees were banking on Vazquez being a Type A free agent; that would have netted the Yankees two picks, rather than just one. 

--As for the Mets, ...gosh, it's going to be pretty quiet the rest of the way. If Pedro Feliciano accepts arbitration tomorrow night - I'll say it's 50-50 - then that'll pretty much blow the little spending money they have. Which is fine; Terry Collins will surely use Feliciano more intelligently than Jerry Manuel did, and then the Mets will have themselves a July trade chip if they don't contend.

To recycle another line: The Mets haven't earned the patience of their fans. Yet if Mets fans want to stay faithful, they're going to have to be patient. 2011 sure looks like a write-off year, although you never say never in the NL.

--Self-promotion alert: I'll be on MLB Network Radio at 11 this morning, chatting with Jim Duquette and Kevin Kennedy.

--There should be plenty to discuss this week, so as Larry Sanders would say, "No clicking."


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