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Davidoff: Jeter, Yankees at better place now

From left, New York Yankees general manager Brian

From left, New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, shortstop Derek Jeter, managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner and manager Joe Girardi make their way to a press conference. (Dec. 7, 2010) Credit: AP

TAMPA, Fla.

"We are a big, happy family," Derek Jeter said Tuesday, with his trademark smirk, and for all the mythology and fantasy surrounding the Yankees' captain, his nose apparently doesn't grow when he fibs.

To his credit, however, Jeter spoke frankly about how "angry" he became in this last month as negotiations for his new contract spilled onto the public. As Brian Cashman encouraged him to test the market to see if he could do better than the three years and $45 million the Yankees offered him.

With the two sides predictably brushing off their differences out of mutual need, we're left at a new place in this relationship between Jeter and the Yankees. A better place. A more real place.

The Yankees and Jeter don't have a wonderful relationship. They didn't before this last month. Yet such iciness didn't preclude player and team from working together to attain greatness.

"Any negotiation is tough. We know that," Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said at a Steinbrenner Field news conference. "We worked through it. We always maintained the respect. We did our best to keep it out of the papers, did our best to keep it not personal, and here we are."

That was their best?! To steal from James Ingram's song, "Just Once," "I did my best, but I guess my best wasn't good enough."

No, let's not kid ourselves: The Yankees love a good street fight, and why shouldn't they? They're exceptional at it. With some of the same front-office people in place from when Jeter fought hard for his 10-year, $189-million contract in February 2001, the Yankees didn't mind having the leverage this time around. Nor do they regret what went down.

"The process can stink, at times," Cashman said. "It really can. But it is what it is. Sometimes you can walk through fire to get to the promised land."

Jeter, however, doesn't like getting burned at all. He displayed an unappealing mixture of naiveté and immaturity as he reviewed the path from free agency to deal.

"This was a negotiation that was supposed to be private," he said. "It was an uncomfortable position I felt I was in. It was not an enjoyable experience because throughout the years, I've prided myself on keeping things out of the papers and out of the media. This turned into a big public thing. That is something I was not happy about. I let my feelings be known."

That simply wasn't going to happen. He's too big, too famous, and he wanted too much.

When a reporter (all right, it was me) asked Jeter why - if he was so bothered by the publicity - he allowed his agent Casey Close to partake in the back-and-forth, Jeter disavowed all responsibility for Close's actions.

"That's Casey, that's Casey," Jeter said. "You guys assume that I control everything that Casey does, so you'd have to ask him. I don't know if he's talking today, but you'd have to ask him certain things.

"Just because Casey, from my understanding, mentioned how the process was going to be a certain way, that doesn't necessarily mean that it's my feelings."

I attempted to explain to Jeter that, as Close's boss, he was accountable for his representative's actions. He didn't agree.

But now another piece of Jeter's mythology - "the perfect employee" - has been chipped down to fragments, and that's positive. Let Jeter focus on his play and not worry at all about maintaining some facade.

Jeter is a champion grudge-holder; just ask Alex Rodriguez. His love for winning, however, will easily neutralize the hard feelings toward the team that won't go away.

And nothing would make a big family happier than a parade next October.

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