By John Schmeelk
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The Yankees have found themselves many critics for the way they have handled their contract negotiations with Derek Jeter, but if the final resolution proves anything it's that those critics were way off base. Let's start debunking:
1. Why did the Yankees single out Derek Jeter to be so nasty to!?
The Yankees handled Derek Jeter's negotiation in very much the same way they handled Mariano Rivera. The only difference between the two is that Rivera understood his value and didn't demand outrageous money like Jeter did. In fact, I can make an argument that the Yankees actually gave Jeter a better deal than they did their closer. They matched the offer Rivera reportedly got from the Red Sox. In the end, the Yankees paid Jeter far more and for far longer than any other team would have. Rivera got his market value, but Jeter got far more. The Yankees didn't have to move from their initial offer to Jeter, but they did out of respect to their Captain. No one else was giving him three years, let alone a fourth year, guaranteed or vested.
2. The Yankees spend so much money, just give Jeter whatever he wants!
The underlying myth to the people that think this is that the Yankees have an unlimited budget. It's larger than any other Major League Baseball team but it is still a budget. If the Yankees just gave Jeter 25 million dollars a year he wanted, that's one less 8-10 million dollar player they could have on the roster in any season of the deal. That's a difference making player. These are also the same people that complain the Yankees spend more money than anyone else, and that ticket prices are so high. The issues are all linked.
3. With everything Derek Jeter has done for the Yankees, he deserves to get paid for past performance and what he means to the franchise!
Derek Jeter is a great Yankee and a great leader. He was a huge part of the Yankees dynasty in the late 90's and he has meant a lot to pinstripe lore. But wait a second, what is the biggest part of Jeter's greatness? He's a winner. He could not have won without all the talent and players the Yankees put around him. Without Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Bernie Williams and Paul O'Neill he wouldn't have had the opportunity to show what a winning player he was. Yankees history and pride add to Jeter's aura as well. If he was on a team like the Royals, he would merely be considered a great shortstop, not an all-time legend and first ballot Hall of Famer. Who did more for whom, exactly?
4. The Yankees insulted the Captain with their first offer!
If the offer was insulting, how come the final deal was far closer to the Yankees' initial offer than Jeter's first demands? Jeter came down to the Yankees, not the other way around.
5. The Yankees are paying A-Rod until he's ancient, doesn't Jeter deserve the same treatment!?
Alex Rodriguez's contract was a huge and horrible mistake perpetrated by the loose canon that is Hank Steinbrenner. So the argument is that the organization should make a second huge mistake just because Derek Jeter means more to the franchise than Alex Rodriguez? These fans, in effect, think that it's more important for Jeter to get his money than for the Yankees franchise to be healthy. If Jeter got his five years, in 2015 the Yankees would be paying a 40 year old A-Rod, a 41 year old Jeter, a 35 year old Mark Teixeira and a 35 year old CC Sabathia about 90 million dollars. Is that good for the franchise? If anything the A-Rod contract hurt Jeter's bargaining position, since the Yankees knew they couldn't commit more long term money to someone in their 40's.
I'll cede one point, and one point only: It was probably unnecessary for the Yankees to come out publically and challenge Jeter to go out and find a better offer. I can see where this might be considered an unneeded public embarrassment to Jeter, though definitely a minor one. The Yankees overreaching point, whether they said it to Jeter privately or publically, proved to be correct: He could not find a better offer.
It's also important to note that Cashman only made that statement after Jeter's agent publically called the Yankees negotiating stance baffling. Considering how close the final deal was to the Yankees initial offer, it couldn't have been all that baffling, could it? Every other statement by the Yankees was far from controversial and often surrounded by quotes lauding Jeter for what a great Yankee he has been.
"We're treating this like a business decision" is not controversial. Jeter was treating it the same way by trying to get as much money as he possibly could. He did the same thing 10 years ago by using Rodriguez's deal as a benchmark to get the monster deal he got. There's nothing wrong with that either. That's the way the business works, except this time the Yankees had the leverage since Jeter is 36 instead of 26.
"We're signing a baseball contract, not a marketing one" is also extremely reasonable. 3000 hits for Jeter will be great to witness at Yankees stadium, but how much more money will that really make the Yankees? They already sell out most of the games. So what are we talking about, T-Shirt sales and a couple rating points? That means very little.
The bottom line is that if Jeter could have found a more lucrative offer from another team to force the Yankees to increase his offer (like Rivera did), he would have. The Yankees knew no such offer existed, which completely torpedoed Jeter's bargaining position. Again, saying so publically was probably unnecessary, but the truth was the truth. If Jeter hadn't stubbornly stuck to his original demands and his agent hadn't insulted the Yankees offer, the statement never would have been made to begin with.
Here's the bottom line: Jeter got more years and more money from the Yankees than he could have gotten anywhere else. He was paid more than fairly. Paying him less than what he demanded helps the Yankees in the future. They can use the savings to bring in better players around their Captain. In four months, Jeter will show up to spring training, work his butt off, and probably have a bounce back year. By July, no one will care about any of this.
Don't feel bad for Derek Jeter. Don't be mad at the Yankees. That's just the way the business works. In the end it's a win-win for everyone involved.
For more musings on the Yankees, Knicks and the world of sports you can follow me on twitter at: http://twitter.com/#!/Schmeelk.
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