Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Yanks can't play hardball with Jeter

If the New York Yankees were surprised by the outpouring of anger and disappointment with the team's inability to re-sign Johnny Damon, can you imagine what the reaction will be if they try to play hardball during contract negotiations with Derek Jeter? I can picture it now: furious phone calls to radio shows, mass ticket cancellations, ugly spin in the newspapers. I hope the Yanks don't let it get that far.

Joel Sherman of the NY Post argued that Jeter's pride will make reaching a new baseball pact tough. I think he has a point in the sense that Jeter won't be willing to take a pay cut the way the team wanted Damon to accept a lower salary. Jeter will also want to show everyone that last year was no fluke in terms of his improved defense, which will be important as his eventual move off shortstop could become a major point of contention between the two sides. But Jeter is beloved by Yankee fans, particularly for his playoff heroics. Unless Jeter has a year where both his defense and offense completely disappear, I don't think he has anything left to prove to the team or to the fans.

Not to keep harping on the Damon negotiations, but the Yankees had an advantage because they were dealing with superagent Scott Boras, who is known for getting his players outlandish deals. So they could spin stories in the press about Damon and Boras misreading the market and asking for too much money and it was believable. There is no similar bad guy in a Jeter scenario with agent Casey Close. If the Yanks want the fans and the media on their side this time, they will have to take their chances publicly criticizing Jeter. Good luck with that.

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