Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Hal Steinbrenner muddies Jeter talks

I thought all the talk about the difficulty Derek Jeter and the New York Yankees would have negotiating the shortstop's next contract was pure nonsense until Hal Steinbrenner muddied the waters by opening his mouth.

On the face of it, Steinbrenner's comments about needing to come to an agreement that works for both sides seems reasonable, nothing more than a businessman stating the obvious. But Hal was talking about his iconic shortstop coming off a bad year, with the clear implication that the rough 2010 season diminishes Jeter’s value.

I'm sure Jeter was none too pleased to hear about the public comments from his boss (his agent has already offered a tart response). Jeter hates talking about anything not directly related to baseball and Hal Steinbrenner even indirectly questioning his value falls into that category.

So why did Steinbrenner raise the issue? Perhaps he's trying to lay the groundwork for tough negotiations with a Yankee icon and drum up public support. Bad move, Hal. While there may be some Yankee fans who agree with him, I think most fans would support the Yankee Captain, especially if they feel that the Steinbrenners have slighted him or made him seem too greedy after everything he's done for the Yankees.

I feel kind of bad for Brian Cashman, who is in the middle of what could now become a nasty contract dispute. He's got to deal with a proud franchise player and a management that wants to get control of the organization's free-spending ways. Cashman will do the bidding of his boss, but he could end up taking much of the blame if the negotiations fall apart, which I don't yet think will happen. Jeter and the Yankees are more valuable to each other than any other franchise so that could compel them to work things out.

Resisting the urge to negotiate in the media could have kept the talks from getting ugly, but Steinbrenner may have completely ruined any chance for civility by firing his indirect shot. I hope it's not too late to avoid a messy public squabble.

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