Monday, November 22, 2010

Yankees hard-line stance on Jeter wearing thin

It's still fairly early in the negotiations between the New York Yankees and Derek Jeter, but already the team's hard-line stance is starting to rub Captain Jeter the wrong way.

Why else would his agent Casey Close, who unlike the Yankees has kept pretty quiet so far, call the team's stance baffling? Personally, I'm with Close. Acting like Jeter's status as an iconic Yankee and the model citizen of baseball should have no bearing on the negotiations is indeed puzzling. I will believe Jeter’s popularity is a non-issue the next time I go to a Yankee game and can actually count the number of fans wearing Jeter T-shirts without losing track. Heck, it’s nearly impossible to wall down a city street without bumping into someone wearing a Jeter jersey.
Yes, Jeter's 2010 stats should give the Yankees cause for some questions about whether he has started to decline, but those numbers could also have been a symptom of him playing more games than ideal, as Joe Girardi has alluded to, or simply Jeter having an off year. It's shocking because we expect so much more from Jeter, but it happens to the best of players and perhaps Brian Cashman & Co are unfairly focusing on one bad year.

The Yankees like to pretend that the ridiculously long contract jam packed with frills that they gave to Alex Rodriguez has no bearing on the Jeter negotiations because Hank Steinbrenner, who was more like his emotional and media-hungry father George, was running the team at the time rather than the quiet, introspective Hal. But they are kidding themselves.

It's unfair for them to try to bully Jeter, who has been an integral part of five World Series championships as well as a fearless, unsullied leader on and off the field, into accepting a deal on their terms when they so quickly caved to ARod even after he publicly humiliated the team by opting out of his already generous contract. No doubt they would love a do-over on the ARod deal, but that doesn't mean they can act like it didn't happen.

Unfortunately for Jeter, the Yankees hard-line stance means these negotiations will likely take a lot longer than they should. I still think the two sides will come to an agreement, but the Yankees will have to get off their high horse first.

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