Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Cashman, Jeter destined to do battle again

Is Brian Cashman intentionally trying to piss Derek Jeter off?

First he publicly dares the captain of the New York Yankees to test the free agent market after Jeter told him he had no desire to play for any other baseball team. Now Cashman is publicly speculating that the shortstop might move to center field before his current contract is over.

Cashman won the first battle with Jeter because he and the Yankees succeeded in making the shortstop look like a greedy athlete to a lot of fans (not me, I thought the Yankees were wrong to disparage their shortstop and challenge him to find a better offer). But Cashman may not be as lucky this time, especially if his comments create another firestorm that lasts through the start of spring training.

To be clear, I don't think Cashman was wrong when he said an outfield move may be in Jeter's future. But that's a conversation that Cashman should have with Jeter before he has it with the fans. I don't expect an immediate reaction from Jeter, but he has to be resentful and angry that once again Cashman is dragging him into a controversy rather than keeping things in house as Jeter prefers.

Jeter expressed his unhappiness with the organization making his contract negotiations so public. Will he admit to being angry about this latest mess? I hope whatever he’s feeling he expresses publicly. His willingness to convey his dismay and frustration at the public depiction of him as a greedy athlete made him seem more human and likable. I’m sure he wouldn’t go as far as telling Cashman to shut up, but that will be the subtle message.

Of course, this could become a moot point if Cashman decides to leave the Yankees when his contract expires at the end of the year because a Jeter move would become someone else’s problem. The general manager was clearly upset by the Steinbrenners' decision to overrule him on the Rafael Soriano deal. Despite the Yankees urging him to spin the dispute in the media, Cashman insisted on setting the record straight rather than have all the agents of the middle relievers he dealt with this offseason thinking he lied to them about not wanting to pay $6-7 million or give up his top draft pick.

You have to wonder if Cashman feels this free about speaking out because he has an exit strategy. But until Cashman officially leaves, he should be careful not to mess with his shortstop.

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