Sunday, November 21, 2010
Whose Reputation Hurts Most?
It's been almost three weeks since the conclusion of the World Series and perhaps the biggest surprise of this offseason so far is the fact that Derek Jeter has still not re-upped with the Yankees. Rumors over the season said he's looking for a lot of money, but it's almost unanimous that the team and player are going to end up back together - the most logical place.
The real question, and something a lot of people disagree with me on, is whose reputation takes a bigger hit if Jeter goes to, say, the Mariners, Braves, Mets, or Orioles. A lot of people think it's Jeter. I think it's the team.
I understand the Jeter argument. He'll look like another greedy player who doesn't know his place in team and baseball history. After a frankly generous $180 million contract signed ten years ago and more endorsement deals than smoking-hot girlfriends, he wants even more. After being one of the two guys in the entire Joe Torre book painted as a sympathetic character, he goes up against that. Instead of being the opposite of Arod, he's the same. I get it. It will hurt his reputation incredibly.
However, it hurts the team's much more. Think about the circumstances of this team. Jeter is the face of the franchise and Jeter in the Yankee uniform is the face of baseball. It has been for a long time. And after fifteen years of resurrecting the Yankee brand after the strike, after George's suspension, and after thirteen years of futility, the Yankees are going to nickel and dime a still-productive player primed for a huge bounceback year on the field.
The Yankees appearing cheap on such an important figure in their franchise history is especially bad because they outbid themselves for the centaur, bid aggressively for Teixeira and Damon, were very generous with Rivera and Posada when the old owner was alive. When the old owner (who, Hall of Famer or not, changed baseball specifically by doing this) dies, they start pinching pennies with the face of the franchise, letting Ramiro freaking Pena play shortstop for a team trying to win the World Series every year? Unacceptable.
Jeter's value in New York is much more valuable (in terms of a Vince Gennaro term "marquee value") than anywhere else. The fact that it's extremely possible if not probable that he's going to bounce back from 2010 just adds to it. In November 2009, the 35-year-old (then) Jeter was coming off of a season where he finished in 3rd in MVP voting and in some eyes, including my own, got robbed. He hit .334, stole thirty bases, hit 46 extra-base hits, and walked seventy times. This was an atypically-good year against his career norms, but not by much. The next year, 2010, was a large deviation from the norm. The Yankees can probably expect another 190 hits from Jeter if he is used responsibly. Money, while it may be a thing, shouldn't be that much of a thing when it comes to Jeter. Pay the man. Not Arod money, and not even $20 million a year. But give him four years at fifteen. It's for your own good, both on and off the baseball field.