In case you haven't noticed, we're smack in the middle of—wait for it—Sports Owners Inserting Privileged Foot Into Mouth Week!
First, we were treated to the comedic stylings of one Chuck Greenberg, whose random act of aggression toward Yankee fans finally made America aware that beating the ever-living crap out of Robin Ventura isn't a job requirement to gain ownership of the Texas Rangers.
On Tuesday it was Hal Steinbrenner's turn, albeit in far less flammable circumstances. Hal, who differs from brother Hank in that he has better hair, a stronger jawline and no debilitating nicotine addiction, was making the rounds on the New York sports talk radio scene to discuss the state of the Yankees.
A typically mundane interview took a turn when 1050 ESPN's Michael Kay asked about potential hurdles in the upcoming Derek Jeter contract negotiations.
“There’s always the possibility that things could get messy,” Steinbrenner said. “Our fans are very emotional and that’s what we love about them, but I’ve got to try to do my job on behalf of the partnership and everybody involved in the organization. Hank and I need to keep a level head and realize that we’re running a business here."
First off, I find it cute that he included his big brother in the discussion. I'm not even sure Hank is aware Jeter is still on the team.
But getting back to the point, obviously it was the first sentence that created headlines. I can picture Hal slapping his palm against his forehead the moment he uttered the M-word.
Needless to say, when Steinbrenner appeared on Mike Francesa's show 15 minutes later, he had cleaned up his language. This no doubt disappointed the ultra-competitive Francesa, who was probably tempted to give Hal a "Youwwwre lawwwwst" and Hand Wave™ before abruptly cutting to Minko's 20/20 flash.
As I've felt all along, it would take a communications breakdown of calamitous proportions for shortstop and team not to come to an agreement here. The Yankees need Jeter as much as Jeter needs the Yankees. The prospect of the captain playing for another team is about as likely as Dave Eiland sending Brian Cashman a Christmas card.
What I think Steinbrenner was trying to express to Kay was the possibility that negotiations could reach an impasse over a sizable disconnect in value, i.e. the Yankees offering $50 M over three and Jeter's agent (Casey Close) countering with $100 M over five.
That said, it's unlikely any truly "messy" stalemate will occur. Jeter, at 36 and coming off his worst season, knows his leverage isn't great, and the Yankees would never low-ball the person they hope will be the team ambassador for decades to come.
We'll wake up one morning not far from now and see on ESPN's ticker that an agreement has been struck. Yankee fans will exhale, and bloggers and columnists from around the country will belittle Jeter with stories about how undeserving he is of the contract.
In other words, Jeter will still be in pinstripes, and people will keep finding reasons to hate the Yankees. The world keeps turning.
In the meantime, my advice to Hal would be to take it easy. Stop talking for a while. Maybe sit the next couple of plays out. You know what I mean?
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