Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle...Jeter.
The Yankees should not bend unflappably to Derek Jeter's will. However, that does not mean they should not make any sort of statement to Jeter about his worth to the franchise.
That statement would be most effective if he, and fellow Yankee for life Mariano Rivera, were signed to contracts before Sunday.
Because the Yankees have exclusive negotiating rights with both players up until midnight on Saturday. Once we pass into the early hours of Sunday morning, other teams will be able to negotiate with Jeter and Rivera.
Recently, there has been an explosion of interest in the resigning of Derek Jeter because of statements made by Hal Steinbrenner.
“There’s always the possibility that things could get messy. I know our fans are very emotional and that’s what we love about them,” Steinbrenner said. “But I have to do my job on behalf of the partnership and everyone else involved in the organization. Hank and I need to keep a level head and realize we’re running a business here.”
This is a difficult situation to navigate. While some will adamantly proclaim Derek Jeter's right to be given whatever contract he wants, that is simply not the way contract negotiations work. The team will not hand Derek Jeter a blank check.
However, the Yankees are dancing a fine line in these negotiations.
Two years ago they handed Alex Rodriguez the richest contract in the history of Major League Baseball. At the time, Rodriguez was 33 years old. The 10-year contract made Rodriguez a Yankee until he is 43, and pays him an average of $27,500,000 a year.
The contract does have a decreasing value as the years roll by, but the specter of its magnitude now looms large in the upcoming negotiations with Jeter and Rivera.
At rock-bottom, Alex Rodriguez is nothing more than another one of the Yankees' mercenaries.
But Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera are something entirely different. They are representations of both the Yankees mundaneness and how they are truly an exceptional franchise.
Both players came from the Yankees farm system, and both players have been Yankees for sixteen years! They are a testament to what truly makes the Yankees great. Not only do they develop their own stars, but they spend to keep their stars on their roster.
Naturally, they supplement their roster with free agents, but without the ability to develop players within a farm system, a major league ballclub is incapable of winning. Every team other than the Yankees and Red Sox in the past decade are a testament to that, and the Yankees and Red Sox are perhaps more of a testament to that than any other ballclub, because they never could have won without their own stars, the ones they developed on their farm system and paid to keep in their cities.
Is it any wonder that the Yankees went without a World Series from 2000 to 2009 when nary a prospect from AAA contributed to a championship? Is it so shocking that suddenly the farm produces talent like Robinson Cano and Brett Gardner and the Yankees win a World Series?
That's why, if Hal Steinbrenner is truly serious about wanting Mariano Rivera, and especially Derek Jeter, to be Yankees for life, he must give Brian Cashman a mandate to get both players signed before midnight on Saturday.
Get creative. Offer a front-loaded contract, less years and more money, whatever it takes. Come to an agreement before Sunday.
There would be no grander statement from a team that is habitually criticized as buying championships than to send a message to the league that these two players, whatever it takes, have always and will always be Yankees.
Take the adjective "messy" out of the equation, Hal. If it takes round the clock negotiations between the publication of this article and the signing of Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, it will be worth it.
If you have to overpay them, it will be worth it.
It will be worth it because you know nobody is going to pay these two as much as you will.
You know you don't want to suffer them the indignity of hitting the open market where their true value is in question.
Because you know their true value as Yankees is priceless.