Ready. Aim. Fire.
Contract negotiations between Derek Jeter and the Yankees are well underway with both sides standing pat.
The Yankees are not willing to offer Jeter a fourth year, and the Jeter camp is insulted with the Yankees initial offer of a three-year, $45 million deal.
We all know Jeter is going to be a Yankee next season, and for the next couple of years.
We all know he will be the starting shortstop when the season begins, and we all know Jeter will soon be nearing the end of the line in what will undoubtedly be a Hall of Fame career.
The battle lines have been drawn and the Yankees are not backing down.
Jeter enters this war after compiling career lows in a few offensive categories and, for the first time in his career, he does not have the upper hand.
As Jeter seeks the contract he desires, don't expect the Yankees to change their stance.
At the end of the day, Jeter will be a Yankee, but unfortunately for Jeter, it's going to be under the terms of the Yankees front office.
Coming off a season in which he batted .270, with 10 home runs and 67 RBI, Derek Jeter is no longer the "Jeter of Old" whom Yankees fans have grown accustomed to watching; rather, he's becoming Old Jeter.
He's no longer the youngster from Kalamazoo, Michigan, who was the heart and soul of the Yankees dynasty of the late 90s—that title now belongs to guys like Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia. Or, he's no longer the best shortstop in the game—that title belongs to Florida Marlins' Hanley Ramirez.
For Jeter, the torch has been passed as the next generation of pinstriped players begin to take the reigns as the new face of the franchise. Albeit Jeter is still the leader in the clubhouse, he's no longer capable of being the leader on the field.
Being closer to 40 than 30, Jeter's days of greatness are dwindling. There will be no resurrecting a career, or having a bounce-back year. There will be no more monumental moments—moments that created a legacy.
This past week, Jeter was offered a three-year, $45 million contract. Even at the elder age of 36, if Jeter were to sign the deal, he'd become the highest-paid middle infielder in baseball. Higher than Chase Utley (32), Hanley Ramirez (27), Rafael Furcal (33) and Brian Roberts (33), according to the New York Post.
While all these players produced last season, Jeter ranked last amongst them in batting average and OPS. If Jeter thinks his numbers are going to improve, he needs to take a look in the mirror and realize that history is not on his side. He's not only coming off his worst season of his career, but does Jeter really believe that he'll be able to be productive at the geriatric age of 36?
Jeter is closer to retirement than he is to winning another Gold Glove Award.
At his age, players aren't supposed to be demanding new contracts.
At his age, Jeter does not have the leverage in these negotiations.
At his age, I'd think Jeter would be smart enough to take the offer he's given.
Through controversy and entitlement, 2010 was another Gold Glove-winning season for Derek Jeter; his fifth Gold Glove of his career.
While Jeter's resume is filled with Hall of Fame-worthy defensive plays, such as the infamous "Flip Play" during Game 3 of the 2001 ALDS against the Oakland Athletics, or his courageous dive into the stands against his arch-rival Boston Red Sox, some may argue Jeter has always been a step slow to a ground ball, forcing himself to make his patented "Jeter-throw" to first.
He's never been the best defensive shortstop in the game, and if he thinks he is going to become a better shortstop at his age, he needs to wake up from his fantasy because he's only going to get slower and not have the range he once proudly displayed.
For years, the Gold Glove Award has always been based on traditional stats like fielding percentage and errors. In 2010, not only was Jeter ranked first amongst all shortstops in the American League in both of those categories, he also had the best fielding percentage in baseball (.989), and recorded the fewest number of errors (6). But these numbers are misleading as they reflect only the balls he was able to get to.
MLB players and coaches don't understand the new world of sabermetrics; neither do I. But whether you believe in the sabermetric system or not, statistics like "zone rating" and "fielding runs above average" are well on their way to becoming the standard on which the Gold Glove Award will be decided.
In 2008, a study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found that, from 2002 through 2005, Jeter was the worst defensive shortstop in the Major Leagues. Well, not much changed this past season, as Jeter’s minus-4.7 UZR was third-worst among AL shortstops.
At 36 and slowing down, Jeter physically can't be the best shortstop in the game. The award wasn't given to the player who most deserved it, but rather, the award was given to the player based on his name and legacy.
Now Jeter enters free agency after winning another Gold Glove for his trophy case. If he wants to bring his award to the negotiating table, no one should stop him. But if he think his defensive liabilities in the field won't be an issue when trying to negotiate a new contract, think again.
Jeter should enjoy this latest Gold Glove Award, because this will certainly be his last.
While we can all speculate where Derek Jeter will begin the 2011 season, the verdict is still out on Adrian Beltre and which team he'll sign with. Although both players will get rewarded with a new contract, based on the 2010 season, only one player deserves the contract he's going to sign.
Adrian Beltre v. Derek Jeter:
1) .321 Batting Average v. .270 Batting Average
2) .919 OPS v. 710 OPS
3) 102 RBI v. 67 RBI
4) 28 home runs v. 10 home runs
5) 49 doubles (career-high) v. 30 doubles
Now, in a walk year of a contract, having a year like Beltre's would've earned Jeter the contract he desired. Instead, with his future on the line, Jeter had the worst season of his 15-year career.
Jeter should look at Beltre's stats and ask himself the question, am I really worth more than $15 million per year?
Stats don't lie, especially when you're 36 years old.
Other than Alex Rodriguez's $252 million dollar contract he signed with the Texas Rangers, and the $275 million dollar contract he signed with the Yankees, Derek Jeter's $189 million, 10-year contract is the third-biggest contract in franchise history.
No other team would have given Jeter that amount of money, or the number of years the Yankees did. Back in 2001, Jeter signed his contract hitting the free-agent market, but let's not forget what Jeter had accomplished the season before.
The Yankees were celebrating their third consecutive World Series Championship while Jeter became the first player ever to win the All-Star Game MVP award and the World Series MVP Award in the same year. The late George Steinbrenner awarded Jeter for his play on the field, but at that time of his career, his contract was deserved.
Prior to the 2009 World Series Championship, Jeter failed to deliver a championship since defeating the New York Mets in the 2000 Subway Series. There's no denying the Yankees had more talent on the 2009 team than they ever had before, but Jeter failed to put the team on his shoulders and deliver a championship to the city of New York before last season.
We have seen players carry their respective team before, but we never saw it from Jeter when he was given the opportunity.
During the 2002 playoffs, although the San Francisco Giants found themselves on the losing end of the World Series to the Anaheim Angels, Barry Bonds carried his team to the World Series, belting eight home runs, recording 26 intentional walks, a 1.599 OPS, a .356 batting average and 16 RBI.
And although the Houston Astros fell one game short of reaching the 2004 World Series, during the postseason, Carlton Beltran tied Bonds' single postseason record with eight home runs and a postseason performance for the ages,
But since Jeter signed his 10-year contract, there have been no Bonds or Beltran postseason-like performances. For seven years, there were no World Series Championships, and if it weren't for the immortal Alex Rodriguez and his postseason performance, the Yankees still might be seeking their 27th World Series Championship.
The Boss took care of his superstar when the time was right, but now, as Steinbrenner is looking down from the heavens above, we can only sit and wonder if he would have offered Jeter the contract Jeter thinks he deserves.
Jeter certainly doesn't need the money, and while we thought he had everything, he's missing one thing—a new contract.
Two-time Gold Glove Award winner. Three-time American League Most Valuable Player. Thirteen-time All-Star, and by the way, the starting third baseman for the New York Yankees.
No one should be surprised if Hanley Ramirez is one day donning the Yankees pinstripes as the new shortstop for the Bombers. For now, Jeter is still the guy, but for how long?
Jeter will be the starting shortstop when the 2011 season begins, and most certainty in 2012. However, starting in 2013, Jeter might be asked to be the team player we all thought he was, and make the move to the hot corner, paving the way for Rodriguez to finish his career at the same place it began—at shortstop.
When the Yankees acquired Rodriguez, showing great respect to Jeter, he willingly changed positions. Albeit it took some time, but Rodriguez wanted to win a championship.
At the time, Jeter was still in the prime of his career. He wasn't going anywhere. He made the move for the best interests of the team. Now that a few years have passed, Jeter is no longer the shortstop he was when Rodriguez was traded to the Yankees.
If Jeter knew what was best for the team, he would willingly switch to third. Jeter better not falter again this season, otherwise the choice of moving Jeter to third won't be done voluntarily but, rather, unwillingly.
He must recognize the Yankees do not need him to play shortstop. He must recognize that Rodriguez is the better option. For the sake of the Yankees, let's hope Jeter does.
...Doesn't mean he's entitled.
Derek Jeter was shown the respect he most certainly deserved by being named the 11th team captain in Yankees history. However, if that's what's making Jeter believe he's entitled to a contract, that belief is not warranted and has absolutely no rhyme or reason to it.
He's in the decline of his career. He's nothing more than a singles hitter who's an overrated defensive shortstop.
Can Jeter really believe he's worth $120 million over six years? If he were to sign that type of deal, the concept of Jeter being a team player would be erased and his legacy would be damaged.
As of now, the Yankees are holding strong on their initial offer. Let's stand up and applaud them for their stance. Jeter's initial offer is more than fair, and if Jeter believes he can sign a better deal with a new team, he was given the Yankees' blessing to accept it. He was named captain because he deserved it, but his recent production on the field does not warrant a monster contract.
If Jeter isn't content with the Yankees offer, he should walk away. But just because he's Jeter, it doesn't mean he's worth getting overpaid more than he already is.
Derek Jeter is arguably the greatest clutch performer in Major League Baseball history.
Postseason career statistics:
1) .309 batting average
2) 20 home runs
3) 57 RBI
4) All-time leader in hits (185), at-bats (599), runs scored (101)
However, similar to his 2010 regular season, Jeter saw a major drop in production during the playoffs. When people begin to discuss Jeter's postseason heroics, they commonly point to the 10 playoff series where Jeter batted over .400, but they fail to mention the nine series where he batted .250 or less.
Jeter had a knack for making the big play and getting the big hit during the postseason, but it's looking like that ship is beginning to sail. Regardless how good his intangibles are, if he didn't play on the Yankees, there would be no way for him to have won those five World Series rings. What was almost a certainty that Jeter would be a Yankee for the remainder of his career is beginning to show signs of doubt that maybe he'll be playing for a different team next season.
In 2009, Jeter showed no signs of slowing down, hitting .334 with 18 home runs with an OPS of .871, finishing third in the MVP race. It appeared then that Jeter would keep his top-paid player status, but in 2010, the final year of his contract, the captain struggled when he couldn't "afford" to.
Having a chance at redemption during the playoffs, Jeter had the opportunity to carry the Yankees past the Texas Rangers to the World Series, but after hitting an abysmal .231 to go along with a .286 OBP and driving in one run during the ALCS, Jeter couldn't salvage his value during the playoffs and secure a trip to the Fall Classic.
The 2000 World Series was the last time Jeter was playing for a contract, and during that series, the captain hit .409 with an astronomical 1.344 OPS en route to winning the World Series MVP. Jeter proved his worth then, but couldn't repeat that performance during this past postseason.
Although no player in this era has ever been more valuable to their franchise during the postseason as Jeter has been for the Yankees, if he doesn't perform, he shouldn't get paid.
And based on Jeter's 2010 postseason, that is what's transpiring.
"This is a business negotiation"—Co-owner Hal Steinbrenner.
"We feel our offer is fair and appropriate"—General manager Brian Cashman.
"He is a free agent. He can talk to anybody at this time"—GM Cashman.
"A different negotiation than 10 years ago"—Team president Randy Levine.
It's no secret understanding where the hierarchy of the New York Yankees stands when discussing Derek Jeter's contract negotiations. Jeter has been a free agent for a little more than two weeks, and he's yet to be re-signed by the Yankees.
It's not surprising Jeter hasn't signed his contract yet, but what is shocking is the direction these negotiations are heading. The Yankees brass appears to be extremely adamant about their contract offer, and barring a miraculous change in opinion and feelings towards Jeter, the soon-to-be 37-year-old will have to take their offer or test the free-agent market.
The Yankees don't appear to be changing their stance, and that does not bode well for Jeter and his camp. Jeter's agent, Casey Close, recently called the Yankees offer "baffling," mocking the Yankees offer that was made to the pinstriped icon. But at his age, what does Jeter and his agent really expect? According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, only two shortstops 37 or older have produced seasons with a .750 OPS or better: Honus Wagner and Luke Appling.
Sixty-one years ago, in 1949, Appling accomplished that feat. Based on last year's performance, sure doesn't look like Jeter will be the next player added to that list.
No other team in the majors will be willing to pay Jeter $15 million per year. If Jeter forgot how old he is, will someone please provide him with his birth certificate? Maybe then he'll take the offer, because unless Jeter is getting younger, he's not getting anything better.
The Yankees are the fifth-oldest team in the majors (29.3 years), and age became a major factor down the stretch of the 2010 season. If the Yankees are going to taste success in the future, they must get younger.
Mariano Rivera (40) is expected to sign a two-year deal. Andy Pettitte (38) might be calling it a career. Alex Rodriguez (35) is looking to begin 2011 100 percent healthy. Jorge Posada (39) might not make it through the season.
And, of course, there's Derek Jeter.
Unlike the teams that are older than the Yankees, the Bombers depend heavily on their elder statesmen to be key contributors during the season and deep into October. But as these players near the end of their careers, asking a 35-year-old or a 40-year old to contribute could come back to haunt the Yankees.
Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira have yet to reach the prime of their careers and will be asked to pick up the production that Jeter and/or Posada might not provide. The Yankees cannot afford to sign Jeter to a six-year deal.
The Yankees need to get younger.
They can start by not offering a fourth year to Jeter. Age was an issue this past season, and all signs point towards age becoming a factor once again.
The words of the late Bob Sheppard echo throughout Yankee Stadium every time he approaches home plate. He's always said the right thing and has been the perfect role model during his entire career, both on and off the field.
Derek Jeter is well on his way to Cooperstown, New York, as a plaque in Monument Park awaits.
That's great and all, but Jeter is no longer the player he was once. Jeter, already a Yankees symbol, is becoming nothing more than a statue who plays shortstop. There's going to come a point where having Jeter at shortstop is simply hurting the Yankees' chances of winning more than helping.
That time is quickly approaching. That time is now.
When Jeter sits down to negotiate his contract, he can discuss his legacy, what he's meant to the Yankees and to the city of New York and how, one day, he'll be a staple at Old Timers' Day.
But that doesn't win baseball games, and that is the only thing that matters to the Yankees. They have shown him respect by offering him $15 million a year, the respect someone of Jeter's stature deserves.
But if Hank and Hal Steinbrenner, manager Joe Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman feel Jeter can no longer help them win, maybe they should part ways.
Maybe that time is now.