Dear Brian Cashman: If Derek Jeter Goes, So Does This Lifelong Yankee Fan
One of my favorite pictures is of my brother, dad and I sitting together on the couch on Father's Day with our Yankee hats on and watching the game.
In the picture, my brother is about three, I'm five and my dad is absolutely beaming with joy.
My brother, who happens to be named after a former Yankee team captain, now has two kids of his own, and they have their own Yankee hats (they just happen to be pink).
The only time in my life that I've seen my father cry was when my brother and I presented him with his 50th birthday present, which happened to be tickets to his first trip to Yankee Stadium.
A month later, when we went to the game, we got to see the Yankees beat the Red Sox in a day game with perfect weather. The experience was one of the happiest days of my life, and I have since had the date and interlocking NY tattooed on my left shoulder.
There's no doubt about it: As Yankee fans we are spoiled. We are not just spoiled with the obvious stuff like the winning tradition, tons of media coverage and Monument Park. We have been able to be spoiled with an ownership that is committed to winning as well as upholding the Yankee tradition. Being able to go to spring training and see Ron Guidry work with pitchers and Yogi Berra hobble about the field is an absolute gift.
We have been able to rest assured that ownership will do whatever it takes to win and whatever it takes to keep us from losing our guys. With the days of free agency, something that we have lost in baseball is having a personal interest and relationship with our players (even if it is a one-sided relationship).
Every year fans in Seattle have to worry about losing Ichiro in a cost-saving trade, and fans in Cleveland have to worry about losing their latest prized possession. We New York Yankee fans don't have to worry about that because good ol' George had continually proven that he'd use our ridiculous resources to keep our beloved boys around, even if it meant overpaying for them (see Bernie Williams contract).
Now we have new boys in town. George's sons have taken over, and understandably they are taking a very strong stance to show the world that they run the ship now. I would probably have done the same thing if in their shoes. The problem is that they've chosen to do it on the wrong guy (or two guys).
They are doing it with a man whose face would be on the Mt. Rushmore of Yankees. They're doing it with a guy who has given his heart and soul to the franchise. They're doing it with arguably the most beloved Yankees of all time.
There has been much written about the Derek Jeter contract situation recently. Most suggest that Jeter is doing something wrong. I believe that these aren't the articles written by actual Yankee fans, and they are misleading the Steinbrenners into a false sense of security.
In actuality, I think the Steinbrenners and especially Brian Cashman should be very careful about what they allow to happen. As a lifelong Yankee fan with the team logo tattooed on my shoulder, this is how I see it.
First of all, if George was alive he NEVER would allow this to happen. Jeter would get what he needed to stay, and he'd retire from baseball never having worn a uniform other than pinstripes. Second of all, that's what Jeter wants to happen. Jeter clearly loves being a Yankee, which is only reinforced by his desire for a longer contract.
So, if Jeter wants it and George would have made it happen, then that means that if Jeter ends up with another team, as a Yankee fan, I have no one to blame but Cashman and the baby Steinbrenners. As a lifelong Yankee fan I would take that as a sign of things to come and be forced to cut my ties with the franchise that I have loved since before I could talk.
If I'm going to be a fan of a ball team like that—a regular old ball club with no sense of loyalty to its greats and that only thinks of its checkbook first—then I can root for someone else, someone that is closer to me and has cheaper tickets.
The reason Cashman needs to be especially careful is this: The other two guys OWN the team. This backlash that I'm warning you about is going to need a scapegoat, and it's going to be the guy that can be fired. Then, Cash, your legacy changes from being a world championship-winning GM to being the GM who let Jeter become a Kansas City Royal. Ask Dan Duquette how it feels to be THAT GUY.
So guys, let's stop playing games. Jeter has done more for this franchise than anyone in the history of the team (sans your dad). Regardless of his on-field production, he is the face of this team, he is the leader of the club and he is the fans' favorite guy. Give Jeter what he wants and let's move on... Play hardball with someone else. Jeter is not a normal situation.
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