Since 1901, only nine shortstops age 37 or above hit over .270 in a season. Derek Jeter will qualify as the 10th player in that category next season, and the New York Yankees are well aware of that.
Sure, if you are going to bet on someone entering that group (that happens to include six Hall of Famers), it might as well be Jeter. For the Yankees, who have more money floating around than we can imagine, it is an easy bet to make.
But, then again, if Jeter only hit .270 as a 36-year-old, what should make the Yankees think he will do better as a 37-year-old?
As far as the Yankees are concerned, they have already made a bet. They offered Jeter three-years, $45 million. Jeter and his agent, on the other hand, don’t see this as a smart bet (as if it were their place to say).
Just how ridiculous is this getting? After Jeter surprised the Yankees by asking for four to five years, he decided he would go even further and say he wanted $92-96 million. Not only would that pay him more annually than what he signed for when he was 27-years-old, it would also pay him as much as his teammate, Alex Rodriguez.
And so begins the A-Rod/Jeter debate: 234 home runs vs. 631 home runs, three MVP awards vs. no MVP awards, one batting title vs. no batting titles. Sorry Jeter, it isn’t looking good for you.
But that won’t convince Jeter. “I may not have stats like A-Rod,” he will say. “But what about my intangibles? And what about all the seats I will fill when I am in pursuit of my 3,000th hit?”
Now, the Yankees are always open to business proposals, and nobody knows better than them how much money Jeter creates for the organization. However, for a team that has won 27 championships, they also know the benefits of winning a championship, and that is where Jeter falls out of the equation.
That is where we stand right now. Sadly for Jeter, everyone is starting to see that Jeter needs the Yankees much more than the Yankees need Jeter. Nobody is jumping out of their seats to sign a 36-year-old shortstop and, until now, Jeter thought he could rely on the Yankees to keep paying him.
So we find ourselves locked in an epic battle. A battle between pride and power.
The sad truth for Jeter is that he has no strong selling point. Sure, the Yankees would love to have him in pinstripes when he hits his 3,000th hit, but since when did the Yankees have trouble selling tickets?
What it comes down to is this:
The Yankees can always build a championship team, and they will win more championships without Jeter than they won with him. On the other hand, Jeter has no other team that will pay him $15 million for three years.
There is only one way for this to end. Both the Yankees and Jeter are serious about reaching an agreement. They just disagree on how to get there. In the end, only one thing will matter. Jeter wants to be a Yankee. Period.
The Yankees have all the leverage here. As Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has made clear, Jeter should take offers from other teams. He may do that, and he will find that no other team is going to give him the years or the money that he wants.
The only reason there is an argument is because Jeter knows how valuable he is in pinstripes. But once you take those pinstripes from him and give him a Giants jersey, for example, he is no longer worth eye-opening figures. Plus, if the Yankees remove themselves from the discussion, the competition is severely reduced.
Ultimately, Jeter will have to decide between one of the following two scenarios: (a) take a pay cut from the Yankees or (b) take a pay cut from a different team.
We all know which one he will pick, but he better do it quickly. The longer he waits, the more pressure he puts on himself and the less money he will make. It’s no surprise the Yankees aren’t acting very urgently.
The lesson is simple. It is a lesson we learn every year and one the players always seem to forget. The guys with the money make the rules. Keep your ego out of it and you will make the money you deserve. Act as though you deserve more and you will find yourself wondering where it all went wrong.