The New York Yankees and R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Ron KaplanContributor INovember 29, 2010

As it pertains to J-E-T-E-R

I really hate this kind of stuff. Both the Yankees and Derek Jeter seem to be bordering on the unreasonable as they dicker over a new contract.

The Yankees’ corner claims that it’s all business, that Jeter isn’t getting any younger, that he shouldn’t be unduly rewarded for past performance, and that their offer is fair. The Jeter camp believes the living legend is being disrespected (see Latrell Sprewell, who turned down a three-year $21 million extension from the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2004) and should get what he’s seeking, both in terms of years and salary.

Casey Close, Jeter’s agent, compared his client with another Yankee icon, Babe Ruth. But doesn’t he remember how the team treated the Bambino when he outlived his usefulness (Ruth leaves Yankees; NY Times original story, opens as a PDF)? (The Boston Braves treated him even worse, but he didn’t have the same history with them as with the Bronx Bombers.)

Harvey Araton considered the situation in his recent NY Times column, associating Jeter more closely to the quiet Lou Gehrig than the “bombastic” Babe.

Personally, I think everyone is wrong. Except me, of course.

As good a player is, and as much as he’s contributed to the Yankees’ canon, Jeter could never have the overall impact of a Ruth, who came along at a time when baseball was in dire straits in the wake of the 1919 Black Sox scandal. He helped restore baseball to its place as the national pastime, and his larger-than-life persona was the prefect representation of a post-WWI America and his home runs revolutionized the game. Dozens of books and papers have been written about him (increasing in candor over the years; Ruth was no choirboy). During World War II, Japanese soldiers thought there was no greater insult to their American counterparts than cursing the name of the Babe.

Does anyone really think Jeter has the same relevance or historical impact?

“Pride goeth before the fall.”

I think both sides should compromise: Jeter should come down in his demands and be more realistic about his ability to play into his 40s, but at the same time, the Yankees shouldn’t turn around and play the “What have you done for me lately” card.

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