The New York Yankees have been known to overpay for star players and the MLB is known for ballooning contracts. Whether it’s a player who is rising in the ranks or the free agent that every team is fighting for, teams make moves no matter the financial outlook.
Many times this strategy doesn’t bode well for the franchise, but obviously if you buy the best talent it gives you the better chance in October.
Now in the case of a player like Derek Jeter, there are aspects that are not just based on talent but on reputation and star power.
The relationship between Jeter and the Yankees has always been very good. The kid from Kalamazoo started in New York and will finish in New York. The road became a little rockier during the winter months.
Derek was trying to negotiate his contract and wanted a big payoff. The recent passing of George Steinbrenner changed the dynamic of the situation a bit. George was like a father to Derek and always had the best interests in mind for him. Now with his son Hank running the show, things have changed.
Even though Hank had been at the forefront of the Yankees organization before George died, it gave him a bigger sense of entitlement.
Hank has always been known to be an outspoken man, to the point being of abrasive. While the Steinbrenner name is the same, his leadership qualities are not the same as his father’s, although both liked to speak their mind. It seems that George was more calculated with his comments and Hank’s come off the cuff without thought about whom he throws under the bus.
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The comments between sides were getting out of hand and the media was grabbing at anything said. To quote Hank directly during spring training, he said of Derek, "Some of the players are too busy building mansions and doing other things and not concentrating on winning. I have no problem saying that." Derek shrugged off the comments an moved on like a professional.
While Derek was asking for much more than the Yankees were willing to offer, they settled on a contract that made him one of the highest paid infielders in the game even though he is in the twilight of his career.
Many criticized Jeter and the Yankees for the money that was in the contract. Many said that Derek was demanding too much because of his age and decreasing skills, while others said the Yankees owed him because of the loyalty and profits he has made for New York. You could honestly say that Derek helped the franchise build the new stadium from him just being there. Then, you have the fans that say Jeter should have never been paid anywhere close to what he is getting paid now.
Derek has made the Yankees so much money from marketing, jersey sales, filling the stands and bringing a tradition of winning to the franchise. Even though he has brought the Yankees so much, is that a reason to pay a player for reputation and what he did, not what he can do now?
The blue-collar guy will say, “Why should he get paid over $50 million in the next four years?” Jeter has made the Yankees well over that in his entire career hasn’t he?
Only in baseball would this type of contract be debated. If this was the NFL where no contract is guaranteed and star players are cut or take pay cuts, Jeter would have had no chance at this type of contract no matter how many titles he helped bring the team.
Being an icon can only get you so much in most sports. While advertising products and being a spokesman, actor or other jobs can last a lifetime, the body breaks down and by the age of 40, a player usually is a shell of what he once was.
How can the Yankees measure if this contract will be good or bad for the team?