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…. The Captain

…. I’d like throw in my two cents on the Derek Jeter situation.

The Yankees are blowing this.

Jeter is hyper-competitive. You don’t get to where he’s gotten without a certain kind of fire burning inside you. Jeter is ultra-intense, ultra-competitive, and he’s gotta be that way with everything. Knowing this, it seems obvious that he is insulted that the Yankees are playing hardball with him, especially after watching A-Rod get a contract extension three years ago worth more than he has made in his entire life, even though A-Rod –at the time– hadn’t brought the Yankees even a single American League pennant, let alone a championship. He knows that, at that time, A-Rod was being vilified as A-Fraud, with nothing but notable post-season failures as a Yankee. He knows that since signing that deal, A-Rod’s reputation and value have been tarnished by his steroids scandal, and that he, Derek Jeter, is, as he has always been, as clean as the driven snow. He knows that he, too, is going to be passing a significant career milestone next season, and that the Yankees will, once again –because of what he, Derek Jeter, is doing– be the center of the baseball, and really, the entire sports world, when he does.

He’s insulted, he’s angry, and he’s right to be. A-Rod is signed through his age 42 season, and the Yankees are telling Jeter they are only willing to go to his age 39 season. He knows that the Steinbrenner family is wealthy beyond their father’s wildest dreams, and he knows that he is one of the reasons, one of the main reasons that they are. For Hank and Hal Steinbrenner to try and tell him about who earned what and how much it should be is disgraceful. They were born into wealth, they have built nothing. Work? All they do is sign checks and wear expensive suits. They know nothing about real hard work. They were sitting in the luxury box watching Derek Jeter build their dad’s team into financial juggernaut and a modern-day dynasty the likes of which we’re likely to never see again.

Derek Jeter is one of the main reasons the Steinbrenners are as wealthy as they are, he is one of the main reasons the Yankees are worth $1.6 billion dollars, one of the main reasons they have a cash flow from television and radio worth some $500 million dollars a year –much of it from the YES network– on which he is featured about ten times a day.

He deserves better. He is different. He is Derek Jeter. And he deserves another contract that pays him big. A five-year deal worth something like $75 million would probably get it done, but I think he wouldn’t complain too much if it was more money for a year less. Three years at $15 million per? Really? That’s less than they’re paying AJ Burnett, for crying out loud. Javier Vasquez makes $15 million a

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year. You think Jeter is gonna sit there and make as much money as a couple of the biggest busts on the team? No way.

See, here’s the rub…. the Yankees are forgetting who they are dealing with. When they say it’s just another contract negotiation, that it’s just another day in the life of running a team, that it’s business as usual; they are wrong. This is Jeter, the captain, the most beloved Yankee since Don Mattingly. And more importantly, Jeter is Jeter. He’s not Bernie Williams, who really did have no other baseball choice when the Yankees told him he would have to earn his way in the team. Williams said, the hell with it, I’ll go play guitar.

Derek Jeter is a proud man, cognizant of his place in baseball history, his place in Yankee history, and his own image. He is very much like Joe DiMaggio in that respect, in fact, old-timers around the Yankees say that he is like DiMaggio in many ways, and in that he is; the Yankees are going to lose if they keep going down this path. DiMaggion wouldn’t tolerate any form of disrespect. If you crossed him, you were as good as dead to him, forever. Jeter is very much like that. DiMaggio walked away when he felt he couldn’t keep up with his own level of greatness. He walked away from money, from fame, from everything. He simply disappeared. He said, if I can’t still be great, if I can’t still be DiMaggio, I don’t want to be here at all. You think there’s no way Jeter sees the writing on the wall? You bet he does. You bet he knows all about how DiMaggio walked away. You don’t think maybe he’d rather play golf than see his legacy tarnished by another year of leading the league in outs, another year of writers all over the country saying that he is old, that he has no range, that his Gold Glove was a fraud?

If the Yankees, if Hank and Hal think Derek Jeter is gonna sit there and allow his career, his worth, his image, his legacy, get treated this way by a couple of spoiled rich kids, they are out of their minds. If they think that he is going to sit there and listen to them talk about him like this in public, denigrating his worth to the franchise, to all of baseball, really, and that he is just going to take it, they are wrong. The Yankees think he has no choice, but he does.

Jeter can retire. Oh, yes, he can. He can walk away, tell the Yankees go ahead, see how easy it is to sell $10,000 dollar tickets with A-Rod as the face of your franchise. See how easy it is to be THE YANKEES when I am not here anymore. Jeter can retire, he can walk away right now. You think he doesn’t already know he is on the downside of his career? You think he hasn’t seen other great stars look like crap because they couldn’t walk away? He sure has. He’s seen players hanging on, just trying to get one more payday, one more chance to play. He is not that player. He can walk away. Jon Heyman asks the question from a different angle:

…. A friend of Jeter’s posed this question: Why not? Why can’t Jeter leave? The friend pointed out that most of Jeter’s dearest friends and allies are gone from the Yankees. Torre is gone. Mattingly is gone. George Steinbrenner is gone. Bernie Williams is gone. Tino Martinez is gone. The Core Four may still be there, but best friend Jorge Posada has been told he’s lost his catching job and the other three remain free agents at the moment (all three, including Jeter, were declined arbitration by the Yankees).

He can leave, but not to another team. He can retire. He can walk away proud, with his head up, instead of playing these games.

And he will, before he allows himself to be dragged through the mud by Brian Cashman and –more importantly– those two spoiled rich kids. He can walk away, satisfied that he is a five-time champion, that he is gonna be standing in front of the crowd in five years thanking everyone for helping him forge a Hall of Fame career.

Jeter can retire, and if the Yankees keep up this bullshit, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if he did.


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All commentary is the opinion of John J Perricone unless otherwise noted.
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