The Derek Jeter thing is fascinating to me for a couple of reasons. One, it’s Derek Jeter and everything about Derek Jeter is pretty interesting.
Two, there’s a CMQ — Comfortable Movie Quality — to this Yankees-Jeter negotiation. I have spent too much of my time thinking about this: How many movies would you say you KNEW the ending before it happened? I’m not talking about you figuring out the ending of Sixth Sense or Usual Suspects or Memento or whatever (good for you, Nostradamus). No, I’m talking about movies that are essentially made with the premise that you will know the ending. You know the killer will die. You know the guy and girl will get together. You know the planet will be saved. You know the home team will win. You know George Clooney will end up in a tuxedo. You know the castaways will not get off the island.
You know because you are supposed to know, the director expects you to know, the producer expects you to know, the actors essentially act like you know … KNOWING is part of the experience. This is why sometimes you will hear people, when asked about a movie, say something like: “Oh, well, it was predictable, but it was still pretty good.” There is in some of us a capacity to not only like a predictable movie, but like it BECAUSE of it’s predictable. There are a lot of not-quite-A-level movies – The Family Man, Doc Hollywood, The Sure Thing, Invincible, Major League, Splash, The Fabulous Baker Boys and a hundred others I’m not thinking of now — where, once the premise was laid out, I doubt I felt even the tiniest tinge of surprise at any point. And yet, I liked the movies anyway.
Maybe it’s the James Bond creed: You KNOW he will win. You just don’t know how.
We KNOW Derek Jeter will play for the New York Yankees in 2011. There is no chance for a surprise there. This is not 90% likely or 95% likely or even 99% likely. It is Hurricane Insurance In Kansas likely. There is simply no even remotely plausible scenario I can imagine where Derek Jeter goes. The Yankees have already offered him three years, $45 million which, you know, unless Dan Snyder buys a baseball, well, that’s probably 50-100% more than any other team would offer. And that offer is ALREADY on the table.
Now, it appears from reports that Jeter and his people are unhappy with the offer, perhaps even insulted by the offer. Jeter’s agent Casey Close has even invoked the name of Babe Ruth which I must say — to reference another CMQ movie — is a bit like the agent Jerry Maguire when he’s trying to negotiate for his receiver (before the receivers has the great catch on Monday Night Football):
GM: “I want a prototypical wide receiver, not some shrimp who bitches.”
Jerry: “Dennis, I’m asking you for a favor. I introduced you to your wife. We’ve spent Christmas together. How about some holiday cheer?”
GM: “Jerry. You’re reaching.”
Casey, yes, you’re reaching. Derek Jeter means a lot to the New York Yankees and their fans and baseball, no question about any of it. But he has been paid ONE HUNDRED EIGHTY NINE MILLION DOLLARS the last ten years. That is, even now ten years later, the third-highest gross contract ever given to one baseball player, and the first two are Alex Rodriguez and Alex Rodriguez. Even the Joe Mauer contract, even the Mark Teixeira contact, even the C.C. Sabathia contract did not come out to $189 million.
Has Jeter been worth it? Absolutely. But it seems a bit bold to say that the Yankees have not already pay Jeter plenty for being an icon and a role model and a true Yankee and everything else. According to Baseball Reference’s WAR, Derek Jeter was the 10th most valuable player over the last 10 years:
1. Albert Pujols, 83.8 WAR
2. Alex Rodriguez, 64.8
3. Barry Bonds, 55.7 (despite only playing about six seasons)
4. Ichiro Suzuki, 55.2
5. Carlos Beltran, 51.1
6. Chipper Jones, 47.5
7. Scott Rolen, 46.6
8. Todd Helton, 44.7
9. Lance Berkman, 43.8
10. Derek Jeter, 43.1
That’s really good. That might even be $189 million good. But I don’t think I’d be sticking an “amount still due” bill under the Steinbrenners’ door. I’d say Jeter has been paid quite well for his efforts, tangible and intangible. And anyway, Babe Ruth is probably not the best example for Casey Close to use since Ruth was released by the Yankees when he overplayed his hand (he wanted to be manager) and he ended his career in misery, playing 28 games for the Boston Braves.
In any case, the air between Jeter and the Yankees seems to be getting chillier and chillier, and at this point it’s hard to see exactly how things will break. There is absolutely no reason I can see for the Yankees to raise their offer to Jeter. They know they have already put on the table the best offer Derek Jeter will get. They know Jeter wants to play quite a bit longer and he doesn’t want to play for any other team. They know that while some fans think they look ungrateful (by merely offering to pay him by far more than any other shortstop in baseball), these are millions of dollars we are talking about, and it’s tempting to forget just how much a million dollars is. I don’t believe even the Yankees, with more money than Jobs, are willing to pay $15 or $20 million extra dollars so they can look appreciative.
On the other hand, Derek Jeter has good reason to believe he should get more. The Yankees ARE offering him a substantial pay cut — this would be more than 20%. They are offering to pay him less than they pay A.J. Burnett. Jeter did finish third in the MVP balloting in 2009, which was just last year. And Jeter does take on responsibilities — on the field, in the clubhouse, in the city — that are of great value to the Yankees. Finally, Jeter is a proud athlete who undoubtedly feels like he will have a huge bounce-back year in 2010, age and history and an off-year be damned.
So this thing could go on a while longer. I do wonder how much longer the two will beat on each other when they both know exactly how this thing will end, how it HAS to end. Will Jeter keep fighting a public fight when he knows that he will be the starting shortstop on Opening Day? Will the Yankees keep making public sport of Jeter’s decline, when they also know he will be the starting shortstop on Opening Day.
I suspect before it’s all done, the Yankees offer Jeter something like 3 years, $51 million, Jeter holds a typically classy press conference where he says that he knows he’s getting older but he still thinks he has a lot to offer the Yankees, and everything is forgotten by Game 2, when Cliff Lee allows three hits in a breezy seven innings, and Jeter gets the 2,928th and 2,929th hits of his career. The ending here is as sure as the final scene of Richard Gere carrying off Debra Winger, or Richard Gere carrying off Julia Roberts, or Richard Gere … well, you know. Everything that happens between now and the inevitable ending is probably pointless. But it should be fun to watch anyway.