Derek Jeter's Defensive Improvement Isn't Bad News

It's hard to make a mountain out of a molehill

By Josh Alper
|  Wednesday, Feb 10, 2010  |  Updated 12:30 PM EDT
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Derek Jeter's Defensive Improvement Isn't Bad News

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On Tuesday we talked about the news that the Yankees wouldn't be negotiating new contracts for Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera or Joe Girardi until the 2010 season was over. We discussed why it wasn't a big deal and why no one should worry about seeing Rivera or Jeter with a "B" on their cap come 2011, but also admitted that there was going to be an effort to turn this into a story whenever things got slow this season.

Whether it is because of the snow or because everyone is just in a holding pattern before their big Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony parties, Wednesday is a very slow day in the world of sports. Joel Sherman of the New York Post takes the bait and tries to explain why Jeter and the Yankees might find it hard to come together on a new deal. The problem, as Sherman sees it, is the fact that the Captain improved enough defensively in 2009 to make him the team's starting shortstop for the forseeable future.

This would have been a different negotiation if Jeter was holding on as a left fielder or DH, being kept around mostly for emeritus reasons. Now the Yanks almost certainly will have to treat Jeter as the current and future shortstop of the team, and not the kind of defensive liability that enabled them to play hardball in pushing Williams and Damon off the roster.

He's right, it would have been a different negotiation because the Yankees would have been stuck between a rock and a hard place. Now they can happily give Jeter $50 or $60 million (or $100 million over a long period of time with a clause moving him into an off-field role whenever he wants or whatever the final number winds up being) without feeling like they are simply paying for nostalgia. Jeter would have demanded the same kind of financial commitment from the Yankees whether he was playing short, left or anywhere else on the field. The fact that he's a productive player who works hard to maintain that status makes it easier, not harder, to get a deal done.

Sherman would have you believe that it would be no big deal to take a hard line with Jeter if he wasn't still the shortstop. That's just not true. He's valued beyond his still considerable on-field talents, more so than even Rivera who is beloved mostly because of how good he is at his job.  

The comparison to Bernie Williams and Johnny Damon is equally inane. Bernie had fallen off a cliff offensively during his final two, injury-plagued seasons. Finding a better player wasn't hard and finding a cheaper player was even easier. As for Damon, he played his cards wrong because he had nowhere near the leverage that Jeter enjoys in negotiations for the Yankees.

Sherman won't be the only writer to try to gin up controversy about the contract, he's just the first. Hopefully the arguments get a little stronger because there's a ton of time left until the start of the next offseason.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com.

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