We promise we aren't going to spend every single day this offseason breathlessly relating the latest ins and outs of Derek Jeter's negotiations with the Yankees. That will get boring in a hurry, especially since it looks like it is going to take a while before all is right in the Bronx.
Since we talked about Hal Steinbrenner's comments earlier this week, though, it is only fair to give Jeter's retort some airspace. Hal warned it could get messy because he's running a business, not a museum for Yankee legends.
"While it is not our intent to negotiate the terms of Derek's free-agent contract in a public forum, we do agree with Hal's and Brian Cashman's recent comments that this contract is about business and winning championships," said Jeter's agent Casey Close to Ed Price of FanHouse. "Clearly, baseball is a business, and Derek's impact on the sport's most valuable franchise cannot be overstated. Moreover, no athlete embodies the spirit of a champion more than Derek Jeter."
They are silly to not want to negotiate in a public forum, because nostalgic fans are the ones most likely to accept that you can't overstate Jeter's impact on the Yankees.
Close and Jeter want to be paid because of Jeter's past success, a pretty wise path to choose because it obscures the fact that he doesn't figure to have many great seasons left in him and the fact that he was average, at best, in 2010. They are going to sell his value as the face on merchandise and the YES network over his usefulness to the team on the field. By going that path and by bringing "the spirit of the champion" into things, however, it is Jeter who is overstating his own impact.
Jeter has five World Series rings because he has had the good fortune of playing with some terrific baseball players over the course of his career. He may have been the best player on a few of those teams, but he wouldn't have won squat if not for the full complement of talent that the Yankees put in the clubhouse with him. Whatever impact Jeter has had on the Yankees -- and it has been large -- pales in comparison to the impact the Yankees have had on him.
Or, to put it another way, no one is having this conversation if Jeter spent the last 15 years playing for the Royals.
Therefore, it stands to reason that if Jeter wants to continue to be known for embodying the spirit of a champion, he'd be wise to stick with a Yankee team that will use its money to put him in a position to win. Otherwise he's just an old player hanging on for a payday and that's not something with a great deal of marketing power.
The good news about all of this is that both sides have now made their public case while leaving plenty of room in the middle and granting some of the other sides' points. The Steinbrenners are running a business, and having Jeter on the roster is very good for some parts of that business. Jeter's willingness to talk openly about legacy and not productivity shows that, beneath the posturing, he realizes what being a Yankee means to him.
There will be more broadsides and attempts to make things look dire, but there hasn't been much this week to shake confidence in the fact that this deal will wind up getting done.