Fresh off his newest, and possible final contract as a Yankee, Derek Jeter sounded off on the contentious contract negotiations, his future with the Yankees, and the perception his game isn't what it used to be.
Derek Jeter has been many things over the years, but a particularly interesting interview is not one of them.
He's from the school that believes in offering very little of what he really thinks to the press or the public. Instead he plays the soundbyte game as well as anyone in history, keeping the focus on his team and the task at hand without ever offering anything more than what's required. It's all part of the calm, cool and unflappable image he's worked so hard to build over his career and he's played the role extremely well.
That's what made Tuesday's press conference in Tampa so fascinating because Jeter dropped that reserve for one of the few times in his career. He admitted to being upset about being criticized, rather than his usual line of not paying any attention to what people say about him, and to being upset about how the negotiations played out in the public eye.
"I know they said I had an ego. People said I'm greedy. The perception was greed, when it's a negotiation. I think it all started with my 'salary demands,' which still cracks me up. What position do I have to demand a salary? Give me this, or what? Where am I going? ... I was pretty angry about it, but I've let that be known. I was angry about it because I was the one that said I didn't want to do it. I was the one that said I wasn't going to do it. To hear the organization tell me to go shop it when I just told you I wasn't going to - yeah, if I'm going to be honest with you, I was pretty angry about it."
Jeter's anger about how public things became is understandable, although it obviously didn't bother him enough to stop his agent Casey Close from publicly discussing how "baffled" Jeter was about the Yankee position in negotiations. The other stuff, the stuff about who is he to demand anything, is ridiculous.
He's trying to make it seem like he was willing to sign for whatever the Yankees offered him, which is disingenuous and absurd when there was clearly a negotiating process going on between the player and the team. He might not have wanted to go anywhere and might not have engaged in discussions with any other team, but everyone's hands got dirty over the last few weeks.
That dirtiness is going to be the lasting impression left by this whole process. Jeter and the Yankees will be together until Jeter isn't playing baseball anymore, but no one will ever again be able to swallow the line that Jeter exists on some kind of different plane than anyone else who makes a living playing baseball.
He's just as irrational -- he actually said that he's in the middle of his career on Tuesday -- and just as covetous as anyone else when it comes to his own ability and salary. The Yankees, despite the way they've built Jeter up to be an icon of epic proportions, are just as willing to put the squeeze on him as they are any number of other lesser lights. After years of making their marriage seem like the exception to every rule about sports that we've learned the hard way, everyone's worst side was revealed to the public and it's not anything that will soon be forgotten because everyone tells us that it's all in the past.
There's nothing surprising about any of this, but it's still sad to learn that there's one less myth to believe in this Christmas.