Jeter's entire argument for why he should be paid immense amounts of money is that he has meant a lot to the Yankees in the past. His camp doesn't even bother couching the argument any other way when they openly reference his place in a Yankee lineage reaching all the way back to Babe Ruth. It's unusual to hear any free agent essentially admit that their best days are behind them, but Jeter is banking on that being less important than just how great those days were.
The Yankees are playing things somewhere in the middle. The fact that they're offering at least $15 million a season for Jeter's services show that they respect Jeter's place in the team's lore, but they are working very hard to sell the idea that this is simply a baseball decision at the same time. Mileage will vary on how much you buy trying to play both sides of the fence, but it's clear that Jeter is pushing the history card much more than the team.
That may be a first. You would be hard-pressed to find any other instance of a group or individual making more of the past than the Yankees do on a daily basis. They've got a network that spends the entire offseason selling Yankee history, they built an entire new stadium on the back of Yankee history and they spend more time cultivating their historical grandeur than most farms spend cultivating their big money crops. Now, suddenly, that cultivation and the deification of Jeter, in particular, are coming back to bite them as large groups of people actually expect them to honor that history in ways that don't involve selling gewgaws of limited actual value.
There's a lesson here about not building things up to mythical proportions when it might wind up working against you in the long run, but there's not much chance that the Yankees actually learn it. This impasse will end soon enough with Jeter remaining in pinstripes (and all of this is true of Mariano Rivera as well), and the memory of having built a monster that became difficult to deal with will fade away rapidly as the Yankees start selling Jeter's 3,000th hit with the zeal of a used car salesman the day before rent is due.
And, should the Yankees be lucky enough to find themselves another Jeter in the years to come, you can be sure they won't be shy about pumping his own narrative up to epic proportions. They'll make him a captain, mark off his every milestone and sell his memorabilia to anyone who wants it without a second thought of how much more difficult they're making things for themselves down the road.
While Jeter's demands seem out of whack, it's pretty easy to understand why he thinks the Yankees history fetish would be playing a big factor in these negotiations. It's also pretty easy to understand why some people won't let themselves get drawn in by the next bit of Yankee reverence for how much Jeter means to the franchise.