Yes, it is crazy to think about Jeter in Dodger blue. It is crazy to think about Jeter wearing anything other than Yankee pinstripes. Jeter as a Dodger is a crazy thought because the Dodgers are strapped for cash, what with their ownership fighting tooth and nail in divorce court. It is crazy because the Dodgers already have an excellent shortstop, one of the best in baseball, Rafael Furcal, who produced 4.1 fWAR in two-thirds of a season in 2010.
Jeter could only play for the Dodgers if he agreed to play a position other than shortstop. But where else might Jeter play? The Dodgers have $5.25 million committed in 2011 to Casey Blake, so presumably there’s no room for Jeter at third base. But what about second base? Ryan Theriot manned second base for the Dodgers after his acquisition from the Cubs, but he produced a 0.0 fWAR in 2010 and the Dodgers may not tender him an offer in 2011. Theriot’s backup at 2B is Jamey Carroll, but Carroll is also the Dodgers’ backup at shortstop and third base. The Dodgers might be in the market for a good second baseman like …
… like Derek Jeter? Jeter at second base? Really?
Why not? It’s been suggested many times that Jeter is too old to play shortstop full time. Second base is a less demanding position. Actually, I’m not finding many examples of second basemen who fielded their position well at Jeter’s age, but assuming that Jeter could adjust to life on the right side of the second base bag, Jeter should fare no worse at second than he has at shortstop.
Would the Dodgers match the Yankees’ offer of $15 million per year? Not a chance. They’d probably offer Jeter a base salary of $8 to $10 million per year. But what the Dodgers could do is pack Jeter’s contract with incentives. Dodger attendance declined this year – 2010 attendance was roughly 44,000 per game, third best in baseball (behind the Yankees), compared to around 46,500 per game (ahead of the Yankees) in 2009. If Jeter could restore the Dodgers’ attendance to 2009 levels, that extra 2,500 fans per game (at an average ticket price of $44) would be worth about $9,000,000 in extra revenue to the Dodgers. The Dodgers could easily afford to offer Jeter an attendance-based incentive of $4,000,000 if they reached 2009 attendance levels, more than that if the Dodgers broke their all-time attendance record of around 47,600 a game (set in 2007).
The Dodgers might offer an extra bonus if the Dodgers’ 2011 attendance exceeded that of the Yankees. If they did that, they would also be advised to announce it publicly. People in LA are competitive when it comes to New York. (Disclosure: I live in LA) I think people would turn out to Dodger Stadium in extra numbers, just to try to stick it to the Yankees.
The Dodgers could offer Jeter an extra bonus if the team made it to the World Series in 2011. There’d be little risk in offering such a bonus – we’ve already reported on the money a team can make in the post-season, and it doesn’t look like the Dodgers are going to make the post-season without Jeter. Jeter can then announce that one reason for his move to LA is to meet the challenge of bringing a World Championship to the Dodgers – a team that hasn’t won it all since 1988, when another winner (guy named Kirk Gibson) pushed the team over the top.
The World Series business is another reason why Jeter might consider LA. Jeter has five World Championship rings … but he can’t really say that he brought a championship to New York. When Jeter played his first full season for the Yankees, in 1996, the team was already pretty good. In 2009, when the Yankees won a World Series after a nine-year drought, the difference was thought to be a new crop of players like Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia. Jeter could be for the Dodgers in 2011 what Teixiera was for the Yankees in 2009: a difference-maker.
Jeter could also come to LA to help out his old buddy, Donny “Baseball” Mattingly. Actually, I don’t know if these two guys are friends. But Mattingly is about to take over as manager of the Dodgers, and he’s never managed a baseball team before (outside of the Arizona Fall League, where he’s had at least one embarrassing rookie moment). Jeter’s presence in the Dodger clubhouse might bring some needed leadership to the Boys in Blue while Mattingly got himself established.
Jeter’s presence in LA would do something even more important: it would remove the stench left over from the McCourt’s divorce trial. The Dodgers’ standing in LA is at an all-time low. Jeter would restore some luster to the franchise.
Speaking of luster … LA is a town that loves star power, and Jeter is a star. This town practically fawned over Manny Ramirez, simply because he was quirky (also because he hit for an insane 1.232 OPS in his first few months in LA). LA would practically lose its collective mind over Derek Jeter.
And this is where the idea of Jeter as a Dodger starts to truly make sense. We all struggle with the idea of Jeter playing for the Washington Nationals, or the Houston Astros, or the Seattle Mariners. What would Jeter do if he had to play on a small stage, away from the bright lights and the big city? It’s like trying to imagine Angelina Jolie performing dinner theatre somewhere in Indiana. But LA is not a small stage. LA is movies and Hollywood; when it comes to glitz and money, LA is the equal of New York. Jeter’s star quality, his endorsement value, his fame and market power, would only grow if he came to Los Angeles. He’d become the prince of two coasts, the guy who conquered two leagues and two media centers.
Jeter might make more money outside of baseball as a Dodger than he could as a Yankee. He’d certainly get more attention. Other than Kobe Bryant, Jeter would OWN the attention of LA sports fans.
A few minor points to add: Jeter would enjoy hitting against the somewhat weaker pitching in the National League. He’d have to face intense and probably unpleasant scrutiny the few games a year he’d play at Citi Field, but he would not have to play against the Yankees in 2011 (except perhaps in a World Series).
All of this would be possible … so long as Jeter would accept a base salary about half of what the Yankees have offered … and if Jeter was willing to play second base.
OK, sure. We all know that Jeter will be playing shortstop for the Yankees in 2011, just like he’s done for the 15 preceding years and every single game of his major league career. The idea of Jeter playing second base for the Dodgers … is crazy. Crazy, crazy, crazy.
And maybe I’m crazy too. Because the more I think about Jeter as a Dodger, the less crazy it seems to me.
What the heck. Cashman has practically dared Jeter to test the market. It wouldn’t hurt Jeter to just fly out here, and talk things over with Ned Colletti and Don Mattingly. If only to call Cashman’s bluff.
Late Note: I’m not the only one having crazy thoughts. Jeter as a Tampa Bay Ray? If nothing else, it’s starting to dawn on people that Jeter might play somewhere other than the Bronx next year.