Maybe Jeter Needs to Have His Feelings Hurt

I do assume that this isn’t the only thing he doesn’t want us to talk about though. I mean, he probably doesn’t want us talking about all the double plays he grounds into or all those pitches out of the strike zone he flailed at last year or the fact that he came up short in high leverage (read, clutch) situations last year either. So somebody from Derek’s camp should probably fax over a list of things on the field I’m not allowed to talk about relating to Derek Jeter before Opening Day, or this season could get messy.

You saw how he reacted to his contract negotiations becoming such a public squabble this winter, showing some rare anger toward the Yankees after he signed. Most of that anger was unquestionably aimed at Cashman for publicly daring Jeter to test the free agent market, and I’m betting the captain was equally ticked Tuesday when he heard that his GM said he envisioned a Robin Yount-like move to center field for Jeter at some point.

Do I even have to say it at this point? We’re three paragraphs into this thing and we’re already waffling seamlessly between the premise that Derek Jeter is the uniquely special, selfless, Captain of the Yankees and the premise that he’s a uniquely insecure, immature, prima donna whose feelings have to be paid special attention to (not that they ever put it that way, of course. Jeter is just different, you see). I swear I don’t know how New York City hasn’t been pulled into some stage of cosmic limbo as a result of the staggering amount of cognitive dissonance Derek Jeter has produced in such a small area.

Cashman himself had to know it wouldn’t sit well with the shortstop, yet we are finding out more and more lately that the Yankee GM seems determined to say and do things his way.

Um, so what? Derek Jeter is the shortstop and nominal lead off hitter for the Yankees. Brian Cashman is the general manager and head of baseball operations. Is Jeter the consummate professional who puts his team above himself at all times or is he an egomaniac who thinks what he wants is more important than what the head of baseball operations thinks is best for the team? Please, just make up your mind(s) already!

And when he can’t do them his way, as was the case recently in being overruled on the Rafael Soriano signing, he’ll make sure we know that as well.

Meh. Yawn.

Does that mean Cashman is headed for the door when his contract is up next winter? It’s surely a possibility, especially considering that he thought long and hard about leaving three years ago, the last time he was in such a position.

What the bloody blue ^&%$ &^$* heck does that have to do with anything? I mean seriously, the logic here is impeccable isn’t it? Following this, because your wife would be mad at you and probably leave you if you were unfaithful, it follows that they very well might leave you if they get mad about you leaving the toilet seat up or forgetting to take out the trash. They’re basically the same exact thing, right?

Seriously though, one is nothing like the other. In 2010, ownership decided to overpay for an elite free agent relief pitcher in such a way that it will probably not have much of an impact on the overall budget of the team. Cashman still didn’t think it was a good move, he said so, but they did it anyway. Cashman may be annoyed by it, but it’s nowhere near the level of the mistakes that were made in 2007-08, when the Steinbrenners were novices and folded completely at the first sign of negotiating pressure and overpaid spectacularly to re-sign Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada. If I had reason to think that was going to become the standard operating procedure, I’d consider leaving that job too. Hal & Hank learned their lesson though, and things have been fine since.

For that matter, you have to believe this didn’t sit so well with the same higher-ups who blind-sided Cashman on the Soriano signing. Hal and Hank Steinbrenner may have had no problem with angering Jeter during contract negotiations, but they may not be so happy with their GM tweaking the captain this way.

I’m pretty sure I’m not required to believe anything, but be that as it may, I very much doubt this. For one thing, let’s remember what Cashman said exactly. He said he would be “surprised” if Jeter remained at shortstop through the entire contract. And, well, we all would! Or should be at least. You can pretty much count the number of guys who have been able to play shortstop everyday in the majors at 38-40 years old on your fingers, so by definition it would be a surprise if Jeter could buck the historical trend that Honus Wagner, Cal Ripken Jr., and all of Jeter’s contemporary peers (unless you count Omar Vizquel as Jeter’s peer) couldn’t escape. So no, I don’t think ownership has a problem with Cashman making such innocuous statements, or I don’t think they’d allow him to do these sorts of events.

Nevertheless, I don’t think this was calculated on Cashman’s part so much as it fits with his new, tougher leadership style, which was born largely out of his soured relationship with Joe Torre. Cashman will always feel betrayed by Torre’s book, “The Yankee Years,” and he says he essentially told Torre that when they finally met privately at Yankee Stadium last summer.
At the same time, however, Cashman said he thanked Torre, telling him, “You made me a better GM. I’ll never let friendships get in the way of making the best decisions for the organization again.”

That’s…terrible? Horrible? No good? Very bad? Really, what is Harper driving at here? I mean, I like A-Rod a lot and love watching him play, but if he’s washed up at the end of his contract but wants to play another year anyway, well, that’s nice, but I’m not going to want him brought back, as much as I may like him. Enjoy Florida, buddy.

It wasn’t as if Cashman was Mr. Sentimentality in years past, as demonstrated by his cutting ties with Bernie Williams. But this offseason he has embraced his inner Michael Corleone, cutting loose pitching coach Dave Eiland over that extended leave of absence last season, telling Jorge Posada that his catching days are over and playing hardball with Jeter.

Again, I mostly just don’t get why any of this matters. The Yankees committed themselves to paying Jeter much more than he’s worth, but not giving him literally whatever he wanted. And that’s what they did. Similarly, Jorge Posada is getting pretty old for a baseball player, the past 2 seasons have demonstrated that his body simply can’t handle the wear and tear of catching, but the Yankees are paying him a lot of money, and his bat is still pretty darn good, so the team has made the decision that he’ll be the regular DH so that he can, hopefully, get a full season’s worth of plate appearances and best help the team. It’s nice that Jorge wants to catch, and I can respect it, but that’s just not in the cards. This is why there’s management to make these decisions, isn’t it?

And honestly, what is up with everyone invoking Bernie Williams these days? Let’s be clear about this; Bernie’s playing days were over full stop! Especially considering the amount of money he wanted to come back. Did anyone else offer Bernie a contract for 2007? Did he even take a minor league deal to try to make a team? I rest my case.

Now this. While it’s silly to pretend the Yankees shouldn’t be planning for a potential Jeter move, considering that the shortstop will be 37 in June and his range is already an issue, Cashman could have easily sidestepped the question, as he has in media settings.

However, fans were paying to hear him speak at a WFAN-sponsored breakfast, and when one of them asked about Jeter, Cashman felt compelled to give an honest answer, saying he saw the shortstop moving to center field, not third base, when the time came, because he wants power at his corner infield spots.

It’s the right answer, although left field seems to be a more likely landing spot than center, considering that Jeter will be pushing 40 by the time he is forced to move.

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t really see the point in ignoring a potential issue like this altogether. Everyone knew it was a potential problem when Jeter signed the deal (and well before that) so what is gained by pretending it won’t be an issue? Especially if Jeter is so opposed to it, having everyone else ignore it until their hand is forced strikes me as simply adding to the problem later, but again, maybe that’s just me. As a rule, I like to have a good feel for potential problems and what will, or may, have to be done to address them well in advance whenever possible.

Still, Cashman’s comments predictably started a media frenzy, largely because no one connected with the Yankees has ever addressed such a scenario. Yet the GM insisted by phone Tuesday afternoon that he didn’t understand why it was the talk of New York.

I love this trick and hope one day to master it. Take something that Person X says out of context, magnify it, otherwise distort it, and then go embarrassingly insane over it, after which you blame it on Person X for making you do it. It’s a thing of beauty, really.

“This is not a news event,” he said. “I was having a baseball chat with fans. It was not a declaration of what we intend to do with Derek. It was hypothetical. It’s no different than talking about Randy Johnson, when he was a Yankee, and saying that if he got to the point where he wasn’t starting anymore, he could be a great short reliever.”

Of course it’s different with Jeter, because of his Yankee legend status and his desire to keep such matters behind closed doors.

Yes, it’s different with Jeter. It’s always different with Jeter. Because he’s the uber-selfless captain who would never set himself above the team or demand special treatment because he’s Derek Jeter.

Does anyone else’s head hurt yet?

Yet the GM seemed unconcerned about bruised feelings.

And here’s where I lose my mind because, well, because I don’t really give a flying you-know-what about Derek Jeter‘s feelings. Derek Jeter, to me, is just about the most unsympathetic figure in the entire sports world. Aside from the fact that he’s rich and successful and marrying Minka Kelly, he’s been the epitome of a media darling in New York City, supposedly home to the meanest, toughest set of writers in the world. So yeah, color me unimpressed.

Let’s be clear, I don’t know Jeter, I’ve never talked to Jeter, I have no idea what Jeter thinks about pretty much anything, so I’m basically going off of what these writers think about him. And the picture that’s emerging gets more annoying to me everytime someone writes a new column. Jeter’s unhappy about his contract? Cry me a river. He feels disrespected? He got paid $18 million a year and given a player option for his age 40 season when no one else in the industry had any interest whatsoever in acquiring him at anywhere near that price. Please, by all means, someone disrespect me like that.

At some point, someone is going to have to hurt Jeter’s feelings like this, because no one has ever done it before. Jeter’s always been overrated, the media has generally implied that he’s underpaid, and nothing he does ever gets the sort of scrutiny any other athlete or celebrity in New York gets. The guy has lived about as sheltered a life as you possibly could in his circumstances, but now reality and age are catching up to him, and to hear basically every sports writer in New York tell it, Jeter isn’t adjusting too well to it. Continuing to shelter him and worry about stoking his feelings as he approaches 40 years old isn’t in the best interests of anyone. Derek Jeter might not want to think about having to change positions, and he might not want anyone else to talk about it. But we will, because age catches up to everyone sooner or later, and not talking about it doesn’t change that.

And if you think this is bad, what happens when Jeter can neither play shortstop nor produce offensively in 2013, then picks up his player option for 2014? And God forbid he wants to play in 2015.

At least I’ll have plenty to write about.

“My job isn’t to make friends,” he said. “My job is to do what’s right for the organization. I’ll do what I’m paid to do at all costs.”

Talking about a move that is years away wasn’t necessarily the best way to heal Jeter’s hard feelings about the contract negotiations. But should that matter? It’s clear how Cashman feels, and clear he’s doing things his way. At least until told otherwise.

To which I say: long live Brian Cashman!

About Brien Jackson

Born in Southwestern Ohio and currently residing on the Chesapeake Bay, Brien is a former editor-in-chief of IIATMS who now spends most of his time sitting on his deck watching his tomatoes ripen and consuming far more MLB Network programming than is safe for one's health or sanity.

27 thoughts on “Maybe Jeter Needs to Have His Feelings Hurt

  1. "When looking at his contemporaries Mr. Jeter has had a fine career [on AND off the field]" is what i meant to say

  2. Brien, there's a distinction between Derek Jeter and what people write about Derek Jeter.

    The people who have "overrated"Jeter (using your term, one with which I disagree) are part of the group that TALKS about Jeter, a group that includes you, me, just about everyone in the NY media … but it does not include Jeter himself. About the only thing I've heard from Jeter this off-season was during the press conference when his extension was announced, and he said comparatively little.

    Yeah, Jeter said that he resented it when Cashman told him to shop his deal around, because Jeter had no intention of playing for any team other than the Yankees. Oddly, he got a lot of criticism for saying this. Didn't we WANT Jeter to say something like this, that he felt a strong loyalty to the team and the organization and the fans? In contrast, we have Albert Pujols, who has given the Cards an ultimatum to sign him within 25 days OR ELSE, and everyone is fine with that.

    How would we react if we made what we thought was a "constructive" suggestion to our spouse, and was told in response that we were free to shop our services to other spouses?

    I think we're so used to talking about Jeter that we assume that Jeter is thinking the same thoughts that we're writing. For example: we're all writing about how Jeter will resist being moved from shortstop to another position. What has Jeter ever said to lead us to believe this? Yes, we can assume that Jeter is a proud man, but that cuts both ways. What makes us think that Jeter will want to continue to play shortstop past the time he can do so effectively? Why wouldn't Jeter's pride lead him to want to change positions, to avoid embarrassment? Yes, there are some who think that Jeter's is CURRENTLY unfit to play shortstop … but it's not like the Yankees have anyone else who could contribute wins from that position. I mean, if Jeter's pride led him to ask TODAY to be moved to a different position, we'd have to beg him to reconsider … and some of us would criticize him for having asked.

    This is where I come out: everyone talks about Jeter except Jeter. Lots of things get said about Jeter that are idiotic (for example, I projected that he'd received $25 million a year), but that's no reflection on Jeter personally.

    Judge Jeter by what he says and what he does. Judge me by what I write. Keep those two judgments distinct.

      • I am too, for today. As much as Brien admittedly gets under my skin for the over the top Jeter anti-appreciation, it's a good thing. It sparks debate, increases hits on your website… and most importantly, makes me feel good to know about my own existence to know that there are some MISERABLE people out there:)


    • I disagree with many of your main points. Things that Derek has stated in interviews he can't *ever* see himself playing any position other than SS, and he hastily rejects the notion that defense can be quantified conveniently undermining suggestions that he is a poor defender. His distaste for arod is also very apparent. I don't know if there is some quote or interview concerning this, but it is true that Jeter, and perhaps others, made it difficult for arod to fit in, as "The Yankee Years" extensively described. This whole clubhouse divide is definitely something talked about by Cashman and other people in the organization, something that seemed to lessen or go away entirely with the arrival of Sabathia, Swisher, and other FA that joined in 2009.

      So in summary, captain intangibles actually may have promoted poor or stifling clubhouse vibes, which, even if you don't subscribe to intangibles (I don't) show's he has prioritized himself over the team. Most importantly, has denied any evidence suggesting inability to field SS, adamantly suggesting he will indefinitely play SS, again, showing he prioritizes himself over the team's success.

      • mike, you can disagree with my points but I don't think you've refuted any of them.

        Jeter may have said that he can't ever SEE himself playing a position other than SS, but I haven't seen a report quoting him to that effect, nor did you cite to one. Moreover, my point was that Jeter's never said (to my knowledge) that he'd RESIST being moved to another position, which is another thing entirely. Personally, I cannot SEE myself getting old and feeble and having my family take my car keys away from me. That doesn't mean I'll RESIST any effort to keep me off the road if the time comes.

        A-Rod? I didn't say anything about A-Rod. Clubhouse intangibles? I didn't say anything about that either.

        Your point seems to be based on Jeter's expressed distaste for advanced fielding metrics. But it's a bit of a jump to go from "I hate UZR" to "I can play shortstop indefinitely", don't you think? Jeter's belief in his ability to play the field is normal, it is to be expected, it falls into the same category of the pitcher who does not want to be removed from the game after he's run out of gas.

        Besides, there's room to debate the advanced fielding metrics. Me, I support them, but we haven't exactly perfected them. Just look at the second post you cited, which advocates using "plays per nine innings" as an advanced metric. Obviously, that metric is no longer advanced. With the upcoming introduction of Fieldf/x, see, we're going to have better information about fielding than ever before, and it's likely that in a few years, UZR will be as outdated as "plays per nine innings" is today. In any event, Jeter is not selfish or arrogant simply because he doesn't like the current available defense metrics. In that, he has plenty of company, including the people who are bringing us Fieldf/x!

  3. Yeah, I'm certainly not going as far as Ralph by any means. Plenty of players have been overrated somewhat by the media in their day. That's not a sin by any means.

    • He has a strong argument as the 5th greatest yankee of all time. We know who the first 4 are.

      I personally don't have Jeter ranked 5th (yet), and he has been overrated at times but also underrated at times. Overall, he's been rated just right. As one of the greatest shortstops and yankees of all time (but not THE greatest) and that's it.

      This stuff is comical. It seems that the biggest complain people have with Jeter is that he is *merely* a great guy, not an actual saint or perfect. Get over it.

        • Haha, I was waiting for you.

          It's a draw buddy. The option is HIS for the 4th year so for all intents and purposes, it is a 4 year deal.

          You were closer to the mark than I was though, props… but no money coming your way, sorry.

  4. More Jeter ax griding? From Brien? No way….

    What's next, are we going to have someone living in Minnesota write a blog post to tell us it's cold outside?

  5. Well like I said, I'm basically working off of the assumption that he's being portrayed accurately. But it is sort of striking to me that pretty much everyone portrays him the same way when you parse things a bit. Where there's smoke there's bound to be at least a bit of a fire. And it has been reported many times that Jeter can be very petty and hold grudges over perceived slights for a very long time.

    As for Jeter's displeasure, you're being pretty generous in remembering it. Remember, the remark came after Jeter reportedly asked for a truly crazy contract, and Cashman didn't so much tell him to do it to see if he wanted to play for another team, he said it implying that Jeter needed a wake up call with respect to how much money the rest of the league thought he was worth. So yeah, I'm sure Jeter didn't care for that very much, but that backs up my main point more than anything else, in my opinion.

    And don't forget, when they held the press conference during the winter meetings, Jeter refused to go to Orlando for it, demanding everyone come to him in Tampa.

    • Honestly, more than anything, I just feel sorry for you. You take so little joy in witnessing the career of one of the greatest yankees of all time.

      And spare me the "oh, its not really Jeter, its the way the media portrays him" because thats a cop out.

      • No, that isn't true at all. I'm perfectly fine with Jeter the player. But he isn't my favorite player, or even favorite Yankee, by any stretch, and he's not particularly close to be honest. That's for purely subjective reasons of fandom. I dislike Jeter the character though, to be sure.

        As for the media, that's a separate issue from Jeter altogether, though Jeter's people (and the Yankee organization as well, to be fair) have certainly done a lot to cultivate it.

        • Much more reasonable…. but you always conveniently leave out the fact that a big part of Jeter's *character* is the fact that unlike so many of his peers, he never went down the PED road.

          Right, right… you don't care about steroids. I don't either, frankly. But I do admire the hell out of the guy for doing things the right way. And it's a BIG part of his legacy as a modern day icon… and if you aren't willing to at least concede that point, then there is truly nothing left to discuss.

          • You have no way of knowing what Jeter did or didn't use. Not that I'm accusing him of course, just saying there's no way to know that. No one suspects him of it, but that's a much different beast.

          • Brian, I use the example of Derek Jeter's 2010-11 post-season as a means to understand the kind of pressure athletes are under to use PEDs.

            Agreed, I think Jeter has always wanted to do things the "right" way. Personally, I think he's succeeded, but I have to admit, Brien is NOT the only guy that Jeter seems to rub the wrong way. Jeter's 2010-11 post-season is ALSO an example of how little has to go wrong for a much-admired athlete to fall in the public's estimation. Also, how hard it is (particularly today, when we've become so skilled in slicing and dicing the performance of a baseball player) to end a career gracefully and on a positive note. On this score, I think that Andy Pettitte is doing the right thing: leave the game when everyone would like you to stay.

          • And Kobe and Tom Brady don't rub people the wrong way???? How about Lebron James???

            EVERYBODY has critics…. everybody rubs certain people the wrong way…. sometimes it's deserved and sometimes it isn't… but it happens either way, so who gives a shit?

            Again, it all comes back to the idea which is "well, Jeter is a great guy and a Yankee legend and all, but he's not perfect"… to which I respond, get the hell over it.

    • Brien, why would you assume that Jeter is being portrayed accurately? That's pretty "generous", to use your term. We're talking about the MSM here. These writers are not saying that they've spoken to Jeter, or to a source close to Jeter. Yeah, agreed about smoke and fire, just disagreeing about whether Jeter had anything to do with the fire. I think that this stuff about Jeter starts to take on a life of its own at some point.

      What Jeter asked for was no crazier than what I thought he'd ask for, so you're talking to the wrong guy about the original contract request. Moreover, what's wrong with asking for more than you're worth? As Soriano proved, this can be an effective negotiation strategy, particularly it seems with the Yankees. These days, I'm grateful that Jeter did not ask for annual opt-outs.

      You're being a little "generous" in your recollection of what Cashman said. (Remember, I'm a Cashman fan 99% of the time.) Cashman said: "We've encouraged him to test the market and see if there's something he would prefer other than this. If he can, fine. That's the way it works." There's some ambiguity here, and if you like, you can read Cashman to say that Jeter should do a little market research and that the Yankees would match any offer that Jeter received. You can also read Cashman to say that Jeter should go if he could find another offer he liked.

      As for the location of the presser: it's 85 miles from Tampa to Orlando. That's not a trip requiring a passport; it wouldn't even require a fresh tank of gasoline. MY impression was that all concerned were happy to avoid the circus that would have taken place if the press conference had occurred in the midst of the winter meetings. I didn't see anything about Jeter "demanding" a particular location for the presser … but evidently I don't read the tabloids as closely as you do! ; ^ )

      As for Jeter saying anything at the presser that might have sounded negative … why criticize Jeter for this, when we've given Cashman a free pass for venting his feelings about the Soriano trade?

      • Hey, you know me, I'd never fault any player for chasing every penny he can get. More power to them. But yeah, Jeter's pouting act bothered me. For one thing, when his agent launched the first direct public salvo, it's hard for me to really side with him on the "taking it public" question. Maybe Jeter didn't have a hand in his negotiating strategy, in which case it's on him for not being more involved in his business if he wanted things done a certain way. But to me, it looks like more of the Derek Jeter double standard.

        And really, I'm not one for the greedy athlete moralizing, but the Yankees did pay well above market value for Jeter, and well above what they had to pay for him. If Jeter's really that unhappy about that, it is pretty galling, even to me.

        But I have no patience whatsoever for the notion that we aren't allowed to discuss aspects of Derek Jeter the baseball player because Jeter doesn't want them talked about. Though as you say, those are Harper's words, not necessarily Jeter's.

        • Brien, we've been through the "he said, she said" debate over the Jeter negotiations. Neither Jeter nor the Yankees' brass exactly distinguished themselves there, though we can expect negotiations of this kind to get a little messy. I agree with you, Jeter bears some responsibility for the conduct of his agent. I doubt at this point that Jeter feels too terrible about the nine figures he's earned from the Yankees (plus endorsements), though all Yankees are now well advised to exercise leverage against management while they possess the leverage.

          Agreed, anything that takes place on the diamond is topic for fair discussion. I don't know about you, but I've been thinking for some time about where Jeter might move, and for that matter where A-Rod might move. I was surprised when the Yanks invested all that money in Mark Teixeira (as much as I love Teix), because 1B is where I thought A-Rod would finish HIS career. Now it looks like A-Rod is eventually headed for full-time DH. I expected that the Yanks would not pursue Werth or Crawford, because the Yanks may eventually need an open spot in the outfield for Jeter. (This is another reason why I liked the trade for a reasonably priced short-term commitment for Curtis Granderson.) The big question is where the Yanks are going to find the future left side of their infield. 3B is a position that the Yankees can buy, but top shortstops don't become free agents.

          And all this is fair topic for conversation.

  6. "Still, Cashman’s comments predictably started a media frenzy …" Interesting thought just occurred to me when I read that sentence. Isn't it smart business to try to generate news (hopefully positive) for your sports organization in the off-season so your fan-base will stay engaged for longer and thus potentially help your revenue income streams?

    It's certainly good business for the media to be able to frenzy over something that was casually brought up….

  7. A little off topic but the Yankees have to be a little more like the RedSox and run the team more like a business sometimes. Recent history has shown the RedSox do not overpay a fan favorite. For example, they let Nomar and Damon walk. They havent overpaid Varitek (the captain of the team). As much as people like to think the Yankees do not have a budget, they clearly do (granted its higher than most teams). By overpaying players like past their primes, fan favorites such as Jeter and Posada, it handcuffs the Yankees from making beneficial moves. Part of me thinks that Cashman is getting annoyed at how Epstein and others get credit for being great GMs but Cashman is just a checkwriter.