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!

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.

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.

  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.

  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.

  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.