Jeter talks a war of words (cont.)
A friend of Jeter's posed this question: Why not? Why can't Jeter leave? The friend pointed out that most of Jeter's dearest friends and allies are gone from the Yankees. Torre is gone. Mattingly is gone. George Steinbrenner is gone. Bernie Williams is gone. Tino Martinez is gone. The Core Four may still be there, but best friend Jorge Posada has been told he's lost his catching job and the other three remain free agents at the moment (all three, including Jeter, were declined arbitration by the Yankees).
Perhaps Yankees people are perplexed because other longtime Yankee stars of this era haven't always played hardball. They often seek to keep their legacy intact, and the result is that ballyhooed interlopers and imports from Jason Giambi to Carl Pavano to Kei Igawa are the ones who get overpaid. Andy Pettitte continues to take under-market deals to stay long after once leaving for a few more dollars back home in Houston. Mariano Rivera sets salary records for closers but no one would say he's overpaid. Retired outfielder Paul O'Neill was always happy to take very reasonable deals.
Jeter was never going to do that. He is competitive in every arena of his life. Jeter beat the Yankees for $5 million in arbitration in 1999 (that might have been the worst professional day of Cashman's highly successful career, as he received a verbal whipping at the hands of the Boss that day), and he got a $189-million, 10-year deal in 2001 after Steinbrenner mistakenly pulled a $118.5-million, seven-year deal off the table only a year earlier.
Close wouldn't comment on his asking price, but knowing Jeter, he noticed A-Rod's extension takes him through age 42. So it's hard to imagine Jeter being thrilled with less than that type of commitment, which would mean a six-year deal. He knows he's brought five championships to the Bronx (though only one of them came during his just-completed contract), and A-Rod only one. Some see Rodriguez's contract as an albatross in waiting. But the Yankees also know that A-Rod puts up 30 HRs and 100 RBIs "even when he's gimpy,'' as one Yankees person put it. Plus, as a power hitter he can eventually be moved to DH.
In 2007, Jeter had to watch his longtime rival get a $275-million extension with $30-million in milestone bonuses when Jeter knows that the brand and the franchise wasn't built on individual achievements but championships and at the time, A-Rod had yet to win one. Jeter won't get into the mud, but if you don't think it rankles him that Rodriguez received an extension after winning no championships for the Yankees that tops Jeter's career financial output, you don't know him.
A-Rod and Jeter have co-existed since A-Rod came to the Yankees in 2004. That doesn't mean Jeter loves him. Jeter has many great qualities, but he doesn't forgive easily, and Cashman's comments surely won't endear him to Jeter.
If Jeter does leave, the Yankees will take hits from fans and media. But as Cashman pointed out, they're used to it. There will be a hit to the brand, but perhaps not a permanent one. Even Ruth ended his career with the Boston Braves. Does anyone even remember or care? Does anyone recall Ruth as anything but a Yankees icon?
Ultimately, the Yankees can't take a chance -- however slim -- that Jeter walks out on them. A few extra million or an extra year won't hurt them. The Yankees' business plan has been so superb that this is like nickels in Warren Buffet's bank account.
The reality is that this has turned into a soap opera, and it didn't need to be that way. The Yankees surely will come up with a few bucks or maybe even add a year to ensure their icon stays, and the likelihood is that they will stage a photo-op makeup.
In the meantime, though, this has turned into the greatest show in town.
The Yankees are aware now that Mariano Rivera seeks a two-year deal, as was reported first by SI.com. But the guess is that those negotiations won't turn as nasty as the ones involving his good friend Jeter.
The Tigers made a great move to sign Victor Martinez, whose $50 million contract is only awaiting a physical and signature. He's a very nice compliment to superstar Miguel Cabrera and is believed to have sought slightly less money than Adam Dunn.
Martinez's departure will hurt the Red Sox, who either didn't want him as much (they offered a two year deal during the season) or mis-read a market that favors the players more than anyone expected. The Red Sox eventually got to $36 million for three years or $42 million for four for V-Mart. But his friend CC Sabathia correctly predicted he would leave soon after the two-year offer was made.
The Red Sox very much like Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and they may have little choice but to see whether their faith is well-placed, with V-Mart and John Buck (Marlins) now off the board. The loss of offense is expected to be made up by coming signings. They are still talking to free agents Adrian Beltre, Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth. Kevin Youkilis has been training for a possible move back to third base, according to a Red Sox person, in the event Beltre goes elsewhere (his price also appears a lot higher than Boston or anyone else anticipated). They could sign a free agent first baseman, but the guy they really like is Adrian Gonzalez, who could become a more serious trade target if the Padres don't start the season like they're going to contend.
Terry Collins was a hit at the press conference introducing him as Mets manager -- though of course it is overshadowed in New York by the Jeter talks. Collins did seem inspirational in his first appearance as Mets manager, but whether Collins can avoid the pitfalls that got him in previous stops in Houston and Anaheim remains to be seen. The two year contract seems to put finalists Chip Hale and Wally Backman in play for 2013. Bob Melvin, the other finalist, is expected to leave the organization.
Omar Minaya will talk to new Mets GM Sandy Alderson about a position at some point. Minaya has loyalty to Fred Wilpon but it's hard to imagine him staying with all that's happening. It's interesting to note, though, that Collins, Melvin and Hale were all hired for the Mets by Minaya.
The Mets say centerfield is an open position, but the likelihood is that Carlos Beltran will be asked to move to rightfield, with Angel Pagan the likely centerfielder.
Good to see great baseball man Willie Randolph land the job as Buck Showalter's bench coach in Baltimore. It was interesting to see two longtime close friends of Showalter -- Brian Butterfield and Don Wakamatsu -- turn the job down, while Randolph, who worked well with Showalter but wasn't seen as particularly close to the autocratic Showalter, take that same job.
It's time baseball put a stop to that sketchy practice where a team can make a deal with a player to offer arbitration so long as the player agrees to decline it in advance. If a team wants to avoid arbitration with a player, it shouldn't offer it, and it doesn't deserve a draft choice for a player it doesn't want.
The BBWAA went eight-for-eight in its awards choices this year, with the eighth and final winner, Josh Hamilton, richly deserving the AL MVP that he got on Tuesday. Hamilton and Cabrera, who finished second in the voting, are two great stories of triumph over personal issues, though Hamilton's depths of drug and alcohol addiction were much better documented and obviously a lot deeper than Cabrera's bout with alcohol.
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