Friday, November 19, 2010

Derek Jeter and Greed

The Yankees are ready to offer Derek Jeter a three year, $50 million dollar contract.  It looks as if that won't be enough, as Jeter apparently wants something closer to five years and $100 million.  Is Jeter, always said to be one of the game's smartest players, a moron?  In 2010 Jeter had career lows in home runs, batting average, slugging percentage, and on base percentage.  Despite being awarded a gold glove (preposterously), advanced defensive statistics placed him well below average.  Does he know the going rate for 36 year old shortstops coming off career worst years?  It certainly isn't $100 million.  Jeter's 2010 stats are remarkably similar to those of Marco Scutaro who is going into the second year of a two year, $12.5 million dollar contract.  Based solely on his on field, statistical value, that's probably about what Jeter's worth--two to three years at $5-10 million per year.

Ah, but we can't forget, Derek Jeter is a Yankee legend.  He means so much more than numbers to the Yankees.  He's the Captain.  He's Mr. November.  He once dove into the stands.  He's the heir to the legacy of Ruth and Gehrig, Dimaggio and Berra, Mantle and Maris.  All this is true.  Jeter is way more valuable to the Yankees than he is on the open market.  But the Yankees have reportedly offered him three years at $50 million, somewhere between double and triple what he could get on the open market.  It seems they're being more than fair. 

Jeter is coming off a contract that paid him $189 million over the last ten years.  Only one player in baseball history has ever signed a bigger contract.  The Yankees have taken care of him.  In turning down their current contract offer, he's being greedy and stupid.  What's he going to do if the Yankees play hardball and say take it or leave it?  Will he go around the league saying, "The Yankees are offering me $50 million, can you best that?"  He'll get laughed out of the room. 

The Yankees have already paid Derek Jeter more money than he'll be able to spend in a lifetime.  They're currently offering him at least twice as much money as anyone else would.  Has he no pride?  In asking for $100 million, roughly $80 million more than anyone else would pay him, he risks turning himself into a multi-million dollar charity case.  At this point in his career he simply is not worth anywhere near that much money, and he must know it.  His quest for more money is shameless.  He's preying on the emotions of the Yankees brass and Yankees fans who love him for all he's done and all he's won. 

In the end, Jeter needs the Yankees more than the Yankees need Jeter.  He's an iconic player because he's been so great and had so much success, and it's all been with one team.  Great athletes don't do much damage to their their legacies by finishing their career with a different team.  Does anyone care that Willie Mays played for the Mets, that Joe Namath played for the Rams, or that Michael Jordan played for the Wizards?  Not really.  We remember Mays' Giants hat falling off as he catches Vic Wertz's fly ball.  We remember Namath's Jets beating the Colts, just as he said they would.  We remember Jordan shooting over Bryon Russell for a sixth Bulls title.   For the most part, we remember the good stuff.  But if any damage was done, it certainly wasn't to the Giants, Jets, or Bulls--it was to the athlete who couldn't quite stick it out with one team for his whole career.  Jeter's fifteen years are secure in Yankee history.  They're not going away and they won't be tarnished by what happens now.  It's Jeter's legacy, not the Yankees', that's still on the line and it's his greed that's to blame.


  1. Jeter needs the Yankees and you need Jeter. Every baseball fan needs Jeter. Every Red Sox fan needs Jeter. Like it or not, somewhere in the heart of every Red Sox fan a little flame burns bright for Jeter. You respect him, and you hate that you do. You look forward to every Red Sox/Yankees series because you want to see him beat. If you had no respect for him it wouldn't matter. But a little part of every Red Sox fan will die when Marco Scutaro is starting at shortstop for the Yankees.
    And Jeter's greediness? He play[ed] for the Yankees. Is there really any more to say on that?
    The Gold Glove thing is the biggest non-issue since the media cacophony when he feigned the hit by pitch. He had something like 6 errors all season. Ok, he's 36 and he's lost some range, fine. But that doesn't account for all the times he played a pull hitter a shade into the hole because he knows Petitte likes to throw the guy low and inside breaking balls. How many times was he in the perfect position on the relay, when if he was two steps deeper he never would've cut the guy down at third? What about all the situational plays? Has anyone broken down in what innings those errors came in? I'll take 6 errors in the first 3 innings of games over 1 error in the 9th. The intangibles that Jeter brings to the shortstop position are countless, and how about we leave it that way. The more we analyze and scrutinize an award like the Gold Glove, the less its luster. No one wants that. He was the best shortstop, as voted by managers and coaches he played against. Francona voted for him because he remembers Jeter telling A-Rod to play a few steps in, anticipating a bunt. Sure enough A-Rod charged and nailed Pedroia by half a step. Yeah it was a great play by A-Rod, but give me that shortstop on my team every day.
    This is a great blog.

  2. You can't blame Jeter for trying to get every penny he can from the Yankees. Not because they owe it to him, but because that's how the business works. Yes, he will be overpaid, but the Yankees are typically forced to overpay free agents, and he has no obligation to take less than he can get. The burden is on the Yankees, not Jeter, to not to overpay him in dollars/years.

    And while Derek is certainly not worth the money he is going to get, especially if last year was the beginning of a steep decline and not a fluke, it's not like the Yankees have a lot of other options. Even last year, the worst of his career, Jeter was one of the better offensive shortstops in the American League. Yes, his defense is poor, but that's been the case for his whole career and his offensive value has outweighed his defensive shortcomings. There are no good free agent SS this year and the Yankees don't have a replacement in house. Eduardo Nunez has little to no value offensively or defensively, and the Yankees next best SS prospect, Cito Culver, isn't even playing full season minor league ball yet.

    Jeter for two or three years (although I suspect he'll probably get a fourth year, to my chagrin), is the best of some bad options.

  3. Mick-

    The maddening thing about the gold glove is that according to every advanced defensive metric, Jeter wasn't just an average fielder, he was awful, dead last among shortstops with some of the ratings. These stats aren't perfect, but they do a much better job of assigning a value to what happens on the field than errors or fielding percentage. Errors don't account for losing a step or two in range, or for shading a hitter to pull, they only tell us what a player did on plays that the official scorer deems he should have made. Ratings like UZR and WAR account for things like these, things we used to call intangibles, but with new statistics are becoming more and more tangible. The tools exist to accurately value a player's defensive contributions but instead of using them, managers gave the gold glove to Jeter based on reputation, anecdotes, and misleading statistics. Thanks for the comment.


    By all means, Jeter should try to get as much money as he can, you're right, that is how the system works. I'm still going to call him greedy though. My issue is that the Yankees already offered him more money than he's going to get from anyone else. Their offer is overwhelmingly generous. Career worst years at age 36 are almost always the beginning of a decline, unless PEDs are involved. The Yankees should stick to their guns at 3 years $50 million. Jeter has no bargaining power. No one is going to pay him more than that, he and the Yankees both know it, and you know he wants to retire a Yankee. In the end they'll work it out. Jeter deperately needs the Yankees and they kind of need him and they have money to burn. If somehow it does fall apart, Orlando Cabrera, the best Vermont Expo of all time, is available, but it would break my heart if he ever became a Yankee. Thanks for commenting.

  4. But does the UZR take into account that players don't play in the same place on each pitch? How does the WAR calculate a reliable rating when hitting is involved? I agree that baseball is a game of statistics, and the ability to analyze and synthesize those statistics will undoubtedly give a general manager a distinct advantage in determining a player's worth. But they can't be the only factor. Or else the MLB network wouldn't exist and instead everyone would just watch the pinwheel from Mr. Hyde's 8th grade fantasy baseball class. Obviously you are not asserting that the player with the highest UZR and WAR should have won the Gold Glove. You are only saying that Jeter SHOULDN'T have won it. But the statistical logic is there, and there are dangers in stretching that logic to the point where at the end of a season we will know the award winners based on a mathematical equation. I like watching Jeter play the shortstop position. It's aesthetically pleasing to see him make a play in the hole. Does this warrant a Gold Glove? I guess not. But it could certainly warrant an extra year or two on a deal.