"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

A Sticky Situation

Lincoln Mitchell asks the question: Does Derek Jeter have anything left?

If Jeter continues to hit so poorly, the short term rational decision for the Yankees to make would be to offer Jeter a far smaller contract after this year, but there is a certain myopia in that as well. The Yankee mystique may be nonsense, but it is lucrative nonsense; and Jeter represents a big part of that mystique. Keeping Jeter in pinstripes for his entire career therefore takes on a measure of import beyond simply immediate baseball questions. Jeter, the greatest Yankee since Mickey Mantle, is expected to join Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig and a small handful of others as all-time great players, which will also probably include Mariano Rivera, who spent their entire careers with the Yankees. If this does not happen, many casual fans will be angry with the team, but if the only way to do this is by overpaying for a poor fielding backup infielder, the Yankees will have no good options.

The dilemma exists for Jeter as well. He is worth more to the Yankees than to other teams, but he also benefits from spending his whole career with the Yankees. This suggests that there is ample economic space for the Yankees and Jeter to come to an agreement. The baseball questions, however, are not so simple. Jeter has carefully created an image for himself as the consummate team player, but this will be rapidly undermined if he spends the last part of his career chasing milestones and records while collecting a big paycheck while hurting his team. Moreover, if the Yankees feel compelled to play Jeter due to his fame and big contract from 2011-2013, despite what may be seriously declining offensive skills, the team will be weaker for it.

(Thanks to Primer for the link.)

[Photo Credit: Boston Sports Pulse]

Tags:  Derek Jeter  lincoln mitchell

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1 Sliced Bread   ~  May 25, 2010 2:21 pm

as far as I'm concerned, no matter how Jeter performs, he's welcome to stick around as long as he wants.

2 Dimelo   ~  May 25, 2010 2:26 pm

[1] Agreed!

3 a.O   ~  May 25, 2010 2:29 pm

The Yankee mistique is not nonsense. Lincoln Mitchell can lick my balls.

I think Jeter will surprise us all and simply retire after this season, entering into some sort of personal services contract with the team to prepare him for his ownership goals.

4 bp1   ~  May 25, 2010 2:34 pm

Oh please not the annual "Is Jeter done" panic.

He came in 3rd in MVP voting last year, and played - by all measures not just the fan's rose colored glasses - excellent shortstop. People were lauding his improved range, better positioning, off-season workout changes, etc. etc. People even - gasp - say he deserved his gold glove award. No way.

And now - two months into the following season - time to write the obituary. He will soon be a "below average backup infielder". Maybe he can caddy for Pena if we're lucky.

This smacks to me like a reporter who doesn't have much else to write about and got a little lazy. It is SO EASY to write junk like that.

My "hack" alarm is going berzerk.

(grumble grumble)

[1] Amen to that.

5 williamnyy23   ~  May 25, 2010 2:36 pm

[1] I agree...I've kind of been pushing the Jeter in decline since late April when his numbers were actually very good, but that doesn't mean I want to bid farewell to him. Like Bernie, I am willing to give him at least one full season past his ability to the do the job.

[3] I think Jeter loves playing too much to walk away so soon. If his bat speed has slowed, which is what I suspect, he'll find away to compensate. The approach he is using now just isn't the right one.

6 bp1   ~  May 25, 2010 2:57 pm

Jeter started off this season like a house on fire, and now he's in a slump, so either the first month was a fluke and May really is a sign of serious career decline, or his hitting suffered when he got hit on the hand awhile back.

Man, I just hate this every single year. Is Jeter done? Is Mo done? Is Girardi going to keep his job? Would the Yankees be better off without A-Rod? Should Posada be moved to first base? Etc. Etc. Etc. Ad nauseum.

Makes my head hurt.

It's fair to reflect at the end of the season, but we're not even through May yet. Jeter was hitting great, and now he's scuffling.

Am I the only one who thinks he might be playing a bit banged up right now so we don't have a daily does of Ramiro Pena, given the state of the rest of the lineup?


(sorry - maybe I'm grumpy today)

7 rbj   ~  May 25, 2010 3:08 pm

[1] Ditto. Mo too.

I think Derek will recognize when the time has come and retire gracefully. I doubt he'll want to hang on as a backup shortstop for the Royals, just to collect a few more hits.

8 thelarmis   ~  May 25, 2010 3:11 pm

[1] i echo that, as well.

he's not retiring after this year.

he's not a backup infielder (yet)

he prolly is banged up.

he most likely will get hot again and go on a serious tear this summer.

9 cult of basebaal   ~  May 25, 2010 3:27 pm

Roberto Alomar Age 33: .336/.415/.541 .956
Roberto Alomar Age 34: .266/.331/.376 .708

1 more year as a starter and then he was done.

Now, this season has a long way to go and Jeter does seem to be picking it up a little lately, so I'm far, far from panicking and even farther from saying he's done, but players, even Hall of Fame level stars don't always age gracefully into eventual mediocrity, sometimes, it just goes bad ...

10 thelarmis   ~  May 25, 2010 3:30 pm

[9] party pooper. ; )

11 bp1   ~  May 25, 2010 3:36 pm

[9] True, but it seems like Jeter gets his temperature taken more often than others. Of course I'm sure it is because he *is* Jeter. Just like because it's Mariano Rivera, people tend to freak when he blows a save.

I remember at the beginning of last year all the writers who were digging up stats along the lines of "number of teams who won a world series with an x-year-old shortstop". Who had the last laugh?

It's like they're drooling over the prospect of Jeter falling apart, these writers. As if the more they write, the closer they're coming to being prophetic. Please! And (to me) it is a sign of laziness. Slow baseball day? Let's write about Jeter moving to center field. Or Rivera losing his cutter. Or A-Rod not reaching the HR record. Everyone will read it - but it's not very original or insightful.

Just stop! Someday these guys won't be able to do it anymore. Look at Bernie. Cashman was pretty ruthless. I can't imagine them offering Jeter a non-guaranteed contract to come to spring training and try out for a spot on the team, but you never know. I'm sure Bernie couldn't imagine it happening, either.

I just want to watch the games. If Jeter's is in his decline, then let me pay more attention so I can see him while he's still playing. Life moves too fast as it is, and he'll be reading a speech in Cooperstown in the blink of an eye.

12 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  May 25, 2010 4:15 pm

[5] "If his bat speed has slowed, which is what I suspect, he’ll find away to compensate. The approach he is using now just isn’t the right one."

Very apt point, william. Agreed, wholeheartedly. That's what good hitters do.

13 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  May 25, 2010 4:17 pm

[6] Yeah, it seems that have slumps over the years are very often attributed to injuries so I'd say it's likely. Of course, he could *both* be injured *and* in decline. No real way to know, is there?

14 Hank Waddles   ~  May 25, 2010 4:59 pm

To some degree, the announcers and reporters have to report on what they see, kind of the way Orel Hershiser went on about Jeter's declining range after he wasn't able to get to that ground ball up the middle on Sunday night. And like it or not, Jeter is an outlier. No one else in the history of the game has done what Jeter has done as a shortstop, so it's natural for people to wonder if he's declining. Like they say, when a twenty-five year old stops hitting, he's in a slump; when a thirty-five year old stops hitting, it might be time for him to retire. So whispers become questions and questions become columns. Here's one thing I can promise -- as long as Jeter's playing shortstop, people will be wondering how much he has left, no matter if he's winning Silver Sluggers and Gold Gloves, like he did just last season.

All that being said, I have been following Jeter's career since he was drafted. Back before the prevalence of the internet, I bought USA Today's Baseball Weekly every Wednesday so I could track his progress through the minor leagues. He has always been my favorite player, and because I'm forty years old, he will probably be my last favorite player. (At this age, I can't imagine myself becoming as emotionally invested in another player.) Because of all this, I hope he plays forever. I can't wait for him to get his 3.000th hit next year, and I hope he hangs on for six more years and another thousand hits. If he feels like moving to left field, great. If he wants to be a defensive liability at short, fine. I just want him in the lineup every day.

Is that selfish? I don't care. He's Derek Jeter.

15 thelarmis   ~  May 25, 2010 5:53 pm

[14] nice. and i still buy usa today's baseball (sports) weekly every wednesday. : )

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