"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Getting Old Fast

When you watch as much baseball as most of us do, it’s hard not to feel fatigued at times, like when a pitcher gets a dead-arm. Add blogging to the mix–and not just blogging during the season but every day of the year–and it’s hard not to just want to turn everything off and feel some sense of calm. All this information, all the access we have at our disposal, is addicting and exhausting. Not only that, but information is processed at light speed these days. Hell, blogs are practically old-fashioned now in the Twitter-Age.

What we sacrifice with technology is time to think and contemplate, to digest. I got to thinking about this last night watching Derek Jeter, who continues to struggle offensively. What’s wrong? Is he hiding an injury, is this the start of the finish? Maybe he’s just playing the way most 36-year-old shortstops do. Sure, he made a nice play in the field, and yup, there he was giving Marcus Thames a great straight-face after Thames hit another long home run. Same ol’ Jeter, as if nothing was wrong.

I don’t pretend to know if this is just a slump for Jeter, an off-year, or what. What I think is compelling is that he’s having his worst season as a major leaguer in a walk year. Things have always come up roses for Jeter. Not that they’ve come easily, but he’s never really been up against it. His legacy is secure, he’s going to join the 3,000 hit club soon. How much more baseball does he have left? And at what level?

Can a play age gracefully these days? I wonder.

Share: Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share via email %PRINT_TEXT


1 monkeypants   ~  Aug 31, 2010 9:22 am

[0] And they're off....

2 monkeypants   ~  Aug 31, 2010 9:26 am

OK, now a more substantive comment. It does seem that Jeter is battling some leg issues (http://tinyurl.com/2b6skyz and more comments have surfaced in the last few days), though he denies anything and it is not known for how long if in fact injuries have been nagging him.

Still, if true, "battling injury" and "entering steep decline" are not mutually exclusive.

Whatever the case, even if he gets really hot over the last month....and I have more or less lost any hope that will happen this year...he is going to end the season with the worst offensive numbers of his career.

3 Alex Belth   ~  Aug 31, 2010 9:39 am

Then again, if he has a good October all is forgiven...

So what are we looking at? Realistically? The Yanks give him $100 million for 5 years? I'm not talking about what they SHOULD give him (3 or 4 years)....

4 williamnyy23   ~  Aug 31, 2010 9:45 am

Very impressive Alex...you managed to turn the topic of "blog fatigue" into a very thought provoking post. I guess that's why we (at least I) never get tired of this game and all the ways to consume it.

Speaking of Jeter, I think the inside numbers reveal enough of a disturbing trend to suggest that this isn't just a blip on the screen. Having said that, it is possible that he could make an adjustment (i.e., concession) and rebound going forward. What I think may be done, however, are the days of Jeter being able to wait so long, especially on inside pitches.

Your point about bad timing is the most interesting one because it seems as if that's one thing Jeter has never had. If his contract had ended last year, he would have had his $80mn/4-year extension easy. Who knows...he may have gotten more. Now, you have to wonder. Will the Yankees be willing to be so generous for his past performance, and will Jeter demand the appreciation? This has the potential to get ugly, but hopefully both sides realize their unique value to each other.

From a fan's perspective, I do kind of wish I could just enjoy Jeter at the end, as I did Mattingly, without feeling the need to analyze his performance. Even though Donnie Baseball was in a sharp decline, I don't seem to recall feeling the same angst, nor frustration. That might have been because of the relative strength of their teams, but I think it is also partly because of the information overload.

5 williamnyy23   ~  Aug 31, 2010 9:50 am

[3] I can't see the Yankees giving him $100mn/5 years. I really hope Jeter doesn't ask for that much. If he does, this could be unpleasant off season. A fair offer is more like $60mn/4 years, perhaps with some milestone achievements and marketing-related payouts. The Yankees and Jeter could be/should be lifetime partners who make eachother a lot of money. Hopefully, they don't drop the ball this offseason.

6 Sliced Bread   ~  Aug 31, 2010 9:53 am

Just like you can't ignore his fallen line drive rate, and his high double play rate, you can't ignore Jeter's more pedestrian stats: hits, walks, runs, RBI which suggest he's still contributing substantially more than the average shortstop. He's not leading the team on offense, but he's contributing.

[3] $100 mill for 4 or 5 would be my guess, plus bonuses for passing milestones instead of kidney stones.

7 Alex Belth   ~  Aug 31, 2010 9:55 am

5) That'st he other thing. I think it'll say something about Jeter's character as a team player depending on what he asks for.

I'd give Jeter the $100 million for three years and the dough is a hearty thank you.

8 omarcoming   ~  Aug 31, 2010 9:57 am

I think that the less we fans try to put a $ figure on Jeter, going forward, the better. He will work it out behind closed doors. One day the newspaper will say that he has signed a lifetime contract which will let him play as long as he wants then do PR.
Nunez looks like a capable caddie.

9 Sliced Bread   ~  Aug 31, 2010 10:02 am

[7] I don't think it's a matter of what Jeter will ask for, but more what the Yanks will offer.
Jeter's pursuit of 3000 is worth something to the Yanks and his fans, which is why the team will guarantee him the required years without him having to ask.

10 kenboyer made me cry   ~  Aug 31, 2010 10:04 am

Is this the final act for Jeter, or an off year? Considering just one year ago he had a top 5 career year, it too soon to write him off. I do think he does have unstated injury issues.

What will he want in his next contract? I personally believe that Jeter feels he doesn't need the money, has a low ego need (compared to most), and will not continue to play unless he is effective. The dream of catching Yogi's ring on every finger achievement must be gone. He has heard the stories of other greats who regretted hanging around diluting their career numbers (Mantle is on the record about this). He also loves playing the game, not following the game like Arod. At some point, Jeter would probably like some sort of personal family life and the clock is ticking. Mo has stated that he does not want a long term contract after this year. I think Jeter will do the same.

I cannot claim to be inside the head of Derek Jeter, but I get the feeling that he will only ask for a two year deal with maybe an option year. Now that, would only add to his legacy.

11 Sliced Bread   ~  Aug 31, 2010 10:06 am

[4] I follow Jeter the same way I followed Mattingly. He doesn't have to be the best player at his position in the league. As long as he's contributing I'm happy to watch and root for him.

12 williamnyy23   ~  Aug 31, 2010 10:09 am

[6] Jeter is still an above average offensive SS, but that doesn't mean he is still worth $20mn and, perhaps even more sticky, it doesn't mean he should be batting atop the lineup. The money issue may be easy when compared to the time when Jeter is moved down in the lineup (it's kind of ironic that Jeter's bat may actually precipitate a move before his glove).

[7] I think we all agree that Jeter and the Yankees both made out well in this most recent contract, so I don't think either side owes the other too much. By his association with the Yankees, Jeter has made and will make millions more than his salary. Meanwhile, the Yankees get another Joe DiMaggio to trot out for the next 50 years.

I really hope they can stettle this without acrimony.

[9] If I am Cashman, I might ask Jeter's agent what he is looking for before making an offer.

13 williamnyy23   ~  Aug 31, 2010 10:12 am

Also worth noting, the Yankees have another legendary player who is a free agent this off season, and he happens to be having one of the best seasons of his career.

Mariano's new contract hasn't been thought of much, but he is inline for another big payday. If he asks for $45mn/3 years, how can the Yankees say no?

14 RIYank   ~  Aug 31, 2010 10:21 am

I figure they start with some estimate of Jeter's 'market value', and then tack on extra for the obvious extra value he has to the Yankees (in selling tickets, drawing attention, PR). That doesn't seem to me like it would get anywhere near $100M/4 years, but what do I know?

(I'm not convinced that Jeter is a low-ego guy, kenb-cryer. He's been our shortstop for these past few years, if you see what I mean.)

I remember Mariano saying that he'd be perfectly satisfied to play out a string of 1-year contracts. If he doesn't change his mind, then that's ideal. Until he declines, $15M/year is just fine. When he does decline, he'll know.

15 Sliced Bread   ~  Aug 31, 2010 10:47 am

I caught the start of one of the Little League World Series games last week. The players from Toms River, NJ were introducing themselves on camera, and sharing the name of their favorite ballplayer.
A few savvy kids said Cano, but most of the 13 year old boys, easily 80 percent or more of them said Jeter.
Toms River is about 75 miles, or 1 and a half hours from the Bronx. Geographically much closer to Phillies territory.
Jeter's star power still reaches far and wide in the so-called "Yankees Universe." Stars like him don't burn out quickly regardless of their diminished range and OPS+ percentages. Like it or not, Jeter (barring injury) will be playing shortstop, and batting high in the order for years to come. I have no beef with the Captain.

16 kenboyer made me cry   ~  Aug 31, 2010 10:48 am

[14] You might be right on his ego, but since things have been going his way for 15+ years it's hard to tell. What we do see is his pride, and it just doesn't seem like he'll hang around if he can't produce.

And you can call me Jon if you'd like.

17 Professor Longnose   ~  Aug 31, 2010 10:58 am

Hey, maybe Girardi will go to the Cubs and Jeter can become a player manager. He could then transition out of a starting role but still have, and get paid for, all his "icon value."

18 monkeypants   ~  Aug 31, 2010 11:15 am

[3] OK, I'm back. I think we should not even speculate on the money---my guess is that it will be a lot, probably in the 15 to 20 million/year range, maybe a bit more.

The more interesting question will be the number of years. After last season I assumed Jeter would have a more typical Jeter year, adjusted down for age (say 110 or 115 OPS+) and be granted a four year deal no questions asked.

But neither Jeter nor the team will ignore this season. My guess is that it will be two years plus an option, but I would not be surprised at a three year deal with some sort of option.

What I would love to know are the conversations that simply MUST be going on behind closed doors about playing time, role, position, etc. Now, we all know that Jeter is not going to move to the outfield or anything drastic like that. But will the team be frank in saying they envision him as, say, a 120-130 game-per-year player, resting him a couple times a week a la Posada?

Or, would they dare to open the position change can of worms? Perhaps they suggest that he move to 3B next year or, more likely, the year after (once he has safely passed 300 hits). Ah, whither Arod? His nagging hip may open the door to move him to more or less permanent DH, where he can pursue 800 HRs for just about as long as he wants.

I realize that the last paragraph is pure fantasy on my part. What I am trying to do, though, is change the axis of the discussion. Most talk of Jeter's upcoming contract seems to assume that he remains the full time starting SS for the duration of the contract: thus, the debate boils down to how long we all think that is practical. But I wonder if Jeter is the type of player to accept a more reduced role if it extends his career. Other greats have, such as Cal Ripken. Hell, Omar Vizquel (well, hardly great) is still bouncing around at age 42, now as a sort of starter/backup 3B. In any case, I am not convinced that Jeter will be unwilling to accpept reduced playing time in the future.

And who knows, maybe 30 games off each year, especially against tough RHP, might not be the tonic he needs to squeeze a couple more nice seasons out of his bat.

19 Sliced Bread   ~  Aug 31, 2010 11:40 am

[18] Interesting thoughts, but I don't think position change, or reduced role will come up in Jeter's contract negotiation. I imagine the discussions will only concern dollars/years/bonuses.

The position change/reduced role discussions probably won't come until further down the road. I'm guessing 2 years from now.

20 Yankster   ~  Aug 31, 2010 12:11 pm

[18] For me the question is whether he will be able to play below average but adequate defense at SS. If not, the Yankees have a serious conundrum. The lightest hitting position that Jeter can play in is SS; you can't hide his bat anywhere else. As Jeter's bat declines, he's not getting shifted to a position that has a higher average offense. That would make Jeter even more below average. And cost the team more as a whole (because they would have to find someone to compensate, like Jeter at his best, that is dramatically better than his peers at the same position, and that's very hard).

So Jeter will play at SS and then at utility infielder and then retire. I have no idea how much he gets paid or for how long, but without the history (which you can't take away, but I am anyway), he can't be worth much more than two years at $6 mil each. Certainly less than Damon and Matsui got.

21 monkeypants   ~  Aug 31, 2010 12:40 pm

[20] The lightest hitting position that Jeter can play in is SS; you can’t hide his bat anywhere else.

But you only need to "hide" his bat if he continues to hit like he has this year. His career OPS+ is 120. Let's say he bats more like 105 OPS+ for a few seasons (better than this year but worse than his career numbers). This season in the AL, the average 3B is hitting 99 OPS+, the average 2B 97 OPS+, the average DH 104 OPS+. So, Jeter would actually be a (slight) offensive asset any of those three positions. He would also outhit the average CFG, but that ship has long sailed.

Now, if he continues to hit as he has this season, and even decline from these numbers, then we have to have a different discussion.

22 ny2ca2dc   ~  Aug 31, 2010 1:24 pm

[18,20,21] I don't really see the advantage of a position shift for Jeter. I'm kind of assuming his fielding and hitting with decline in very very rough parallel - this year his fielding hasn't declined too much, but his hitting has. Maybe next year his hitting rebounds a bit and his fielding falls off a bit. He'll likely be a net positive for the next couple years, if mostly because of the general crapyness of SSs.

I think the bigger issue is how the team is going to replace Jeter in the medium term. If Hanley or Tulo walks thru the door then sure, shift Jeter to 3B and ARod to DH or Jeter to OF or whatever - go wild. But going forward if the Yankees can't count on outsized production from C and SS (or even 3B, reallly), then where does the league leading offense get generated? Cano and Tex and (probably) Swish are studs, and maybe Gardner keeps it up and Curtis gets better and even maybe Montero can beef up C, but still where is that non-embarassing SS in 2012/13+?

But beyond that, I'd really like to see the Yankees try very hard to convert some of the prospects (including the top guys, no magical thinking required) to young stars. Basically, more Granderson trades (which was the right idea). Joba, Gardner, Montero, & Brackman for Hanley? Sure.

23 williamnyy23   ~  Aug 31, 2010 1:29 pm

[22] I agree on both counts...unless he absolutely falls off a defensive cliff, the Yankees should keep him at SS while they look for the heir apparent (maybe it's this season's #1 draft pick). My bigger concern is continuing to bat him at the top of the lineup if he is in a permanent decline. If so, the Yankees and Jeter need to consider moving him down against right handers. I understand why you can't do that this season, but if his struggles continue next year, it has to be on the table.

24 Shaun P.   ~  Aug 31, 2010 2:47 pm

[13] Mo is the easy one - he'll re-sign, and no one will say a word about the money, because he's Mo and there's no one like him.

[23] Jeter can make that easy by volunteering to hit lower in the order. Will he? I have no idea.

I think that if the Yanks had the next "Derek Jeter - SS" on hand and ready to take over at SS full-time, they would probably play hardball with the original. Or at least they would have the leverage to do so. But they don't, and so I think Jeter is likely going to get whatever he asks for. And I have no problem with that. Its not like the Yanks can't afford him to continue paying him $20M/year - no matter how much or little playing time he gets, no matter how well or poorly he hits and plays in the field.

I'm also not worried about Jeter's offense. The advantage the Yanks had for a long time with Jeter at SS is that they were getting lots of offense at a traditionally non-offense position. It helped compensate for the less offense they were getting out of traditional offense positions - first base some years, left field until Matsui, right field some years, third until A-Rod, catcher when Girardi played, second base at times, etc.

Why can't the Yanks switch now, and compensate by having far-above average/replacement offensive players at other positions? As an example, the average AL DH has hit .250/.327/.427 so far in 2010, the average AL SS .261/.314/.361 (just a bit below Jeter's .268/.333/.378). Let's say Jeter hits just a little worse than the average AL SS next year. If the Yanks' DH (mostly Montero, he dreams) hits .275/.360/.520, that will beyond compensate.

Is it ideal? Of course not. Is it practical? I think so.

Finally, I'm not worried about Jeter's defense. The top 4 in the Yanks' rotation next year, I believe, we hope, will be CC, AJ, Hughes, and Cliff Lee. What do those 4 have in common? They all strike guys out, a lot. What do most of the bullpen arms also do? Strike guys out, a lot. When you pitchers get a lot of outs via K (Yanks are 5th in AL in Ks), you don't have to worry about your defense so much. 3 of those 4 starters tend to be guys who also get a lot more outs via the air than on the ground (CC is the exception) - meaning that the OF defense (which is excellent!) is going to be slightly more important than the IF defense.

Jeter will stay because its the smart thing for him to do, and no one will give him more money than the Yanks. The Yanks will keep him because they don't really have a good alternative on hand. I don't see any disasters coming because Derek Jeter keeps playing SS the majority of the time over the next 2 years.

25 monkeypants   ~  Aug 31, 2010 2:55 pm

[23, 24] Maybe I am too pro-Jeter, but I suspect that he will bat wherever they put him in the line up, whether he likes it or not. It really falls on the manager to write him in one day at #6 or #9 or wherever he slots.

[22] OK, I see--you're talking about Jeter as the starting SS for the next couple of years, then utility IF/retirement after that. Then we are in agreement, at least for the short-term future.

26 Yankster   ~  Aug 31, 2010 3:04 pm

[24] Great analysis. As much as I think Jeter is in decline, he's not in decline from this year's performance, he's in decline from his career performance and I think he is actually likely to regress slightly upward from this years debacle (which was still above average for the position!). The average of the 7 different projections for Jeter's OPS this year is .811 vs the .711 he is putting up. Take a look at his projections for this year to get a sense of how unlikely (anomalous) his numbers are:

To me that would suggest he still has at least a couple of years as an offensive asset or as a net neutral as a SS, which is probably all the excuse the Yankees need to sign him to a significantly above market contract. I still see $20 mil as a reach though, unless it's a 10 year player/special assistant contract heavily front-weighted, which would be an easy way out for everybody.

27 Start Spreading the News   ~  Aug 31, 2010 4:42 pm


Jeter is only 15 singles, 2 doubles, 2 homers and 5 walks away from being is usual .304/.372/.426 self. He is one standard deviation below his projection.

So is it luck, injury or decline?

feed Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share via email
"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver