Ah, the New York Post: where Hal Steinbrenner’s statement that the Yankees will actually, you know, negotiate with Derek Jeter over his new contract gets the headline “Yankees Warn of ‘Messy’ Talks With Jeter.” (And by the way, why hasn’t the nickname Prince Hal ever stuck? Doesn’t anyone read Henry IV Part I, Henry IV Part II, or Henry V anymore? Hank’s nickname could be Falstaff. Let’s make it happen, people.) The actual quotes from Hal:
Derek and Mo, obviously we want them back. They’re hopefully lifelong Yankees. They’re great leaders. They’ve been great Yankees, but we’re running a business here,” Steinbrenner said. “Having said that, if there’s a deal to be done, it’s going to have to be a deal both sides are happy with. How long that takes could be frustrating to the fans. Maybe it won’t be, but we definitely want them back.”
In a shock to nobody, Steinbrenner said there is enough money to sign Jeter and Rivera, and a free agent…
…“There’s always the possibility that things could get messy.”
Ben at RAB has a good reasonable view of why this is pretty much all smoke and no fire, written after SI’s Jon Heyman floated the rumor (“industry sources suggest that he could“) that Jeter might want as many as six years in a deal, but before Jeter’s agent responded to Hal’s interview (or “fired back,” as the ESPN NY article would have it) over at AOL FanHouse with the shocking suggestion that his client was worth lots and lots of money:
“While it is not our intent to negotiate the terms of Derek’s free-agent contract in a public forum,” Casey Close told FanHouse, “we do agree with Hal’s and Brian (Cashman, the GM)’s recent comments that this contract is about business and winning championships.”
“Clearly, baseball is a business, and Derek’s impact on the sport’s most valuable franchise cannot be overstated. Moreover, no athlete embodies the spirit of a champion more than Derek Jeter.”
So it goes. This has been described as “battling it out publicly,” but agents are always spewing stuff like that; it’s part of Close’s job to be a dick, with the Yankees and with the media, so that Jeter doesn’t have to be. The Yankees can’t say they’ll give Jeter whatever he wants, and Jeter’s agent can’t say that Jeter doesn’t want a massive contract. The team isn’t going to sign Jeter to some crazy six-year deal, but they’re obviously going to overpay for him, and I would imagine they’ve made their peace with that; exactly how much they’ll overpay, and for exactly how long, are the details that will be worked out over the next few weeks.
I’ll never understand how, say, $15 million a year could seem like not enough to someone, but then, the Yankees are worth billions to Jeter’s millions, so I have no horse in that race. Anyway, Jeter is generally pretty smart about these things: his last contract was absolutely massive in its own right, but since it was a bit less than Alex Rodriguez’s and was signed shortly after that firestorm, he got very, very little criticism or resentment for it. It’s quite a trick to sign a deal that nets you an average of $18.9 million a year and makes you seem moderate and reasonable, but The Captain pulled it off, and I doubt he’s gotten any less savvy in the years since.
Of course it’s possible that negotiations will indeed get messy… but they certainly haven’t yet. Sit back, relax, pass the popcorn, and may the best negotiator win.
Discussion Question: If Derek Jeter “embodies the spirit of a champion,” what do the rest of the Yankees embody? And what about you, what do you embody? Right now, I’m pretty sure I “embody the spirit of a nap”.