Weak move, Captain. Weak.
|Derek Jeter's numbers took a nose dive last season. Now he's asking for a huge free-agent deal? (Getty Images)|
Jeter's going for it, baby. He's trying to screw the Yankees like a Hollywood starlet. The Yankees are offering Jeter -- coming off a season in which he hit .270 (45 points below his career average) and had an OPS of .710 (127 points below his career OPS) -- a deal believed to be worth $45 million over three years.
That's guaranteed, of course, because all Major League Baseball deals are guaranteed. Jeter has had the fortune of playing the richest sport in the country, represented by the strongest union in sports, for the richest team, at a time when the link between payroll-and-postseason is at an all-time high. And he has used that good fortune to make more than $205 million in his career. That's pretty good.
Jeter wants more.
More to the point, Jeter wants more ... despite not deserving more. Hell, he doesn't deserve what he has been offered. Three years and $45 million? Not at age 36, not coming off a season where he struck out 106 times, hit 10 home runs in 663 at-bats and had a WAR -- wins above replacement, a statistic that measures a player's actual on-field worth to his team -- of 1.3. That means Jeter helped the Yankees win 1.3 more games in 2010 than they would have won with an average player. Andruw Jones had a 1.4 WAR for the Chicago White Sox, and Andruw Jones is over the hill.
Just like Derek Jeter.
But the Jeter welfare bill is gaining momentum, with agent Casey Close pushing for more money and more years because that's what agents do, and with Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News urging the Yankees to "pay the man ... overpay the man." Because that's what Mike Lupica does. He carries the water for Jeter, and he carries it like a champ.
You'd think Jeter would be above a bailout, but maybe this was to be expected of a guy who has never had to fight for anything in his life. He's a genetic lottery winner, and not just because he's the son of a doctor. He was physically gifted to play whatever sport he wanted, then drafted by the Yankees in the first round in 1992 and surrounded for 15 years by the best teammates money could buy. He's even considered one of the most handsome athletes in the world.
And a good guy to boot? Absolutely. Classy. Philanthropic. The total package.
Which is what Jeter, and Close, want the Yankees to reward. They want the Yankees to reward the sum of Derek Jeter, the icon, the guy who plays shortstop and endorses the top products and talks nicely to the media and dates pop divas and Ms. Universe winners and, currently, the Sexiest Woman Alive.
"Derek's significance to the team is much more than just stats," Close told Lupica in a story this weekend. "They continue to argue their points in the press and refuse to acknowledge Derek's total contribution to their franchise."
Right, Casey -- his total contribution. Not just that pesky baseball stuff, but his face! Pay him for his face! Pay him because he's handsome. Pay him because he's famous. Pay him because he won all those World Series in the late 1990s, all by himself, not at all because he played with Clemens and Rivera and Pettitte and Williams and Sheffield and Giambi and O'Neill and Strawberry and Posada and Martinez and Teixeira and Sabathia and Cone and Wells.
Meanwhile, on planet Earth, there is the reality to consider, the reality being that the Derek Jeter who did so many great things on the field is gone. And he's not coming back. Jeter won a curious Gold Glove this past season, a lifetime achievement award for a guy with diminished range, but offensively he didn't have a mere lull -- he fell off the cliff. His batting average dropped 64 points from 2009. His OPS plummeted 161 points. Power, steals, RBI, everything was down. Everything but strikeouts. Those rose more than 15 percent.
The website Baseball-Reference.com searches its enormous database to match players at similar stages of their career, and from age 29-31, Jeter compared most obviously to Alan Trammell. From age 32-36, Jeter compared to Roberto Alomar.
Both of those guys, Trammell and Alomar, hit the wall at age 36. And I'm not cherry-picking through that website to find two guys who slumped at age 36. Those are the two players -- the first two players -- provided by Baseball-Reference.com as comparisons to Jeter. See for yourself.
Alomar retired at age 36, when his numbers were almost identical to Jeter's: a .263 batting average and a .713 OPS.
Trammell, who like Jeter had a fabulous season at age 35 -- hit .329 with an .885 OPS -- fell to a Jeter-like .267 and .722 at age 36. At age 38, Trammell had retired.
When Jeter turns 38, the Yankees are willing to pay him $15 million. They're willing to pay him another $15 million when he turns 39.
For Derek Jeter, that isn't enough. He wants more money, and more years. He wants to be paid at age 40, too -- and not a measly $15 million. Not for all Jeter does for the Yankees, on the field and off it.
It's not easy, dating Minka Kelly.
Pay the man, Yankees. Look how he's slaving for you.