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CBSSports.com Senior Writer

Yanks, cut drama and give Jeter fair offer for an icon


Derek Jeter held hostage, Day 40. ...

The bruised and battered captive, er, Captain, is brought into the plush Yankees offices in Tampa, Fla. It is Tuesday. It is time for another whipping. The Yankees brass is ready to get down to brass tacks. Maybe this time they'll tell the shortstop he can keep the $100 bills they routinely lose under the leather sofa cushions to supplement his dramatic cut in pay.

Derek Jeter has become the face and the voice of the New York Yankees and wants to keep getting paid like it. (Getty Images)  
Derek Jeter has become the face and the voice of the New York Yankees and wants to keep getting paid like it. (Getty Images)  
Jeter, dazed, dehydrated and blindfolded, is wearing a Movado watch, but it's old and the glass on its face is smashed. He's unshaven, as it's been weeks since his Gillette endorsement has allowed a new supply of razors.

He is wearing his Nikes. But they are, gasp, LAST YEAR'S model!

Gingerly, general manager Brian Cashman offers a Gatorade-soaked sponge and allows Jeter three or four licks at it. Endorsements are drying up more rapidly than the parched Jeter's tongue. In the background, Hank Steinbrenner is cackling, something about "Let him eat cake, hahaha ... hahaha ... HAHAHAHA!"

Jeter remembers the time he danced in that Visa commercial with Hank's Old Man. Those were good days. "If only he were still alive," the Captive Captain thinks. "Then none of this would be happening. ...

At least, this is how I imagine things went down at the big pow-wow Tuesday in Tampa. But then, sometimes in matters like this, I've got a dark and twisted mind.

I mean, come on, people. I don't care if the Yankees say they're going to pay Jeter in horses and chickens for the next three or four years. I don't care if Cashman last week actually did suggest that Jeter go test the open market if he doesn't like what the Yankees are offering.

There is a better chance that Joe DiMaggio will show up at next year's home opener with Marilyn Monroe on his arm than of Jeter signing elsewhere.

Did negotiations have to play out this way? No. The public posturing of the past 10 or so days has been unnecessary and ludicrous. But then, this is, as Sparky Lyle once said, the Bronx Zoo. Only the faces change.

First off, the Yankees should have figured this all out a year ago, before Jeter's 10-year, $189 million deal expired.

Failing that, Cashman's carefully placed public comments along with the off-the-record campaign conducted by the Yankees through leaks and anonymous sources has been embarrassing. At 36, Jeter clearly is not the same player he once was. But this concerted campaign emanating from the Yankees' offices has unnecessarily diminished the stature of one of the greatest Yankees in history.

Is that really worth it simply to gain leverage?

Above all, no matter what was happening on the field, what Jeter consistently has provided throughout his 16 years in the Bronx has been grace and class. Always, he's taken the high road. He's regularly deflected controversies instead of fueling them.

Shame on the Yankees for not returning the favor.

Jeter, better than anyone, has understood what it means to be a Yankee. Small example: When LaTroy Hawkins's well-meaning attempt to honor Roberto Clemente by wearing No. 21 in 2008 backfired after some fans became irate that someone dared to wear Paul O'Neill's old number, it was Jeter who, behind-the scenes, talked with Hawkins and was instrumental in extinguishing that brush fire.

He's been an eloquent club spokesman time and time again, from addressing the crowd after the final home game at the old Yankee Stadium to addressing the crowd following George Steinbrenner's death last July. He is the face, and the voice, of the Yankees.

On the club's end, damn right they should pay far more than market value given Jeter's iconic value to the franchise and its brand. Agent Casey Close is not wrong on this. As Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci pointed out in an essay the other day, when Cal Ripken Jr. was 36 and in a similar situation, the Orioles rewarded him with a 15 percent raise. Kansas City did similar with George Brett back in the day, as Cincinnati did with Barry Larkin.

On Jeter's end, there is a very fine line between salary earned and charity. The man is not stupid. He knows it is a business. He saw these same Yankee men hardball manager Joe Torre -- still "Mr. Torre" to Jeter -- wound Torre's pride and, ultimately, drive him away.

It follows that they will not eagerly pay Jeter the $21 million he earned in salary in 2010 (Jeter's camp reportedly is requesting a four- or five-year deal at around $23 or $24 million per, while the Yankees reportedly have offered $45 million over three years).

But even with sagging statistics, is it right that Jeter earns less annually than A.J. Burnett ($16.5 million)? Wait, I can answer that: Hell, no.

This is a franchise that prints its own money. One of the Steinbrenner boys belches, and $1,000 bills come flying out of his mouth. They're still on the hook for $20 million through 2011 to Kei Igawa, for crying out loud. Kei Igawa? What's that, a dumpster out back?

Since when has the risk of a bad investment ever tempered the Yankees' enthusiasm?

And now they're going all conservative with Jeter?

They didn't seem to have a problem negotiating that 10-year, $275 million deal with Alex Rodriguez, the one that runs until A-Rod's 43. He'll be a broken-down mess long before that. Especially if he stays off the HGH.

No, the Yankees can play all the hardball they want and risk alienating him. Jeter can play hurt and grow distant.

In the end, they need each other. That's why the reams of copy and thousands of breaths that have been expended on this disgusting and overhyped sideshow are such a waste of time.

If this ridiculous verbal Cold War ends in a very real rift, it's going to take a lot of effort for the Yankees to write Jeter out of their past. The YES Network will have hours of programming to fill. The hallowed Old-Timers Days of the future will be awfully hollow.

And whatever his salary, Jeter ain't going to earn $10 million in endorsements (his estimated 2010 take) in, say, Pittsburgh.

All that's missing in this circus leading to Jeter's ultimate re-signing is Hank Steinbrenner bellowing that famous throwdown he issued during the A-Rod negotiations: "Does he want to go into the Hall of Fame as a Yankee, or a Toledo Mud Hen?"

Wake me when this bunch of hot air is finished. Until then, I'm going back to sleep. ...

As the Captive Captain was led into the chamber, instead of waterboarding, Yankees officials unveiled an even worse form of torture: They made him guzzle a "Reality Potion." It was as bitter as anything Jeter had ever tasted, and he blanched as it went down. ...


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