Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Joel Sherman Uses Old Story To Drum Up New Drama

In Sherman's column in today's Post, he dusts off the story about Derek Jeter's belief that he was still a good defensive shortstop before he started special training to improve his range between the 2007 and 2008 seasons. Joel suggests that his "arrogance" as an athlete might lead to some contentious contract negotiations come November:
So Cashman took Jeter to dinner in Manhattan and told the Yankees captain that his side-to-side actions must improve. Jeter has an outsized athletic arrogance. He believes in himself completely, which allows him to deftly block out criticism and negativity. This trait enables him to thrive in the cauldron, but also prevents him from seeing personal shortcomings the way others perceive them. Still, to his credit, he agreed to try a new way.

With the Yankees paying the bills, Jeter enlisted Jason Riley, the director of performance at the Athletes Compound in Tampa. Riley formulated a plan to increase Jeter’s first-step quickness, particularly in fielding grounders to his left. Power lifting was diminished, agility — especially in the hips — was emphasized , weight was lost. The results came slowly at first in 2008 and in a wave last year when Jeter had one of his finest defensive seasons.

“The player Derek is, he took to it and said, ‘Watch, I will prove you wrong,’ ” Cashman said.

This story is instructive in anticipating how Jeter’s contract talks will play out when his 10-year, $189 million contract concludes after this season. First, like the Cashman-Jeter meeting remaining untold publicly until now, Jeter will demand that his negotiations are done privately. Second, the good news for the Yanks is that Jeter is a competent shortstop again; the bad news is he is a competent shortstop again.
If this story sounds familiar, that's because Ian O'Connor wrote about everything but the dinner meeting the day after the 2009 regular season ended. Does this dinner meeting tell us anything, as Sherman is trying to infer? How else was Cashman going to have this conversation with him? At the top of his lungs in the locker room? Whether it was in his office or at a restaurant, it was going to be a private and delicate discussion.

So this dinner anecdote leads Sherman to the following revelation: Derek Jeter would like to negotiate his contract in private. You know, unlike all the other baseball players who sit down and exchange numbers with their teams on live television.

Jeter's contract negotiations will be interesting and like Sherman says, made more difficult by the the shortstop's defensive renaissance. Both sides have a lot of leverage given that Jeter needs the Yankees just as much, if not more than they need him. But we already knew that Jeter's ego was going to make this difficult. I think the years of him refusing to acknowledge his deficiencies as a shortstop or change his position were a lot more informative than one dinner with Brian Cashman.

Debating the merits and estimating the size and length of Jeter's next deal are wholly futile at this point, despite the fact that this is a hotly debated topic and will be revisited ad naseum throughout the season.

How Jeter performs this year is going to go much further in shaping his next contract than any facts of the situation as they currently exist. If the Captain continues his excellent offensive production and is again solid at shortstop, the Yankees are going to be backing up the truck in a big way. If he struggles at the plate or in the field or God forbid, gets injured, the franchise isn't just going to give him a blank check.

Paradoxically, the better Jeter plays this year, the uglier the back end of his contract has the potential to look. Of course, we'd all "settle for" a great season and the resulting huge contract, but the best of both worlds scenario would be for Jeter to have a good but not great season and go back to being great in 2011. The first and foremost concern though, is Jeter's ability to stay productive in his later years, and unfortunately for the Yanks' checkbook, there is a direct relationship between the probability that he will continue to produce at an elite level and how much they are going to have to pay for the privilege of retaining his services.

1 comment:

  1. Joel Sherman can kiss my facking ass.