|I couldn't resist...|
Few columnists make my blood boil like Mike Lupica. His latest column in the NY Daily News is no different:
“Just so you know: The Yankees don't just want to cut Jeter's salary because he's getting older, or because he had his worst year. Or because his range has diminished - this at a time when you can actually see A-Rod calcifying in front of your eyes at third base - or because they don't want to be saddled with another huge contract for an aging champion.
Hank Steinbrenner comes out the other day and says "we've already made these guys very, very rich." We. Apparently meaning him. Another guy who thinks he's the Yankees, and not guys like Derek Jeter. Hank, you made one guy rich: A-Rod.
You gave him a contract that takes him to the age of 42 and could pay him up to $200 million, which means twice what A-Rod was going to make anywhere else. Who were you bidding against on that one, Son of the Boss?”
Well, I guess that’s settled. A-Rod is at fault for the Derek Jeter situation. Then again, I probably should’ve known better. Every problem the Yankees have is in some way due to A-Rod. Clearly, he’s a curse, and should probably be taken out into the street and shot.
What? Was that too over the top? Sorry, I was just channeling my inner Mike Lupica.
It's incredibly played out (not to mention lazy) to place blame on A-Rod for the ills of the Yankees. Did the Yankees make a mistake in signing him, then 32 years old, to a 10 year $275M contract? Yes. That said, he was coming off a 9 WAR season in which he hit .314/.422/.645, and won the MVP. He was at the top of his game, and there were no indications he was headed for a quick and imminent decline phase. Sure, the Yankees were bidding against themselves, but considering the information available at the time, A-Rod and Boras weren't going to settle for a contract smaller than the 10 year $252M deal they just opted out of. Of course, the proverbial shit hit the fan prior to Spring Training of 2008 when his name was illegally leaked from the confidential 2003 steroid testing list. Had the Yankees had this information prior to re-signing him, I'd have to imagine the Yankees would've signed him to a more reasonable (but still large) contract.
Contrary to what Lupica would like you to believe, the kerfuffle over Jeter’s contract is primarily due to his performance, advancing age, and non-existent range or agility at the shortstop position. The Yankees have every right to be be concerned about committing a significant portion of their payroll to a soon-to-be 37 year old shortstop. If they didn't have reservations, I would openly question their abilities to put together a successful baseball team. (Hence the reason I'm openly questioning Lupica's ability to talk about baseball in an intelligent fashion.) That said, the Yankees are one of the smartest organizations in baseball. While their payroll does give them an advantage, the Mets, Cubs, and Dodgers have proven that a large payroll doesn't guarantee success. The Yankees have made mistakes in the past (Jason Giambi, Carl Pavano, Jaret Wright, etc.), but they've learned from those errors. Brian Cashman's autonomy and leadership have lead the charge towards a more efficiently run organization.
While they know they're going to pay Jeter above the fair market value, they don't want to grossly overpay. The Yankees are running a business, not a charity. While it is somewhat perplexing they've chosen to exercise financial restraint with the most important Yankee since Mickey Mantle, it's the right move nonetheless. In most baseball circles, Jeter's free agent fair market value is considered to be 2-3 years at $7-10M per season. Personally, I have Jeter's value estimated at $12M per season over the next four years, which I feel might be a bit optimistic. This makes the Yankees good faith offer of 3 years at $15M per season incredibly generous--and the premise of Lupica's argument completely ludicrous.