Over the past five years, even though Alex Rodriguez’s life has been endlessly scrutinized, discussed, and psychoanalyzed, there is one topic that is hardly ever mentioned. It’s the fact that he gave up being the best shortstop in the game, and the chance to go down as the greatest shortstop of all time, to be a Yankee.
For all the talk over the years, of A-Rod being a me-first, 24 and 1 type of player, giving up being shortstop was about as selfless as it gets in this game. And unfortunately for him, he never really got the credit he deserved for being a true team player there.
All of this brings me to Derek Jeter. Squawker Jon, who has access to the premium ESPN Insider feature, was telling me about Christina Kahrl’s article suggesting that Jeter move to center field. (I think it’s too late to do that – if it were to be done, it should have happened three years ago – but that’s me.)
And in today’s New York Post, Joel Sherman wonders what will happen in 21 months, when Jeter’s contract expires:
Yankee officials already talk privately about dreading D(erek)-Day.
After all, what team official wants to tell Jeter he has to take a pay cut or has to move positions or – gulp – just has to move on? How would you like that on your baseball epitaph: You were the Yankee executive who told Derek Jeter thanks for the memories?
Of course, the alternative is not too appetizing either. Because kowtowing to Jeter’s legacy by paying him lavishly and keeping him at short means tying yourself to a late-30s icon well beyond his expiration date.
I would hope Jeter would move gracefully off shortstop when the time comes, and I think he will. Let’s hope that this situation isn’t going to get as contentious as it did when Davey Johnson wanted to move Cal Ripken Jr. to third. Of course, A-Rod is at third, so moving Jeter there isn’t going to work, but I digress.
The other issue the Yanks are going to face regarding Jeter is the money. After all, they’re paying A-Rod over $27 million a year until he’s 42 years old. Do you think Jeter’s going to want comparable money for being the face of the franchise, and for putting fannies in the seats, as George Steinbrenner would say? I sure do. Jeter got his 10-year, $190 million contract with the Yanks right after the Texas Rangers’ record-breaking deal with A-Rod, after all.
While Jeter won’t be going for the all-time home run record like Alex is, he will be going for 3000+ hits, which is another big achievement. (It still amazes me that no Yankee has ever reached that milestone in pinstripes!)
Unfortunately, all of this is going to be a issue for the Yankees, along with when it’s time to tell Jorge Posada he’s no longer catcher. Actually, that one will be much harder than moving Jeter, I think. Heck, Posada still wanted to catch last season when he literally couldn’t throw anybody out – remember that game against Boston where they ran like crazy on him?
I disagree with Sherman’s conclusion, though, that things would be better for this situation if Joe Torre were still the Yankee manager.
What makes Sherman think that Torre would even go along with moving Jeter off shortstop? He had no choice but to agree with Brian Cashman moving Bernie Williams out of center and bringing up Robinson Cano, because the Yanks went 11-19 to start out the 2005 season and Torre’s own job was on the line. But he sure wasn’t happy about it.
And it’s why Cashman didn’t give Bernie a guaranteed contract offer in 2007 – because he knew Joe would still play him over Melky Cabrera if he had the opportunity. Heck, if Torre had had his way, Bernie would continue to be the starting center fielder!
Joe DiMaggio wasn’t graceful – or gracious – about ceding center field to Mickey Mantle. Let’s hope Derek Jeter handles it better when it’s his time to move off shortstop.
Is it too soon to worry about what should happen to Derek Jeter? Leave us a comment!