The Resigning Derek Jeter Debate… Jeter Deserves a Captain’s Bounty

Read the opposing argument from Loyal Homer.

After a less than stellar 2010 season it would be exceedingly easy to make an argument against rewarding Derek Jeter with a huge contract. Although Jeter was selected to his eleventh All-Star game and managed to lead his team to within two games of the World Series, 2010 was considered a down year for the Yankees Captain. With Jeter posting the lowest season totals of his career, it seems counterintuitive that he should be rewarded with a massive contract extension or even a raise, but that is exactly what should happen this off-season.

Were it any other team or any other player in baseball, I would agree that a 36-year old shortstop with a .270 batting average should not make $22,600,000, and that number certainly should not increase moving forward. But the truth of the matter is we are not just talking about any other player in baseball. We are talking about Mr. November here… Captain Clutch.

Derek Jeter is worth every penny the Yankees shell out for him and more. Not only is he still a more than capable batter and fielder, he is a marketing force and arguably the face of baseball. That is something you quite simply can’t put a price tag on. So if the Yankees don’t decide to make him the most richly compensated player in baseball for whatever the length of his next contract is, then Bud Selig should pass around a hat to every club in MLB to pay the difference, because without Derek Jeter, baseball wouldn’t be the same.

Legendary Price

When Brian Cashman and company finally get around to making an offer, the Yankees are sure to overpay for Jeter, at least by the going market standard. That much is a given. To expect less would be to expect the Yankees not to be… well, the Yankees. But this debate isn’t really about whether the Yankees are going to spend too much money, as much as it is about whether Jeter is worth the price. Which, he is.

Since he entered the league as Rookie of the Year in 1996 he has been winning awards and breaking records. He holds enough World Series hardware to occupy a whole hand. Jeter is both a former All-Star Game and World Series MVP, and he holds a list of franchise and post-season records too numerous to mention. His impressive resume is proof enough of his value.

Derek Jeter is an icon. He is a charismatic figure who attracts people to both the Yankees and baseball. I’ve met more than a few people who didn’t like baseball but were Derek Jeter fans. In this regard he is easily comparable to Michael Jordan or Brett Favre, and I dare say those guys were worth the money their ability and legacy command, above perhaps what most teams would pay for them in the latter part of their career.

The two most important things to remember about this debate are first, that Derek Jeter is no ordinary player and second that this is no ordinary contract situation.

Jeter commands the respect of his peers and his rivals. The expression “living legend” is often overused in sports, but it is never more appropriate than in Derek Jeter’s case. His name is held in the same company as names like Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, and Lou Gehrig, so at contract time that name comes with a price. As Andrew March of ESPN.com points out, any offer the Yankees make to Jeter will have to include paying the “legend tax” associated with him. He goes on to explain how one former GM described the situation by saying, “It is the exception to the rule… it is not a rational contract. He is Derek Jeter.” I could not agree more with that assessment. It is because Jeter’s legacy eclipses his rather sizeable on-field value that the Yankees will bring the house, but even still he is worth the Yankees investment.

Still Clutch After All These Years

Again, it would be very easy to dismiss my argument as the ravings of a biased Yankees fan that views the world through pin striped glasses, but to do so would be a fallacy. Derek Jeter is still a remarkable athlete.

Despite criticisms of his fielding, Jeter is far from being ineffective. In 2008 a statistical study of fielders’ effectiveness named Derek Jeter the least effective fielder in MLB. As outrageous as that claim was, some people still put stock into the notion because it was purported as indisputable scientific fact, and of course any baseball fan would be a fool not to put their faith in statistics right? Wrong!

Like most things in life, the statistics and research can be used to prove or disprove a notion depending on the researcher’s bias. As with all research, it is a matter of validity, reliability, and bias. While I still question whether that study was an accurate measurement of a fielders worth, at least I am forthcoming about my pro-Yankees bias. I find it hard to believe that Derek Jeter was the worst fielder at shortstop, let alone the worst fielder at any position in baseball as the study asserted, and believe that there was certainly some bias in the researchers’ calls. Regardless, the mere fact that people were alleging he was ineffective drove him to go out and win a Gold Glove award the following season (2009) as he had done thrice before (2004,2005, and 2006).

Derek Jeter is clearly getting the job done well enough to hold his position. A former shortstop, one of the best of his generation, happens to play about 90 feet away, from Jeter yet he retains the job. That is certainly saying something in the sometimes hostile, always unforgiving New York market. This is a city that booed the most dominant closer in post-season history after a couple of ill-timed blown saves. If club management or the New York fans had even an inkling of doubt about Jeter’s ability his tenure at short would already be over. Rest assured, there is no hole in his glove, and Jeter can still make plays like the best to play the game.

Clutch When It Counts

Despite his 2010 numbers there is still a great deal of life in Derek Jeter’s bat. His value isn’t in the long ball, but in his uncanny ability to work counts, see pitches, and make well-placed hits when his team needs it most. Even more remarkable is Jeter’s uncanny ability to do this during the post-season year after year. It is well known that the Yankees’ the season doesn’t start until October, and that seems to be when Captain Clutch is at his best. Even this season Jeter seemed to be better in the post-season. Although his numbers weren’t on par with the lofty standards he has established, he still hit well. When the big bats of Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira seem to cool, the Captain’s bat seems to heat up. That’s a value that drives Jeter to the top of the salary charts and supersedes any apparent regression he made this season.

Still, there are mountains to be climbed for Jeter. He could potentially be one of the few individuals in baseball to see 3,000 hits, and even 4,000 hits is a mark not beyond the realm of the possible. Just as A-Rod’s chase of the homerun record makes him even more valuable in terms of ticket sales and television ratings for the YES Network, so too is Jeter’s chase of Pete Rose’s all time hits record. That alone makes him among the most valuable asset in baseball.

Bottom line, Derek Jeter is worth the investment. It doesn’t matter what I think or what Loyal Homer thinks as much as what Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenners believe. If history repeats itself, number two will be paid like the Prince of New York.

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