Today was sort of interesting with regard to Operation Jeter Countdown. First, I read in the Post
that Casey Close and his client were hanging out in Miami to ponder their response to the Yankees’ offer and that Jeter looked like he didn’t have a care in the world.
Later, I read Tom Verducci’s piece on SI.com
and thought it was the best summary yet of how the Yankees should be viewing these negotiations. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. Even if you did see it, I still have to highlight the points that jumped out at me.
What do you do about a 36-year-old beloved franchise icon with fading defensive skills but enormous brand value? Why, of course, you give him a 15 percent raise to make sure the team benefits from his legacy. That’s exactly what the Baltimore Orioles did for Cal Ripken Jr. on Opening Day 1997, a sort of global view of the player that stands in stark contrast to how the Yankees are valuing Derek Jeter at the same age.
The key to his opening paragraph? CAL RIPKEN JR.
Verducci continues to make the comparison.
When rewarded, Ripken still was a year away from free agency and entering the final year of a five-year contract for $32.5 million, once the richest total deal in baseball history that included post-career compensation ($2 million for four years) and special hotel, parking, security and merchandise arrangements.
Did you catch that? The Orioles gave Ripken post-career compensation. And that wasn’t all.
The Orioles adhered to the same perspective in 1997 — not even letting the face of their franchise get to free agency. They gave Ripken a raise from $6.5 million per year to $7.55 million per year in what was a two-year extension with an option. Not only was the option picked up at $6.3 million, the Orioles also brought him back at age 40 and with a bad back and coming off a .256 season again without a pay cut, giving him another $6.3 million.
The point is, Derek Jeter, like Cal Ripken, isn’t your average ballplayer (or even your average superstar ballplayer) and shouldn’t be measured by his stats alone.
Putting a number on iconic value — especially when introducing a pay cut — is at the heart of the Yankees’ negotiating troubles with Jeter. To compare Jeter in a one-year statistical vacuum to shortstops such as Marco Scutaro is foolish. Jeter is the most marketable player in baseball, has the sport’s highest Q rating, a measurement of not just popularity but also appeal to fans, has accumulated 16 years of tremendous goodwill for the Yankees and is their modern link in the chain of Yankee Hall of Fame everyday players who never wore another uniform, from Gehrig to DiMaggio to Mantle.
Does everyone remember the ad campaign for Blackglama furs? I know, mink coats aren’t politically correct anymore. But the campaign featured legendary women in their minks – from Judy Garland to Janet Jackson.
Where am I going with this? If Derek Jeter were a woman, he’d be in one of those ads. He’s a legend, and legends don’t come along every day. Tonight’s Jeter video doesn’t have Jeter in it. Its star is Cal Ripken, since he inspired Verducci’s spot-on article.
Doesn’t Ripken remind you of Jeter? No flash. All substance. A legend, in other words.