For the last 10 years, the New York Yankees' captain Derek Jeter did exactly what the face of a franchise is supposed to do: he said nothing. Yes, he stepped up to the microphone thousands of times, but no matter what type of turmoil was taking place on the field, in the clubhouse or in the front office, Jeter always said the right thing.
He kept the media at arm's length because that's what his job. It's in his version of the “How to be a Yankee” handbook. Nobody executed it better. When the Yankees blew a 3-0 series lead to Boston in 2004 and the brass decided to keep manager Joe Torre, Jeter was there to say, “There's no way he's responsible for us performing. He's not hitting for us. He's not pitching for us. He puts the best players out there on the field, gives us an opportunity to win.”
When Torre was eventually let go, when A-Rod was exposed for using steroids, when his old teammate Joe Girardi was hired and when Torre wrote a tell-all, Jeter was there to deflect media and say nothing.
So why is it so absurd for Jeter to expect the same courtesy from the franchise who he's made far more money for than he'll ever see in even the most lucrative contract?
Throughout his recent contract negotiations, the Yankees played hardball in the media. They released statements daring Jeter to seek other offers and gave sexy quotes about making him a rich man. When the Yankees said jump the New York media said, “jump toss?”
All of the sudden, the front office had turned their superstar from Mr. November to Mr. Egocentric, from the face of the greatest organization to the face of greed. When the dust settled, Jeter had a contract and a bad taste in his mouth. And for the first time, Jeter didn't say nothing. He said, "I was angry about it because I was the one that said I didn't want to do it, that I wasn't going to do it. To hear the organization tell me to go shop it when I just told you I wasn't going to; if I'm going to be honest with, I was angry about it.”
Jeter is irked that keeping his lips locked all those years meant nothing. Who can blame him? The New York media can.
ESPN New York's Wallace Matthews wrote that Jeter should be thankful to the Yankees. Matthews goes as far to say that Jeter being upset over the way he was treated means, “he really doesn't know all that much about negotiations or Yankees history.”
Matthews, like many other members of the New York media mid-negotiations, wrote that Jeter vying for more than the initial three-year, $45 million offer from the Yankees was the star succumbing to human nature and being egotistical and greedy.
It wouldn't be right to, after the contract was signed, say, “we jumped the gun,” in scrutinizing Jeter amidst public negotiations that never should have been public to begin with. It's impossible to say “he wasn't greedy after all.” Well, not impossible for the New York media, but against human nature.
The reality is that Jeter's contract negotiation can not be compared to any other in Yankee history. Jeter isn't Mickey Mantle, he's is a flawless representative of the organization and the Yankee dream. Countless times he's taken blame that could have been placed on his manager, GM or owner and placed it upon his own shoulders. Probably the same amount of times he's sold, I mean, told the story of growing up wanting to be a Yankee.
Many have said what The Captain was asking was ridiculous, five-years, $125 million, and they are probably right, but Jeter's one negotiating term, tact, was by no means out of bounds.
Instead of the organization being torched for blasting their star, it seems Jeter's a crybaby because nobody blackmailed him the way the Yankees did to Mantle in the 1950s. Because it could have been worse, Jeter shouldn't be hurt. Because he's rich, the mud he was dragged through since the final out of the American League Championship Series isn't supposed to stain. For having those emotions, I suppose, we can now call him “human.”
Matthew Coller is a senior staff member of the Business of Sports Network, and is a freelance writer. He can be followed on Twitter
Follow The Biz of Baseball on Twitter
Follow the Business of Sports Network on Facebook