I’ve done my best to pay attention to the Derek Jeter contract negotiations, despite my feeling that it will get done one way or another. I’ve had a really hard time wrapping my head around what’s taking so long, but I finally get it: it’s all about Pete Rose.
Imagine you’re Derek Jeter: it’s pretty much a given that you’ll hit your career 3000th hit before the 2011 All Star break (he’s at 2926 right now.). You’re a first ballot hall of famer, you’re a five time World Series champion, a Yankees immortal… what else is left to achieve?
Pete Rose. Rose has achieved the Everest of baseball accomplishments as the all time leader in hits with 4,256. (He’s also the leader in games played (3,562), at-bats (14,053) and outs (10,328), but who’s counting?) Jeter wants that record… he must. It’s all so clear to me now: Jeter probably wants a 6 year, $100 million dollar contract, during which he’ll not only become the first Yankee to reach 3000 hits, but he’ll also become the major league hit leader while A-Rod is becoming the major league home run leader. And if they gave A-Rod such a ridiculous contract, why not Jeter? The argument (form the Jeter camp’s point of view) is sound logic and the A-Rod deal creates precedent for it.
Unfortunately for Jeter, the Yankees don’t see it that way. When they hear that argument, they do the math: Jeter needs to average 200 hits per year over the next six years just to get to Rose territory, so he must stay healthy and play nearly every game of every year (maybe a minimum of 150 games per season), and for a player of Jeter’s age, particularly toward the end of the contract, that doesn’t seem reasonable. And that’s only 1200 hits – he’s currently 1330 behind! His woeful 2010 campaign didn’t help any
And after that 6th year, he’d be 42 years old. Can you imagine him playing shortstop at 42? A lot of people are giving him a hard time for his play there in the last few years, and half the baseball world jumped down his throat when he was awarded the Gold Glove for his play in 2010. So if Jeter doesn’t play short stop, where is he going to play? Left field? Third base? I have no idea, but if he moved to either of those positions, I would expect a lot more power than Jeter typically displays during the course of a season.
Jeter had advantages over Rose, like advanced medical science, personal trainers and so on, but I don’t see this happening… neither Jeter breaking Rose’s record nor getting the big deal he wants. Breaking Rose’s record is a crap shoot at best. Jeter is better off just taking the deal that’s on the table now and saving himself a long winter’s headache. If he’s still playing well after the deal is up, he’ll be in a good position to negotiate an extension (unlike this year). If not, he can retire and save himself the embarrassment.