by Eddie Mayrose
New York Yankees Look to Resign Shortstop
With the Yankees welcoming pitchers and catchers to Tampa this week, the issue of Derek Jeter’s contract situation is sure to dominate the early part of camp. With the longtime Yankee and favorite son entering the last season of his contract, many are wondering how both Jeter and the front office will handle the upcoming negotiations.
While many feel that the Yankees are squarely behind the eight ball in any talks; Jeter being their most popular player since DiMaggio, it’s also true that the shortstop isn’t dealing from a position of complete strength either.
Jeter has been the face of the franchise since his arrival in 1996; a handsome, clutch, superstar athlete with an uncanny sense of his public persona. He plays hard all the time, never puts himself in a compromising position off the field and, oh by the way, has been a central figure on five World Champions. He’s a first ballot Hall of Famer who’s been with one team for his entire career; a rarity in this transient era borne of free agency. The Yankees must consider not only his incredible resume while discussing a contract, but the backlash from fans devastated by the departure of their hero.
However, despite a Yankee career among the greatest ever, Jeter doesn’t hold all the cards, either. He’s a 36 year old shortstop with diminishing range and a below average arm who’s shown absolutely no willingness to move to another position; as evidenced by the fact that he’s got the best shortstop in the history of the game playing next to him at third base. While he means everything to the Yankees and their fans, his sterling career is irrelevant to any other free agent suitors. Will a franchise that considers itself one player away from a title decide that an aging shortstop demanding better than $15 million a year fits the bill? He may have five World Series rings but hasn’t won any for the Dodgers, Mariners,White Sox or any other club that might give Jeter leverage against the Yankees and inflate his price.
In actuality, this will more than likely turn into so much training camp fodder as both sides will likely get a deal done. It’s a miniscule minority that can picture Derek Jeter in anything but pinstripes, but one that may grow without concessions from both sides of any contract talks.
High Noon For New York Knicks
Today marks the NBA trading deadline and with it, the final stage of Knicks’ GM Donnie Walsh’s renovation plan. From the time he arrived in New York to clean up the mess left by Isiah Thomas, Walsh has been focused on clearing enough space under the salary cap to pursue two maxium-contract free agents. The last piece of that puzzle dumping Jared Jefferies and the $7 million that would be owed to him next year; a deal that was close as of this morning.
The Knicks have been a laughingstock over the last decade, largely due to a lack of direction as to how the franchise should be revitalized. When Walsh came aboard, all of that changed, as the new president started cleansing the organization of the ridiculous contracts handed out by Thomas. However, while the thought of LeBron James and/or Dwyane Wade in blue and orange might have Spike Lee dreaming about a title, Walsh has puit all of his eggs in one basket. What if neither of the aforementioned stars come to New York? What does Walsh tell the fans paying top dollar to watch semi-pro basketball?
The fact is that the Knicks would be much further along in this rebuilding process had they put more of an emphasis on building through the draft than simply standing in front of the Garden with a big bag of money and their fingers crossed, hoping to entice someone else’s star player. How bright would there future be with a core of Danilo Galinnari, David Lee and Brandon Jennings, the player they passed on for the hapless Jordan Hill? Add to that core the 2010 lottery pick that’s been traded away and you’re talking a playoff squad with much more potential to attract a free agent than the current unit. But, alas, not only will the Knicks be without their 2010 first-rounder, but it looks like Walsh will have to part with the 2011 pick as well in order to move Jefferies.
Given the nearly impossible situation Walsh inherited, he may have felt the course he chose was the only viable one. Fair enough. As one of the NBA’s most respected executives, he certainly deserves the benefit of the doubt. However, if he can’t convince James or Wade to sign with the Knicks, he may have to start working on an exit strategy instead.