Today’s baseball players simply have no idea the leverage and position they hold in negotiations thanks to sacrifices of some of the game’s greatest players such as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays.

Before Curt Flood and the reserve clause, players either played or sat out.

Ownership held all the cards and ownership wasn’t afraid to clench its teeth when it came to salary negotiations with some of the game’s most loved and important icons.

The very frugal Horace Stoneham, who owned the New York and San Francisco Giants, demanded Willie Mays take a salary cut in 1961 after the team finished fifth.

Despite filling the stands with his taxpayer-built Candlestick Park to the tune of 1.7 million fans, Stoneham fired Bill Rigney and looked to his new Latino players such as Juan Marichal and the Alou brothers to lead the team with smaller salaries, despite the fan allegiance to the great Willie Mays!

In 1938, Joe DiMaggio asked for a pay hike to $40K only to settle for $25K and just a $5,000 raise. He would be booed by Yankee fans at his first at-bat of the season.

In 1959, Mickey Mantle batted just .285 with 31 homers and 75 RBI. General Manager George Weiss asked Mantle to take a $17,000 pay cut from $72K to just $55K!

Negotiations with Mantle had become so strained that trade rumors with Cleveland rocked the Bronx as it seemed Mantle would be shipped to the Indians for pitcher Herb Score and Rocky Colavito!

In the end, Mantle would absorb a $7,000 pay cut in 1960 after all.

In fact, even former New York Yankee shortstop, teammate and color man Phil Rizzuto would go public against Mantle and side with Weiss and Yankee management in these tense negotiations.

With just 10 homers, 67 RBI and a .270 batting average, how does an aging Derek Jeter justify a $22.6M salary in these waning days of his career?

Yes, Jeter will become the first Yankee to reach 3,000 hits in 2011, but where is the market for an aging shortstop with limited range and a 60-point drop in his batting average?

Consider the fact that the game’s best player, Albert Pujols of the St Louis Cardinals, led the National League in homers (42) and RBI (118) while flirting with a Triple Crown run most of the 2010 season only earns a mere $14.5M and has finished first or second in MVP voting six times, the most since the legendary Ted Williams.

So who is Derek Jeter negotiating with?

Will the Yankees offer their captain a ridiculous salary increase and extension simply to keep him in a Yankee uniform?

The great Eddie Matthews hit 493 homers as a Brave in Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta only to be shipped to the Houston Astros, where he would eventually hit his 500th homer in 1967 and end his career in the American League with the Detroit Tigers in 1968.

When the New York Yankees acquired the contract of DiMaggio, they moved Gehrig in the lineup to accommodate their new hitting star despite Gehrig’s Hall of Fame resume in pinstripes.

Manager Joe McCarthy announced DiMaggio, not Gehrig would hit third.

For better or for worse, Derek Jeter’s greatest days are now behind him.

The popular Yankee captain and arguably the fifth greatest Yankee of all time (Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle and Berra before him), he needs to understand his new role as the team’s elder statesman and behave accordingly.

It will be how Derek Jeter conducts these negotiations and how he’ll be ultimately perceived as one of the finest Yankees ever to wear the uniform.

His No. 2 will be retired and he will go to Cooperstown. The question is will his exit be graceful and memorable or undignified and disruptive?

That is a decision for Derek Jeter to make.

Read more MLB news on