Recently, I wrote a column about Derek Jeter and the speculation about his contract status (

I inflamed it to stir passion about the subject to see what people would think about Jeter and his value to the sport.

The response was about what I expected.

Derek Jeter is either one of the greatest to ever play the game or he is merely an overrated ballplayer that has been blessed from his exposure on a big market team like the New York Yankees enjoying their financial ability to surround him with players that help to elevate his game.

Some of the arguments were valid, some were not. However, all were polarizing.

Derek Jeter, the Yankees‘ cornerstone and current captain, is without contract and on the market. Nearly everyone that has at least one active brain cell expects the Yankees icon to re-sign with the only team he has ever played for.

However, the fact that Jeter is coming off a sub-par season and is currently 36 has many speculating on just how much the man is worth, how long his contract should be and what his true value is to the team and the game of baseball.

Now before I get into the guts of this story, let me be up front and honest about my affiliation. I am, and have been since 1976, a die-hard Yankees fan. To me, as a young boy playing third base in little league, Babe Ruth and eventually high school, Graig Nettles was the man. Once he retired, my allegiance moved to Don Mattingly and then inevitably towards where it now resides and has since 1995.

Jeter is my favorite current player. I fully admit that I am a Derek Jeter fan but as with everything I do, I try to be realistic and objective, even when involving my beloved Yankees and all things Jeter.

With that being said, I invite you, the reader, on a journey with me as I try to take an honest look at Jeter’s career to determine what he is worth, how long his next contract should vs. what it probably will be and how history will treat him when he finally calls it a day.

Jeter Contractually

What will he get? What does he deserve? What will he ask for? Blah, Blah, Blah…

In one camp you have the Jeterholics, the die-hard fans of the Yankee Captain. They believe Jeter should be given the stars and the moon for his loyalty to the organization, his obvious (to them) future Hall of Fame induction, work ethic, penchant for being at the right place at the right time, and offensive numbers. Not to mention that they believe he has led the Yankees to five World Series Titles (some think he did it all by himself) so far, during his tenure.

Some of these fans believe that Jeter should be given whatever he wants, a blank check if you will.

Others in this group think that he should be given $20 million per year with a lifetime services contract while a few others believe that Jeter should be kept in pinstripes at whatever cost so that he can break the all time hit record currently held by Pete Rose. Jeterholics believe that the Yankees would never have won 5 titles without his services and will be hard pressed to win in the future without them either and therefore the Yankees should do whatever it takes, whatever it costs, to keep DJ in pinstripes.


Then you have Jeter’s detractors. I call them Jeterbeaters. Many in this group will state that Jeter is too old, washed-up, overrated defensively—some even go as far as to claim his is overrated offensively. They cite that he is by far the worst shortstop in the game and have tons of Sabermetrics stats to back them up…they even have the infamous Penn State Study, which claimed that Jeter was the worst fielding shortstop in the game between 2002-2005. In fact, they have it memorized.

Some in this group would love to see Jeter get a long term deal with millions and millions. Why? They believe it will ensure that the Yankees will have a black hole at short, thus hurting the team for years to come (that is an evil thought process but kind of hard to argue with).

Some simply believe that Jeter is nothing more than an average player whose game has been elevated by playing for the Yankees and what they can afford to surround him by. In other words, if Jeter played for the Royals, no one would be talking about the man.

So which group is right?

My conclusion on Jeter and his worth is discussed in the next few categories and will be revealed at the end of this column. In order to get to my conclusion, I will dissect Jeter’s career by looking at several factors and the perspectives, realistic or ridiculous, of both groups.

Jeter Defensively

Everyone has seen Jeter’s famous “The Flip” post season play, his two amazing foul ball catches (one memorably against the Red Sox), both of which saw him land in the stands. Jeter’s signature ground ball to the right, leap and throw play are seared into our minds. Jeter is one of the best double play pivot men in the game and he has great range towards the outfield on those bloopers that seem to always drop in for a hit. He has a high tendency of making few errors on balls hit to him, has a knack for knowing the player at the plate and will properly position himself, and has a very strong, accurate arm.

Sounds good right? All the things you want in a shortstop. So what’s the problem?

The knock on Jeter is that he does not and cannot get to balls that most other shortstops do. The truth about Jeter’s defense is hard to deny. Jeter handles balls hit at him well, something expected of everyone at any position on the field. He goes to his right well, but balls hit up the middle have a better chance of being stopped by Robinson Cano at second than any hope of Jeter getting a glove on them.

Wait a second, crazy man! Jeter just won another Gold Glove!

Yes Jeter did win a gold glove… another one, but he has yet to truly deserve any of the ones on his mantle. Getting awarded a Gold Glove because you led the league at your position in fielding balls makes about as much sense as a toothless man entering a corn on the cob eating contest.

Speaking of eating, here is a marketing idea for any Italian restaurant in Boston. You can make a mint of this. Rename your Spaghetti and Meatballs dinner to… wait for it… wait for it… “Pasta Diving Jeter.”

We can talk about the royalties and my fee later.

It is possible for a shortstop to make more errors than another and still be the better shortstop. Shortstop is about range. Jeter lacks it. Gold Glove consideration is a joke as is most often the Cy Young process and the MVP.

I am a Jeter fan… and I can honestly say that while his defense has not cost the Yankees a trip to the post season, a pennant or a World Series Title, I can equally say that the range of Alex Rodriquez at third, Robinson Cano and second and the glove of Mark Texeira at first make Jeter look much better defensively than his stats say he is.

Jeter’s defense has not cost his team pennants, playoffs or titles but it has cost the team runs. Turn an inning around here or there and Jeter’s defense is a problem. However, for the Yankees, it’s not a dire situation due to the overall range and glove work of the collective infield backed up by an offense that can overcome runs scored or created on balls that a shortstop should get to that Jeter cannot.

The one problem I have with Jeter, and the only problem I have with the man is that he has too much pride. He should have moved to third when the Yankees acquired A-Rod, the better shortstop. Now he should move to third and Girardi should move A-rod to DH to quell his growing problems with his legs and hips, and the Yankees should be actively looking for a shortstop while they also look to land Cliff Lee.

They won’t because Jeter’s pride, as does Posada’s at catcher, won’t allow the conversation.

The Cold, Hard Truth about Jeter Defensively

As long as he has the range surrounding him in Cano and A-Rod, and the glove of Tex at first, the Yankees offense will more often then not make up for any balls that get by Jeter. However, that is unacceptable to me as a realistic fan. Jeter is in fact, statistically and in comparison to more than two-thirds of the shortstops in the game over the last 10-years, an average to below average defender. Jeter will be 37 in June and as he gets older, it’s only going to get worse.

The Jeterbeaters win the defensive argument when discussing Jeter’s legacy.

The good news for Jeter fans is that baseball is an offensive sport and when players retire, it’s the offense that is remembered and discussed, not the defense. Offense gets you in the Hall, not the defense. Chicks dig guys that hit home runs…you never hear them brag about the guy that robbed one.

Jeter Offensively

Currently, Jeter enjoys a robust .314 lifetime average, is approaching 1700 runs scored, 1200 rbi, 500 doubles and will reach 3,000 hits somewhere near mid-season in 2011.

Hello? That’s HOF worthy.

When Jeter retires, several of his offensive numbers will surpass many of his contemporaries already in the Hall. Consider that when he does make the Hall, he goes in with more hits that Dimaggio, Mantle, Ruth etc.

Those numbers are undeniable to anyone, even his detractors.

Does Jeter benefit from playing with the Yankees and all they can afford to surround him with?

Certainly, but something must be said for a man that delivers those kinds of numbers on that kind of stage. Assuming that he might not have such numbers if he played for the Royals is like speculating on where Jimmy Hoffa is… we know he is dead and that’s the cold, hard truth. Jeter’s numbers are Jeter’s numbers… it’s indisputable.

Jeter will end his tenure in baseball as the career stats leader in several categories within the Yankees Franchise, which is nothing to sneeze at. On top of that, he will also lead a few in the AL and the Majors as well. Forget Jeter taking over the all-time hits record—it’s not going to happen— but he will finish in the top five if he stays healthy and plays until he is 42, which is conceivable.

Those who claim Jeter is done after a sub-par 2010 season, his worst statistically, are more than likely short-sighted, or wishful thinkers, than they are accurate prognosticators.

To his fans…the days of Jeter hitting .340 are equally unlikely from here out until he retires.

However, .300 is likely for a few more seasons. I fully expect Jeter to bounce back in 2011… if not, then the detractors with their “Jeter is on a decline” mantra will suddenly have traction.

The Cold, Hard Truth about Jeter Offensively

No matter how much you dislike the man you cannot deny his offensive abilities. The man is a clutch hitter—he is tenacious and patient at the plate, studies the game and has a great work ethic.

Yes, he is coming off his worst statistical season. Every player goes through it. What compounds last season for Jeter is his age. The knowledgeable baseball fan will wait to see what he does in 2011 before writing him off just yet.

One season, good or bad, does not determine a player’s value. It takes a career, and Jeter’s is Hall of Fame worthy right now, and will be when he retires.

The Jeterholics win the offensive argument in the war on Jeter’s worth nearly every time.

The Bottom Line Cold, Hard Truth about Derek Jeter

Defensively, it is hard to say he is overrated because most knowledgeable people already know he is not a great defender, so what’s to overrate? However, the Gold Gloves are unwarranted—this cannot be argued with by anyone with some semblance of intelligence.

Offensively, his record speaks for itself. Anyone stating that Jeter is overrated offensively comes off just as clueless as those that state he is an excellent fielding shortstop because he won 5 Gold Gloves.

Jeter is a first ballot Hall of Fame player—the plaque is already made folks—that plays the game the right way. He is a positive role model and a great ambassador of baseball. In fact, he is one of the few players in the game that the game itself would be proud to have as ‘The Face of the Game”. He has the respect of his peers, even those from the rival Boston Red Sox.

As far as the contract goes, he deserves the one he will get, this much is clear. Jeter puts asses in the stands and sells a ton of merchandise. He is the leading marquee player on the leading marquee team in baseball. Baseball is a business and Jeter’s contract will reflect his value on and to the business of the New York Yankees and not entirely representative of what is expected of him on the field in the years to come.

If Jeter were to leave the Yankees, and that is about as likely as Obama getting re-elected, he would probably get a salary in the seven-10 million range for one or two years at most from a handful of teams. His draw value alone would justify the investment even for a “poor defending 36-year old shortstop.”

It’s laughable that some merely state that “no one will pay for an over-the-hill, poor defensive shortstop” as if that is all Jeter is.

The Yankees will not give him a lifetime services contract because even though Jeter is a Yankee, at heart his goal is to own his own franchise. He wants to be a team owner… a lifetime services contract will be a conflict of interest and would not allow him to pursue that dream.

I have no idea what Jeter will accept or be offered, but I can foresee the Yankees offering Jeter something in the neighborhood of a four year deal in the neighborhood of $18-$20 million per year, or possibly less if loaded with incentives or deferred money.

If he expects more, he should seek therapy. However, if the Yankees are willing to pay more than that, it’s not my money and I won’t lose sleep.

Jeter will never wear another uniform in this game and will be overpaid for what he will do on the field (as is A-Rod, Ramirez, Beckett, Halladay…no matter how good you are, no one is worth, in my opinion, that kind of money to play Baseball) but will not be overpaid in regards to his value to the marketing machine of the New York Yankees.

It’s their franchise… only they can determine what his value is to them.

After all is said and done and he hangs up his cleats for the final time, it won’t be about contracts or Jeter’s defensive shortcomings. He will be remembered as one of the greatest Yankees to ever wear the uniform, one of the best the game ever saw and one of the classiest guys to ever step foot on the field.

Jeterholics are just going to have to accept, despite the rings and the intangibles, that Jeter, while a sure fire Hall of Famer is not in the top 50 of the greatest of all time. He is an offensive superstar and a defensive lightweight. 

Jeterbeaters are just going to have to live with the fact that while their argument on Jeter’s defensive shortcomings and the amount that he is overpaid are valid, at the end of the day, they do not hold water against what history will say about the man and his role in the game we all love to debate about.

That’s the cold hard truth about Derek Jeter.

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