Johnny Damon was discussing his divorce from the New York Yankees to any media outlet who wanted to listen. On the WFAN radio show in New York, Damon discussed his Yankee divorce with host Mike Francesca. I want to say that I did not hear the interview live, but listened to the podcast and read its excerpts in the New York newspapers.
It is not the first divorce in Damon’s professional, or even personal life. One of the reasons bandied about Damon wanting to play solely for more money is that he lost millions in the divorce from his first wife. Then he supposedly lost even more in the Florida-based Allen Stanford $8 billion investment scandal.
Damon might have been better off marrying Stanford and investing money with his first wife.
During the interview Damon said, “Hopefully this doesn’t happen with Derek next year. I say there’s no way Derek can go anywhere else.”
While Damon did acknowledge that Jeter’s situation is completely different, he hopes Jeter doesn’t encounter similar negotiating difficulties with the team when the franchise’s all-time hits leader becomes a free agent next winter.
“… I hope he’s not offered a 40-45% pay cut. But I know Derek’s going to go out and produce this year and I know they will treat him with respect.”
I guarantee, Johnny, that the Yankees will treat Jeter with respect, and that Jeter will treat the Yankees with respect, too.
Jeter is the home grown winning Yankee star of my 12 year old son’s generation, just like Thurman Munson was of my generation and Joe DiMaggio was of my father’s generation. Those three players were our childhood heroes of three generations of Joseph DelGrippo’s. (Wow, three generations of opinionated sports fans is just way too much.)
All three of those Yankee greats were private individuals who won back to back World Series titles. Munson was the consummate family man, ultimately dying because of his desires to see his family during the season.
Jeter was more similar to DiMaggio. Both single, classy, and New York City savants who owned the Big Apple – if they so wanted, but both usually stayed behind the scenes loving their privacy.
Jeter knows his Yankee history, knows his place in that history as the leader of the late 90’s dynasty and the latest in the short list of Yankee Captains. He respected the Iron Horse when he broke Lou Gehrig’s All-Time Yankee hit record, he respected the Yankee fans with his great impromptu speech after the last game at the previous Yankee Stadium.
And he will respect the great DiMaggio by leaving the Yankees the same way the Yankee Clipper left the team (and the game) after the 1951 season, by retiring when he felt he was beginning to embarrass himself on the field, and “the game was no longer fun.”
Speculation has run over the last several years what the Yankees will do with their current icon. With all the money spent over the last three seasons on Jorge Posada, Alex Rodriguez, CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett and Mark Teixeira, the Yankees have doled out many future millions to these star players.
Will Jeter want or get similar money? Yes, he will.
That is why the Yankees will re-sign Jeter to an approximate 10-year, $200 million contract extension before, during or immediately after the 2010 season. Same length as his current deal with a little bit more money, so as not to have that Damon “pay cut” situation. Derek will then be a Yankee forever, and the long contract will eliminate all speculation about his future.
Why would the Yankees sing an aging (albeit very productive) 35 year old player to a 10 year contract?
The key to this deal is that the Yankees will not even have to pay the entire contract.
According to the MLB Collective Bargaining Agreement, if a player is placed on the Voluntary Retired list, he forgoes his contracted salary. It happened recently with Salomon Torres, who retired from the Milwaukee Brewers after the 2008 season, leaving almost $4 million on the table.
Jeter will retire well before that entire new contract will be over, and the Yankees will not have to pay the entire $200 million.
Jeter is the type of Yankee hero and dignified person that he will not let his career spiral downward to that of Willie Mays or even Mickey Mantle, guys who every else knew was done well before they retired.
Mays was a shell of his former self his last two seasons (ages 41 & 42), and should have retired after the 1971 season – on top. Mantle often said the one regret he had was he did not hit .300 for his career (he hit .298) because he held on too long. Jeter will not let that happen to him and, similar to DiMaggio, will leave well before it begins to get embarrassing.
Lets say Jeter signs that type of big contract, gives the Yankees five more good to great seasons and, while beginning to shows signs of declining productivity he reaches age 40 with about 3,700 career hits. He will be on the precipice of becoming the third player to garner 4,000 hits.
With the Yankees penchant for milestones, they will allow him to get to 4,000….if Jeter wants. If Jeter is productive enough, he will continue to play to get that number or if begins to “not be fun” Jeter will elect to bow out of the game gracefully – while on top.
Jeter has always wanted to be the shortstop for the New York Yankees and will be able to play that position as long as he wants. But if Jeter begins to decline significantly, he will not let milestones or even millions of dollars affect his decision. And he will not go to any other team, ever.
And that type of spending is different to what Damon went through with the Yankees.
First, Jeter is a home grown Yankee icon, and paying him that type of future money is a bonus as much for his past heroics and it is for future production. This is similar to how the Baltimore Orioles overpaid at the end for Cal Ripken’s services and the Chicago Cubs overpaid for Ryne Sandberg.
At that time in 1992, both Ripken’s and Sandberg’s contracts were the highest ever in baseball.
Second, Jeter is not the greedy soul that Damon appears to be, and will not stay on just to collect the money.
He has too much class for that. Grace and class like DiMaggio playing the game on the field and exiting the same game moving off the field.
Jeter will leave the game before his career has a chance to end.