Tuesday, February 16, 2010

If Jeter Is Not Forever a Yankee, So What?

CC photo by Keith Allison on Flickr.

From a New York Times story about the Yankees' strategy in eventually re-signing Derek Jeter:
Jeter’s value is different, and the Yankees understand they must treat him as a special case. Parting ways would be devastating to their brand, but no less so to Jeter’s legacy. The Yankees and Jeter need each other, and it is hard to imagine acrimony at the bargaining table.
I originally started to write this post about how one player can be so much more valuable to one team--and vice versa--because of legacy considerations. Jeter has so much glory as a Yankee, and it's hard to imagine him sustaining that if he were traded to, say, the Pittsburgh Pirates.

However, if a lucrative trade opportunity or a contract standoff were to arise involving Jeter (neither is very likely, of course), the Yankees should part with him, just as if he were any other player. While there would be short-term backlash from fans, Jeter has already cemented his legacy as a Yankee.

Is Joe Montana's legacy as a 49er tarnished by his last two years in Kansas City? Does anyone even remember that Babe Ruth finished his career with the Boston Braves? I imagine also that Brett Favre's Packers glory will be celebrated for decades despite his recent stints with the Jets and the archrival Vikings. Much has been made about how Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken, Jr., both spent their entire careers with one team, but if they ended their careers with short stints elsewhere, how much is their glory really diminished?

Of course, as long as Jeter remains productive, it's likely that he'll stay with a good team. A good player is worth more to a good team than he is to a bad team. For example, a 5-win increase for the Yankees may be the difference they need to make the playoffs, while a 5-win bump for the Washington Nationals still keeps them in last place. And while Jeter remains this valuable of a player, he might as well do it with the Yankees. But don't be surprised if the Yankees give up on Jeter before he wants to leave the game for good.