January is traditionally a slow month for baseball news. So for the second year in a row, we will showcase other blogs with a series of pinch hitters.
Next up is Scott from this The Bronx View (www.thebronxview.com). Scott started writing online about baseball in the pre-blog era for sites like esportsmediagroup.com and the now-defunct hardrocksports.com. He used to run The Fair Pole baseball blog before launching The Bronx View in November. The blog focuses on Yankee news as well as MLB news and features a weekly podcast available through the blog and on iTunes.
Here’s his post:
A 36 year-old shortstop in decline. A first ballot Hall of Famer. The face of a franchise.
In 1996, the Baltimore Orioles had a dilemma: what to do with Cal Ripken? Ripken was almost bigger than the game. The consecutive games record, which he set in 1995, was credited with reviving a sport tarnished by the cancellation of the 1994 World Series.
The problem: Cal couldn’t handle shortstop anymore. His “ambassador of the game” status sold tickets but weakened the Orioles ballclub. Ripken tried third base briefly in 1996, then took the full time job in 1997. Defensively, it was the right move, but offensively he was a below average third baseman.
In 2010, Derek Jeter’s 10-year, $189 million contract will end. Jeter will be 37 years old and, health permitting, within a season of reaching 3,000 hits. The Yankees will have to negotiate a new contract for the face of their franchise, one of the most recognizable names in the game, despite significant performance decline. It’s a situation similar to Ripken, only in 2010 Jeter will make $16 million more than Cal did in 1997.
Jeter’s reputation is inarguable. From his Rookie of the Year award to his four World Series rings and .309 postseason average, Jeter has been the anchor of the Yankees. He also has been well paid. In 2010, Jeter will receive $22.1 million, raising his career total to over $204 million in compensation.
There’s a problem. By today’s standards, Derek Jeter is not a $22 million player and, given his age, never will be again. He has also never been a very good defensive shortstop and, by age 37 in 2011, will be even worse. Jeter needs a new position, but where can he go?
The easiest shift would be to third base, but that should have happened when Alex Rodriguez arrived. First base was just given to Mark Teixeira for eight years. Second base is a lateral shift with no benefit while Jeter’s offensive output doesn’t justify an outfield position. The best place for Jeter to play from an offensive standpoint is shortstop, but his poor defense would create quite a hole on the left side for opposing hitters. A corner outfield spot could be bearable in the right lineup.
From a money standpoint, Jeter should take a paycut. His last three years have seen a steady decline in both OBP and SLG and while that could fluctuate, it wouldn’t be enough to justify $22 million. The Yankees would be smart to work out a contract that rewards career totals. If Jeter plays another five seasons, he could be the Yankees career leader in games, at-bats, plate appearances, runs scored, hits, doubles, and stolen bases, to go along with the singles record he already owns. Jeter would justify his salary with the media hoopla that will surround his achievements.
The Yankees and Jeter need each other at this point. Jeter’s career totals have more meaning in pinstripes and the Yankees don’t want the media backlash of losing him. It may mean overpaying a shortstop, but the Yankees are the one team that can afford it.
Supporting facts and other notes relevant to this article can be found at www.thebronxview.com.
Thanks, Scott. Coming tomorrow: The wacky crew from It Is High, It is Far, It is … Caught.