This afternoon’s press conference was Derek Jeter at his most candid. Sure, he kept some of the details to himself — this is still Jeter we’re talking about — but he was surprisingly open about his distaste for what’s happened during the past month.
“I can’t tell you I ever thought it was going to go this way,” he said. “My understanding is that it was supposed to be a private negotiation. That’s how it’s supposed to go, but it didn’t go that way.”
It was the public back-and-forth that bothered Jeter. He said the money was never really an issue. He was disappointed by the perception that he was being greedy, that his ego had gotten the best of him.
“It all started with my (reported) salary demands, which still cracks me up,” he said. “What position am I in to demand a salary? Give me this, or what? Where am I going?”
Jeter used the word angry a surprising number of times, always in one way or another directed at the organization and the people he obviously still cares about very deeply. In particular, Jeter said, he was hurt by Brian Cashman’s public comments that he should test the free agent market if he thought there was a better offer to be found.
“I was pretty angry about it, but I let that be known,” Jeter said. “I was angry about it because I was the one that said I didn’t want to do it, that I wasn’t going to (test the market). To hear the organization tell me to go shop it when I just told you I wasn’t going to, if I’m going to be honest, I was angry about it.”
Cashman seemed to see it as part of the process. Negotiations becoming public, he said, is inevitable for a player of Jeter’s stature. Cashman said he was angry to be put in a position that required a public response.
“When they’re on the field, that’s when it’s at their best,” Cashman said. “When they’re at the negotiating table, it’s a different arena. It’s a different type of game than the one they’re used to playing on the field. That’s why it’s a good thing there are agents in between.”
Jeter’s agent, Casey Close, was among those who went public during this negotiation, but Jeter said Close’s words and opinions were not Jeter’s words and opinion. Jeter tried to stay out of it. When family and friends urged him to speak up, Jeter refused, “because I said from the get-go I wasn’t going to talk about it.” Getting a fourth year on his contract was important because Jeter wanted to delay his next negotiation as long as possible.
“And I promise you, you won’t hear about that one,” he said.
Ultimately, today seemed to be a good day for Jeter. He said what he needed to say, and he said it after all the contract talk was over and done with. He’s back with the Yankees, and as many people said many times, he never really left.
“Look, I’ve been making a lot of money playing baseball,” Jeter said. “Money has never been something I’ve talked about before, and I’m not going to talk about it now. You understand that it’s a business, and there’s negotiations on both sides. You may not agree with it, but once you get to an agreement, you move beyond it. It’s over and it’s done with. I’m not sitting around focused on what I’m making this particular year compared to last year or anything like that. I’m happy because this is where I wanted to be. This is what was going to make me happy.
“I’m happy with the deal I have. If I wasn’t happy, I wouldn’t have signed the deal. I’m extremely happy.”
Associated Press photo