Welcome to the Real World, Jeter

Posted: December 1, 2010 in Major League Baseball, MLB
Tags: , , ,

Three years…$45million guaranteed…what an insult!

Even the most casual baseball fan can figure out who I am referring to without mentioning any names because these numbers have been bandied about in the news ad nauseam recently.  For those who have managed to somehow avoid this story, the reference is to Derek Jeter and the contract that the 36-year old iconic Yankee is being offered to remain with the team that is synonymous with his name.

The Yankees, who usually show the same fiscal restraint as janitor who just hit the lottery, have finally decided to stop having bidding wars against themselves.  Fans who have grown accustomed to seeing the Yankees spend with reckless abandon are likely to question their newfound fiscal responsibility, especially when it comes to the most popular Yankee of the modern era.

Why draw a line in the sand now?  Why not just pay Jeter what he wants, even if it means spending top dollar for a player that may not even be starting by the end of his contract?  Who cares if Jeter is clearly on the downside of his illustrious career?  Shouldn’t he be rewarded for everything that he has done for the Yankees in the past?

In my opinion, the Steinbrenners are doing exactly what needs to be done!

I don’t hate Derek Jeter.  Quite the contrary!  I have a great deal of respect for what he has done throughout his career.  In a baseball era tainted by the prevalence of steroids, Jeter is a shining example that great success is not limited to those who break the rules.  However, playing by the rules is not a reason to pay someone well above market value, even if he is the face of the franchise.

Derek Jeter has already been handsomely rewarded for his efforts.  He is being offered more money than he is likely to be offered from any other team because of who he is, and not because of what he is likely to produce going forward.  How many of us could cut an outrageous compensation deal based more on past performance than future results?  Very few, I would imagine!

Certainly, even in these tough economic times, the Steinbrenners can afford to overpay.  But they shouldn’t, and I for one, am very happy that they don’t plan to do so.  This stance is long overdue in the world of sports.

The players in all professional sports have benefitted greatly from free agency, but it has come at a cost.  Two actually…

First of all, free agency has reduced even the most diehard fan to nothing more than a loyal follower of a particular uniform.  Nowadays, the player that a fan loves to hate may very well end up wearing the uniform that the fan is rooting for.  A sign of the times, I suppose; one that has forever changed the landscape for sports fans.

More importantly, there is the economic cost of free agency.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am not sympathizing with the plight of owners of professional sports teams.  There’s no reason to, because we (the fans) are the ones who ultimately pay for irresponsible spending.  It shows up in ticket prices, concession stand prices and even parking prices.  Things have spun so far out of control that a day at the ballpark (for an average sized family) can easily cost several hundred dollars.  For most families in these dire economic times, that money isn’t as easy to come up with as it once was.

Continuing down this slippery slope of rising costs being passed along to the fans will ultimately come back to haunt both the owners and the overpaid players.  If fans can no longer afford to attend the games, all of these teams with brand new stadiums will have to rely on corporate sponsors to fill the seats.  Families will always choose food on the table and basic necessities over a day at the ballpark, even if it is something that they truly enjoy.

We are in the midst of one of the worst economic crises in recent memory.  People feel lucky to have any job in these times; much less one that still gives raises to keep up with the cost of living.  Somehow, I think that Jeter will manage to “scrape by” even if he is forced to sign the insulting three-year, $45million dollar, guaranteed contract that is being offered by the Yankees.

In the real world, salaries are determined by the supply of jobs and the amount of workers available to fill those jobs.  Companies are not in the habit of overpaying their workers.  I see no reason (other than ego) why professional athletes expect to defy the basic laws of economics.

Hopefully, owners of professional sports teams will finally start showing the same restraint that other industries do, and professional athletes will join the rest of us in the real world!

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Comments
  1. Tom Burke says:

    The two costs of free agency that you refer to are not valid in this case.

    First, Jeter personifies the ‘root for the player and the uniform’ thinking. In fact, show me another team that had 4 players on their roster in both 1996 and 2009! Despite their spending, the Yankees have built their team around this core of players. Small market teams are more likely to see their heroes don other uniforms. I agree that is not good for baseball.

    Second, ticket prices are supply and demand. Teams are reacting to unsold seats by reducing prices. The real reason owners can afford big salaries is the TV money. In the case of the Yankees, their own network’s cash. Add in licensing and other ancillary revenues and you can see why the rich get richer.

    My choice would be to give Jeter 4 years at $20 million per and not go after Cliff Lee. Big market teams scoffing up stars presents a real challenge for baseball. The richest team should not be able to get the top free agent every year.

    But Jeter is different. To talk of fiscal sanity on the part of the Yankees when they are about to offer Lee a six year deal at an amount that will make the Jeter signing peanuts? Real world indeed.

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