Casey Close, Derek Jeter’s Agent, Turns Negotiations Into Parody
Derek Jeter’s agent Casey Close sounded like something out of a sports satire site this week when he compared his client to Babe Ruth and said that the shortstop’s significance to the New York Yankees was beyond mere statistics. It reminded me of a parody D.J. Gallo wrote for Sports Pickle, entitled “Report: Derek Jeter Demands to be Paid $1 Million for Each Intangible.”
Close complained to New York Daily News columnist Mike Lupica:
“There’s a reason the Yankees themselves have stated Derek Jeter is their modern-day Babe Ruth. Derek’s significance to the team is much more than just stats. And yet, the Yankees’ negotiating strategy remains baffling.”
Then Close said: “They continue to argue their points in the press and refuse to acknowledge Derek’s total contribution to their franchise.”
It reminds me of the Sports Pickle parody, which joked that Close would claim:
“[Jeter's] leadership is definitely one intangible,” said Close. “Getting that for $1 million is a huge bargain. His grit, his moxie, his general clutchness. Those are just three more. His musk. He has a natural scent of a champion. That’s a big one. What are we at — $5 million already? The Yankees better stop me because I could quickly and easily get to $100 million a year. He gets a lot of hot chicks to come to the game. $6 million.”
Anyhow, I don’t know who in the Yankee front office compared Jeter to Babe Ruth, but it’s a silly comparison on many levels, and it’s even sillier for Jeter’s agent to regurgitate it. Ruth was the greatest player of all time; Jeter wasn’t even the greatest player — or even the best shortstop — on his own team for much of his career. The Captain is a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but he’s no Babe Ruth.
Close claims that like The Bambino, Jeter’s “significance to the team is much more than just stats.” That is incorrect on the Bambino’s part. Ruth’s significance to the Yankees was that he had an out-of-this-world 1.195 OPS in his 15 years and 2084 games as a Bomber, with 659 homers, a .349 batting average, 2873 hits, 1971 RBIs, 424 doubles, 106 triples, and 1959 runs scored.
In Jeter’s 16 years and 2295 games as a Yankee, he has a career .837 OPS, with 234 homers, a .314 batting average, 2926 hits, 1135 RBI, 468 doubles, 61 triples, and 1685 runs scored. By nearly every measure other than the total number of hits, Ruth was worlds beyond Jeter as a player. It’s not even close; according to Baseball-Reference.com, Jeter’s numbers more closely compare to star players like Roberto Alomar, Craig Biggio, Frankie Frisch, Barry Larkin, and Alan Trammell, not Ruth.
Albert Pujols, not Jeter, is the modern player whose numbers are most like The Bambino, but because Pujols plays for the St. Louis Cardinals and not the New York Yankees, he doesn’t get the acclaim, the money, or the endorsements that Jeter does.
Yes, the Yankees were a better team with Jeter on it, but he has reached heights of fame — and money — he would never have received on any other team.
Besides, as ESPN New York’s Wallace Matthews notes, the Yankees cut Babe Ruth’s salary when he was Jeter’s age:
Perhaps Close doesn’t know the history, which is really his only excuse here, but in 1931, when Babe Ruth was 36 years old — the same age as Derek Jeter — he hit 46 home runs, had 163 RBIs and batted .373.The Yankees rewarded him by cutting his salary from $80,000 to $75,000 for the 1932 season. That year, as a 37-year-old, Ruth’s numbers slipped — to 41 homers, 137 RBIs and a .341 batting average. So they cut him to $52,000 for 1933.
For that miserable production, Ruth was forced to play the 1934 season for $37,000.In 1933, the 38-year-old Ruth was clearly finished: a mere 34 homers, 103 RBIs, .301 batting average. Numbers, incidentally, that Jeter would have killed to have as a 24-year-old. (By the way, some would argue that Ruth’s contributions to the franchise might even have surpassed Jeter’s.)
Anyhow, I really don’t know what Casey Close is complaining about here. What, exactly, did the team do that was so “baffling” to Close? When, exactly, did the team “refuse to acknowledge Derek’s total contribution to their franchise”?
Let’s review. Jeter, who just finished an $189 million, 10-year deal. has earned $205 million as a Yankee, making him the second-highest paid player in MLB history (Alex Rodriguez is No. 1). When A-Rod was traded to the team in 2004, he, not Jeter, had to switch positions, even though A-Rod was defensively superior at shortstop.
As team captain, Jeter seems to get all the credit for the five rings in his career, yet none of the blame for the Yankees going from 2001-2008 without a ring, including suffering the worst choke in baseball history. In many of those postseasons, the Yankees were outplayed by the opposition, and collpased at the first sign of adversity. Shouldn’t the team captain get a little of the blame for that?
Jeter is also the team spokesman, saying farewell to the old Yankee Stadium. He even got to keep Bob Sheppard’s voice announcing his name, a privilege no other player received. At what point has Jeter been disrespected here? Because they’re not giving him a blank check?
Then there’s this — when Yankees GM Brian Cashman pursued free agent pitcher CC Sabathia, the ace had concerns about the Yankee clubhouse, according to this ESPN column from Ian O’Connor:
Sabathia heard the rumors that the Yanks were a house divided, that the tension between their two heads of state, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, made for an awkward environment. The recruit told the recruiter he was concerned about his workplace, and Cashman did a funny thing in response.
“I told him the truth,” the general manager said.
Cashman told Sabathia the Yankees needed his help.
“Yeah, we are broken,” the GM told the ace. “One reason we’re committing this money to you is because you’re a team builder, and we need somebody to bring us all together.”
So, Casey Close thinks Jeter deserves a huge contract, even though he just came off the worst season of his career, because of what else he brings to the table besides the stats. And even though no other team would ever pay him close to what the Yankees will.
Yet, as the Yankees’s GM acknowledged, the team was so lacking in leadership even though Jeter was their captain, and so “broken,” that the Yanks had to beg CC Sabathia to step up and bring them together? That doesn’t really compute with the myth of Jeter’s supposed great leadership, where other players are supposedly so awed by him that he makes them all better.
Anyhow, the funny thing is that A-Rod has been accused over the years of envying Jeter. But I think this time around, Jeter is envious of A-Rod, or at least that 10-year, $275+M contract Rodriguez signed after the 2007 season. And Derek and his agent may very consider any offer less than that an insult. To which I say, that’s really, um, ”baffling”!
Photo by Wikimedia Commons
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