How Derek Jeter Lost, Both in Money and in Reputation

How Derek Jeter Lost, Both in Money and in ReputationDerek Jeter and the New York Yankees finally agreed on a new contract. But make no mistake. The Yankees, not Jeter, won this contract negotiation nearly as thoroughly as the Texas Rangers beat the Yankees in the playoffs this year, especially when you compare it to how well Jeter frenemy Alex Rodriguez did at the bargaining table in 2007.

Jeter reportedly wanted an A-Rod type contract from the Yankees — an incredible $150 million over six years. Then he lowered that offer to “only” $22-24 million a year over four to five seasons, still way beyond the Yankees offer of $45 million for three years.

Jeter ended up with a guaranteed $51 million over the next three years, which includes $3 million on an option year. This means he will make $16 million a year from 2011-2013, just $1 million a year more than the Yanks’ inital offer. This is a pay cut not just from the $22.6 million he made in 2010, but from the $18.9M average annual value of his last contract with the Yankees.

The most complicated part of the deal is the option on the fourth year, the one big concession the Yanks made. If Jeter turns down the option, the Yankees have to pay him that $3 million. If he accepts the option, he will make at least $8 million. But there are a whole slew of incentive options to raise that year’s salary even further. Jack Curry of the YES Network explains:

Jeter’s contract includes a point system in which he earns points for winning the Most Valuable Player Award or finishing in the top six in the voting, for winning the Silver Slugger Award, for being named MVP in the World Series or the League Championship Series, or for winning the Gold Glove. If and when Jeter notches any of those incentives, he will earn an undisclosed amount of points. After three years, those points will translate to a dollar amount, which will be added to Jeter’s salary in 2014. Jeter can earn as much as $9 million in incentives, so the maximum amount he could earn in the final year of the deal is $17 million. The most Jeter could earn in all four years is $65 million.

Other than maybe winning the Gold Glove (Jeter has won five of them in the past seven years, including a very controversial Gold Glove this year), none of those face-saving incentives are slam-dunk wins for Jeter. He has never won an MVP, and has finished in the top six for the award only four times in his 15-year career. He has won four Silver Slugger awards at shortstop, but given the rise of Alexei Ramirez and Elvis Andrus, combined with Jeter’s declining hitting skills, he may not win another one again.

And surprisingly, given his clutch postseason reputation, and all the playoffs Jeter has been in over the years (he’s played in seven World Series and nine ALCS), the captain has only won one series Most Valuable Player award; the 2000 World Series MVP.

Some of the stories in the New York media about the contract seem to suggest that both sides won; The New York Times says that the fact that the captain is still the highest-paid shortstop in baseball can be “construed as a victory,” while acknowledging that “the Yankees prevailed, too.”

But that’s like saying that the nail triumphed over the hammer because it wasn’t completely smashed into the wall.

Jeter wanted A-Rod money, and he didn’t even come close to getting it. He first asked for $150 million, and ended up with between $56 and $65 million. True, he will get between $11 to $20 million more than the Yankees’ initial offer, but that is a pittance in the scope of things. Even if Jeter ends up making the full $65 million in his new contract, Rodriguez will still make at least $174 million for the rest of his contract – plus up to an additional $30 million in marketing money from the team for reaching milestones in his home-run record chase.

And A-Rod, unlike Jeter, got nearly everything he wanted from the Yankees in his deal. In the summer of 2007, before A-Rod opted out, Scott Boras, Rodriguez’s agent, was looking for a $350 million deal over ten years. When A-Rod directly negotiated with the team after opting out, he asked for $300 million in guaranteed money. The team countered with $275 million, plus an additional $30 million in incentives. This, after the Yankees had vowed never to give him a dime after he opted out.

Yes, A-Rod’s rep took a hit there – not that it was so pristine in the first place – but he got the biggest contract of all time, too.

In Jeter’s case, the extra money he got from the team has to be offset by the damage he did to his pristine reputation over the past month. Even though the Yankee captain has been the second-highest paid player in baseball history, he’s always been depicted as a team-first player, who loved the pinstripes and winning more than money. The media put him on the pedestal as somehow more virtuous than anybody in baseball.

But that image was, if not shattered, cracked a bit with his haggling over the past month. He’s been called “greedy” and “delusional” for wanting so much money, after hitting just .270 last year.

Elizabeth Currid-Halkett, a college professor and author of the book “Starstruck: The Business of Celebrity,” noted that what she calls Jeter’s “average dude” image looked a less pristine with his contract demands:

The haggling over a $45 million contract by a guy who doesn’t seem to care about (and certainly doesn’t need) money is antithetical to our perception of Jeter the everyman. It would be one thing for A-Rod to have a temper tantrum, the public expects such antics from him. But from Jeter, the consummate professional and unpretentious accidental celebrity? Not so much.

Jeter should take note: Those everyman stars who display greediness tend to pay a social price. When Kate Gosselin transformed from an overtired mom of eight living in rural Pennsylvania to a seemingly money-hungry, celebrity-obsessed woman who spends $7,000 on her hair, she went from a sympathetic character to a woman whom US Weekly described as turning from “Mom to Monster.”

Ouch! Getting compared to Kate Gosselin is never a good thing.

I’m not quite sure yet as to exactly how much damage Jeter has done to his brand. I do know that I saw how many Yankee fans in the blogosphere and on sports radio were outraged at Jeter over the past month; a New York Post poll said 3/4 of Bombers fans took the team’s side in the negotiations.

Even the Respect Jeter’s Gangster blog found his contract demands hard to defend, writing, “I can’t defend that number. I can barely even wrap my mind around that number. I understand you might feel like the Yanks owe you A-Rod money, but, and I hate to say this, you’re not A-Rod.”

On the other hand, some of the New York media, like sports columnist Mike Lupica, are already trying to put all this Jeter ugliness down the old memory hole, blaming the Yankees, not the shortstop, for the “insult” of not wanting to give him whatever he wanted.

So it’s hard to say how much Jeter’s image will suffer here. But I do know this. None of this had to happen if the captain and his agent Casey Close had been more reasonable in the first place.

Photo by Keith Allison

Lisa Swan, a lifelong Yankee fan, grew up in Passaic, N.J., where her favorite player was the talented but insecure Reggie Jackson. Today she lives on Staten Island, where her favorite player is the t ...read more

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