As much as I enjoy the idea of The New York Times refereeing the Jeter negotiations — could we somehow involve another bloated, self-important New York institution? What's Patti Lupone up to? — I can't agree that the talks have turned "ugly."
In fact, there's something downright beautiful about watching the principals here argue in a very public way what the rest of us slobs have been arguing for years — Jeter is aging in dog years; Jeter has value beyond his on-field production; Jeter is tangibly shitty; Jeter is intangibly great; etc. There's nothing "ugly" about that. It's not even a real argument, besides. Brian Cashman knows that Jeter is more valuable to the Yankees than any other singles-hitting middle infielder out there, which explains the three-year $45 million offer to a player who's probably not worth much more than $20 million. And Casey Close, Jeter's agent, knows — at least on some level — that he is asking the Yankees to pay dearly for the privilege of penciling in an Easter Island moai at shortstop, which explains why he sounds so much like a man begging for an honorarium. All of this was perfectly predictably, as good ol' Nate Silver points out. Silver writes:
The Yankees' general manager, Brian Cashman, has challenged Jeter to test the market, knowing that he is unlikely to receive another offer as generous as the one the Yankees made. Mr. Cashman is probably right about that; so much of Jeter's value is tied up in being a New York Yankee that he does not have very much flexibility in exploring the market.
Or you could look at it another way: Cashman may have leverage, but because so much of Jeter's value to the Yankees and their mystique is a product of the team's own ever-churning bullshit factory, the Yankees have essentially bid themselves up already. The real argument isn't so much between the Yankees and Jeter as it is between the Yankees' baseball operations people and the folks over in marketing. That's the beauty part: the sight of a team desperately trying to peel a guy off the chapel ceiling after 15 years of painting him right smack in the middle.