Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Derek Jeter, Employee Number 2

There was hope. Derek Jeter is a Yankee, and will always be a Yankee. The hope was that Jeter and the Yankees would sit in a room and within an hour pick out a salary and contract length that would be fair to both. The hope was that Derek Jeter and the Yankees would rise above a bitter contract negotiation. In the end, it turned out to be perspective employee vs. perspective employer. It was no different than any other player contract negotiation. Yes, there were extenuating circumstances, but those circumstances just became part of the negotiation. It was played out in the media. Depending on the slant you were reading, either the Yankees were being cheap, or Jeter was being greedy. It's done now, but with a bitter aftertaste.

Why? Why did we have hope in the first place? Why did we care about how this played out? After all, Baseball is just another business, right? Well, no. Baseball is a business, but it's not "just another" business. I worked for IBM. My father, brother, and brother-in-law worked for IBM. I check their stock price, but even when I worked there I didn't care about who the CFO was. I didn't follow the negotiations for a new Director of Research and Development. Some people do follow that stuff, but it's because it directly affects their wallet. They might "root" for IBM to "beat" HP in somthing, but it's for a tangible personal gain. When people root for a sports team, there is no tangible gain. What do you get when your team wins The Championship? You get Happiness? Emotional Fulfillment? Temporal Ecstasy? I'd say yes to all of those.*

*If you actually think you gain something to the affect that you, personally, are better than another person because the team you root for beat the team they root for, you need some time on a professional's couch.

So your connection to your team is more emotional than anything tangible. Sort of like your connection to your family. You root for those in your family to do well. You share in their successes and their failures. By being a fan of a team (and I'm talking being a fan that has a real emotional attachment), you are accepting them into your family.

This is why it seemed important that Derek Jeter, my figurative brother, and the Yankees FO, my figurative other brothers could work this out without having a family spat. Jeter and the Yankees have been part of the same family for many years and each has enjoyed success together. Because they are family, don't they both see the same future goals? Wasn't there a compromise that they could agree on because they've been in this together for so long?

But that is a fan's perspective. Derek Jeter is a human being trying to do everything possible for the betterment of himself and his actual family (and future family). The New York Yankees are a business whose number one goal is to make money. You might think that one of their top goals is winning, and it is, but only so far that it gaurantees more money.

Yes, I'm sure there is an emotional attachment to the fans on both the part of Jeter and those that run the Yankees. But their attachment is to the fans as a group, not as individuals. They'll always have a group of fans.

However, try this on for a little perspective. Pretend all of these negotiations took place behind closed doors. We didn't hear the yankees first offer. We didn't know that Jeter's agent was "baffled". We didn't know that Jeter asked for 25 million a year. We didn't hear Cashman tell Jeter to go try to find a better offer somewhere else. What if, all we heard was "Jeter and Yankees agree to 3 year $51 million deal."? After hearing the fans and media that wanted to give Jeter anywhere from $8 million for one year to 10 years and $250 million, I would have thought, "Cool, they both knew what was good for the team and compromised just like a family would do."

It didn't happen that way, though. Time will make this a mere footnote in the Jeter/Yankee history books, but whether warranted or not it changes my perception of Derek Jeter and the hope that there can be more than just a business relationship between a player and a team.