Well 40 nights, nights at sea
Pay me my money down,
Captain worked every last dollar out of me,
Pay me my money down
Oh, the irony of Captain Intangibles locked in a bitter dispute over money — the most tangible thing there is.
But let’s all just take a deep breath here for a moment. Because we’ve all (me included) allowed the insane sports media to turn a non-story into a story yet again.
Wait a minute…do you mean to tell me a player is asking for more money that he’s worth?
And hang on…do you also mean to tell me that a baseball team doesn’t want to exorbitantly overpay for said player’s services?
Whoa, whoa, whoa…and both sides are using the media as part of their negotiating strategy?
Wow, this truly is a story for the ages.
Even leaving aside crazy hyperbole like the New York Post running a photo of Jeter in a Red Sox uniform, the media has been completely out of control on this story. Take a look at some ESPN headlines, all from the past couple weeks:
- Source: Jeter, Yanks have ‘good’ talk
- Source: Jeter’s agent meets with Yanks
- Sources: Nuñez likely Plan B if Jeter out
- Source: Jeter needs reality potion (editor’s note: I’m sure this particular “source” is completely unbiased)
- Jeter’s agent: Don’t believe $150M figure
- Cashman to Jeter: Test the market
- Trainer: Jeter aims to play until 2017
- The solution to the Jeter crisis
- Jeter the villain? Maybe so
- Jeter plays the Babe Ruth card
- Jeter’s Gold Glove = $$$
- How much is Jeter worth?
- Yanks will splash cash on Jeter
Keep in mind that each one of those headlines linked to a different, individual story. And that’s just on ESPN.com, not even getting into ESPN the network (which had a special Outside the Lines report on the Jeter negotiations yesterday), other Web sites, magazines, newspapers and blogs. How have we collectively allowed this to become a story at all?
Derek Jeter is going to be a Yankee in 2011, 2012 and 2013 at the minimum. There is no story. A declining-yet-still-productive shortstop is staying with his team at a salary above market value because that team values his marketing appeal. That’s it. That’s your story. But we’ve allowed the media, the Yankees and Jeter’s agent to use as pawns in a game involving millionaires and billionaires haggling.
Despite my normal level-headed sense of calm about all things Yankees, I’ll admit that even I was incensed when I saw leaked reports of Jeter’s asinine contract demands (5 years for $120 million). I was all set to write a post about how I was ready to say goodbye to Jeter despite my eternal love for him, because winning is more important than loyalty to declining players. Most teams realize that. Most fans don’t. Jeter’s underhanded toss in a 2001 playoff game isn’t going to help the Yankees win in 2011.
But I quickly realized that Jeter isn’t going anywhere (even if the Yankees might be better off in the long term if he did). And that those leaked demands were leaked on purpose by someone (probably Hal Steinbrenner) for reasons not entirely altruistic. And that my brewing outrage was pointless and wasted, and best saved for other things — like Republicans stomping their feet and threatening to bring all legislation to a standstill unless they get their way on tax cuts (see also: the past two years). Or even the World Cup going to Qatar.
There are legitimate stories out there, in the sports world and elsewhere. Derek Jeter’s contract is not one of them. Teams and players use the media to further their cases in public. The media willingly complies, because it’s an easy story, involving no legwork or legitimate reporting. Everyone wins, except fans who actually try to watch SportsCenter or read a newspaper.