Posts Tagged ‘Derek Jeter’

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Despite the fact he was still rehabbing a tear in his Achilles tendon, Kobe Bryant was awarded a two-year contract extension on November 18th. The terms of the contract are two years for approximately $48.5 million.

Bryant and the Lakers have faced a lot of backlash since the move, with fans and analysts calling Bryant selfish for taking so much money from a team that has plenty of other issues. Bryant took to his twitter page the next night to defend the extension. Bryant tweeted “The cap rules players have to be “selfless” on To “help” BILLIONAIRE owners R the same cap rules the owners LOCKED US out to put in #think.” He also tweeted “Don’t just learn ur sport .. Learn the sports industry #futureathletes.”

There is no denying the impact that Kobe has had in the NBA and that he has earned this money. However, Bryant may need to take some of his own advice and learn the sports industry. If nothing else is true about this industry, the one fact of the industry is loyalty means nothing. With these tweets and the situation in general, a bigger question can be raised. Should teams have to pay homage to there former stars?

To start this off lets look at some of the contracts of the biggest stars in major sports. Derek Jeter, at the age of 39, just signed a one-year contract for $12 million. This comes after he signed a three-year contract for $45 million at the age of 36. Playing in a total of 17 games last year, Jeter hit .190 with 1 HR and 7 RBI. He then injured his ankle and was done for the season.

Bryant’s and Jeter’s situations are even more similar when you look at the situations of their teams. Both the Yankees and the Lakers are in a free fall. Both teams have money tied up in bad contracts and have a general lack of talent on their respective teams. Yet, Jeter and Bryant had no issue taking these large contracts that deter their teams from fixing their issues.

The argument for Jeter and Bryant making their salaries is that they need to be paid not only for what they will do, but what they have done. It is undeniable that these two are among the best of all time in their respective games. Jeter led the Yankees to 5 World Series rings & may go down as the greatest shortstop of all time. Similarly, Kobe has 5 rings and arguments (granted to a lesser extent) have been made that he is the greatest basketball player of all time.

The question ultimately comes down to this. Do teams have pay their long tenured players more because of their past actions. The answer to this question varies. Look at Jim Irsay. He only had to pay Peyton Manning what his contract already was. Instead he released Manning and selected Andrew Luck with the #1 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. This move was praised by some and criticized by other. However, there was one universal agreement, there is no loyalty in sports.

This example can go even further. When Danny Ainge traded Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, he was bombarded with criticism for having a lack of loyalty to his players. Yet, the deal was better for the team, as a whole, in the long term as they brought in expiring contracts and future draft picks to build their team with.

The one option not many people mention is why don’t these players just take less money. That’s the situation of future Hall of Fame PF Dirk Nowitzki. Reports have surfaced that Nowitzki will want to slash his salary by more than half next season so that his team, the Dallas Mavericks, can continue to rebuild. This is an admirable situation, which, unfortunately, does not happen as often as it should in the professional sports.

So is it wrong to trade Pierce or release Manning? At the end of the day, an owner, general manager, and coach need to decide whom they have to be loyal to. Do you have to be loyal to a specific player or an entire team? Last time I checked, there are 52 players on an NFL team and 24 on and MLB team. So why must you be loyal to the minority? Yes this is a utilitarian type of thinking, but it isn’t as far fetched, as it may seem. Must there be more loyalty to Kobe Bryant then an entire team and that teams fan base? That is the ultimate question.

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I come to you as an increasingly disappointed Yankees fan.

For years, the New York Yankees have been a standard of excellence. They have had a team of selfless, team-first players, who would do anything to win the game. It was built from the ground up, and even after a good chunk of the cast left after 2001, they still kept succeeding. Even in the mid 2000’s, where they spent wildly on unnecessary free agents, they won division after division. In 2009, their spending spree worked, as they compiled yet another near complete team, and won their 27th world title. The majority of the group stayed together for the next couple of years, though it met with natural decline due to age and injury.

And then, it all started to fall apart in Game 1 of the 2012 ALCS.

Derek Jeter, one of 3 Yankees left from the golden years, was running to his left to make a play, dove, and broke his ankle. Yankee fans collectively held their breath while he was helped off the field, something that never happens. Jeter was the beacon of light for the Yankees, always being there to keep the team somewhat even keel, and most of all, win games.

He didn’t play much the entire 2013 season. In fact, that 2013 season had many injuries that caused problems. Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez (plus the Biogenesis scandal that emerged the previous January), his replacement Kevin Youkilis, all spent the majority of the season either injured, or had their abilities hampered by those injuries when they finally found the field.

The pitching staff had it’s own problems. CC Sabathia, their ace and stalwart, looked nothing like an ace, bothered by occasional injury and a decline in his pitching. Phil Hughes couldn’t keep the ball in the park. Hiroki Kuroda hit a decline toward the end of the year. The fifth rotation spot became a rotation, true to it’s name.

Many of the players they signed to patch up some of those injuries didn’t quite help things along either. Vernon Wells started hot and hit a wall. Travis Hafner showed some life, then disappeared. Lyle Overbay found himself in the outfield for the first time in his career. The catcher position was manned by a few guys armed with toothpicks. Jayson Nix played everywhere, but couldn’t handle the bat most nights. They signed Mark Reynolds, which helped them in the occasional home run and rally kill. Alfonso Soriano did play some great ball, but was overshadowed by failure all around him.

The only player to have 100+ RBI as a Yankee, hit .300, play in 150+ games, hit 20 home runs, or get 150 hits, was Robinson Cano. He was set for free agency at the end of the season.

Now here is where I got really mad. The Yankees made it clear that they had 2 major priorities this off-season. Resign Cano, and keep the payroll under $189M, to avoid luxury tax. Another smaller task was to bring in players who can help in weaker positions.

Negotiations went relatively slow between the Yankees and Cano, with Cano wanting 10 years and upwards of $225M, and the Yankees saying that the best they can do is 8 years for $175M, channeling their inner Pawn Star. The Seattle Mariners swoop in and snag him for 10 years and $240M, and Cano didn’t think twice.

And if I’m Cano, I would do that over and over again with no regret.

During those negotiations, the Yankees signed former Boston outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury to 7 years and $153M, thus starting to crowd the outfield. Doing the math, that’s similar average annual value that they offered to Cano, the premium player in a premium position. Pile on top of that, that Cano didn’t like how manager Joe Girardi was using him. The Mariners offered him the contract he wanted. Game, set, match.

After that, the Yankees further overstuffed the outfield with Carlos Beltran, bringing them to 6 outfielders, albeit 4 worth playing time. While that is happening, their rotation is in shambles, with CC, Hiroki Kuroda, and Ivan Nova as normal starters, and no one in sight who can step up with any certainty to take the 4 or 5 spots. Their bullpen is even more a wreck, with the only recognizable pitcher being new closer David Robertson. Their remaining infielders include 2 players on their way back from injury in Jeter and Teixeira, neither with any certainty on returning to form, Alex Rodriguez, who we still don’t know how many games he’ll be allowed to play, or how productive he would be in those games, Kelly Johnson, jack of all trades, and Brendan Ryan, who can’t handle a bat.

None of that actually bothers me much anymore, I’ve kinda gotten used to it.

What bothers me is that the way that the Yankees build their team. Think of it as a car, metaphorically. You drive your car, and it eventually gets worn down, the body gets banged up, and the engine stops functioning properly. What people should think first to do, is fix the engine, considering that the car can drive, even if the body is a little beat up. But a car with a pristine body and an dysfunctional engine won’t get you anywhere.

The Yankees are fixing their body first. The major league roster, or at least the big names, are the metaphoric body. It’s important to have a good bunch of big name guys, just as it’s important to have a good body of a car. But it’s even more important to have a functional engine, which compares to role players and young up-and-comers. The Yankees have never truly been about team building, just polishing the look of the team, to make it seem like they are doing the right thing. Their metaphoric car may look great and muscular, but it wouldn’t beat a souped up sedan in a drag race.

It’s been like that for a while in the Bronx, but it’s gotten significantly worse this year, as they move further away from true rebuilding, and further the patch job that free agency offers. They won’t go anywhere until they get some decent young guys who they can build a team around, just like the Core 4 back in the old days, the only group of 4 teammates to have played together for 15+ years, of Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, and Jorge Posada. The Yankees were tremendously successful building around those guys in their early careers. I think it’s time to find a new core bunch who will help them do something similar, as hard as it is, and ditch the dependence on free agents, who are just rejects from their old teams.

Until then, I will be sitting at home trying to find some real baseball teams to watch.