Talks hurt Derek Jeter-GM relationship
The relationship between Derek Jeter and New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman was seriously and perhaps irreparably damaged during last fall's contract talks, according to an upcoming book about the Yankees captain by ESPN New York columnist Ian O'Connor.
Don't you think I've tried? I try, and sometimes I've just got to walk away and come back and try again, but you know I've tried. And every time I try, he'll do something that pushes me away.” -- Derek Jeter on '06 rift with A-Rod
The book, "The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter," details a Nov. 30 sit-down in which Jeter, his agent Casey Close and Creative Artists Agency attorney Terry Prince met with Cashman, team president Randy Levine and co-owner Hal Steinbrenner to iron out their differences. The Tampa summit lasted four hours, but Jeter stayed for only the first 45 minutes, telling his employers -- especially Cashman -- how angry he was that they had made details of the negotiations public.
When Jeter got up to leave the room, Cashman asked the shortstop to sit back down and hear him out. "You said all you wanted was what was fair," the GM told the shortstop. "How much higher do we have to be than the highest offer for it to be fair?"
Jeter, who had no other offers in his first pass at free agency, ultimately signed a three-year, $51 million guaranteed deal plus an option year and incentive bonuses. But the negotiations were often difficult. When Close told Daily News columnist Mike Lupica that the Yankees' negotiating stance was "baffling," Hal Steinbrenner gave Cashman the green light to take the fight to Jeter and Close in the media. The quote that would anger Jeter the most was the one Cashman gave to ESPNNewYork.com's Wallace Matthews, who quoted the GM saying that Jeter should test the market to "see if there's something he would prefer other than this."
Levine met with Jeter in the shortstop's Trump World Tower home the day before the contract would be finalized. According to the book, Jeter told Levine he needed more money added to the proposed performance bonuses in the Yankees' offer, bonuses tied to awards such as league MVP, World Series or League Championship Series MVP, Silver Slugger and Gold Glove. Jeter spent a couple of hours making an impassioned plea to Levine, who was playing the good cop to Cashman's bad cop. Levine was so taken by Jeter's arguments that one official estimated the shortstop earned an extra $4-5 million in that meeting before signing the following afternoon in a suite at the Regency.
O'Connor's book demonstrates other awkward Jeter-Cashman moments. When the relationship between Jeter and Alex Rodriguez was at its coldest in 2006, the two came together for a dropped pop-up in a blowout loss to the Orioles. After the ball fell harmlessly to the dirt, Jeter gave A-Rod a death stare in full view of everyone in the ballpark.
Then-manager Joe Torre would scold the third baseman and shortstop for the drop, but Cashman asked his manager to do more. The GM asked Torre to talk to Jeter about improving his relationship with A-Rod. When Torre declined, Cashman confronted Jeter himself.
"Listen, this has to stop," the GM told the captain. "Everybody in the press box, every team official, everyone watching, they saw you look at the ball on the ground and look at him with disgust like you were saying, 'That's your mess, you clean it up.'"
"Show me the video," Jeter told Cashman in disbelief. "Show me the video."
The GM didn't bother, but advised Jeter to do a better job of embracing Rodriguez, if only for the sake of perception. One friend of Jeter's agreed with Cashman and told the shortstop to try to make A-Rod feel more welcome in the clubhouse.
"Now you're sounding like everyone else," Jeter told the friend, according to the book. "Don't you think I've tried? I try, and sometimes I've just got to walk away and come back and try again, but you know I've tried. And every time I try, he'll do something that pushes me away."
In 2007, Cashman decided he needed to address his shortstop's declining defense, and he didn't ask the newly-hired Joe Girardi to run this meeting for fear it might destroy the manager-captain relationship before it had a chance.
So Cashman met with Jeter at an Upper East Side restaurant, and the GM maintains he wasn't eager to blitz a beloved icon. "If you had a daughter," Cashman says in the book, "you'd want her to marry Derek Jeter. He's a great person."
But the GM did the job he was paid to do, telling Jeter the team needed him to improve his fielding in the offseason. According to the book, Cashman was under the impression that Torre had already approached the shortstop about the need to improve his range and, ultimately, about a possible move to center field.
Jeter shocked Cashman by telling him Torre had mentioned no such thing. The GM assured Jeter that the team had issues with his declining range. "You mean to tell me we were trying to win a championship every year," the shortstop told Cashman, "and there was a way for me to get better to help us do that, and nobody told me? ... I want to do everything I can to get better."
"I don't think you should have a problem with trying to get better," Jeter would tell O'Connor of the meeting with Cashman. Asked if he was on board with Cashman's suggestion that he needed to improve defensively, Jeter said, "Why wouldn't I be? It's important to get better and to be willing to listen."
On Monday, Jeter tried to distance himself from the book, telling the New York Post: "Make sure everyone knows it's not mine. I had nothing to do with that book."