Not nearly satisfied with his role in the dismissal of Mets manager Willie Randolph —- can a newspaper columnist be voted a playoff share? — the Bergen Record’s Ian O’Connor can foresee a day in the not-so-distant future when the current captain of the New York Yankees is also considered surplus to requirements.
Brett Favre today is Derek Jeter tomorrow, a beloved icon synonymous with one of the most storied franchises in American sports. The Packers are eager to start a new life without their lionized quarterback, only their lionized quarterback is calling an audible that has left Green Bay fans rallying outside Lambeau Field and demanding a return of ol’ No. 4.
Now fast-forward to October 2010, with the newly signed LeBron James taking his first wind sprints in Knicks camp and fixing to hurdle A-Rod and claim Jeter’s vacated place as the market’s reigning sports prince. Listen to Cashman and Hank Steinbrenner explain how the Yankees need to get younger and more athletic. Listen to the executives tell the public why the 10-year, $189 million contract ol’ No. 2 signed in February 2001 represents the last nickel the Yanks ever will pay him.
Some fans will support the organization’s stance on common sense grounds – Jeter, after all, is already in decline. But enough fans will hold fast to the four titles in Jeter’s first five seasons – not to mention his shortstop-next-door charms – to make the potential Yanks-Jeter divorce a big-city version of what’s now going down in Green Bay.
“In Brett Favre’s case,” Cashman said the other day, “he still had tremendous numbers last year. It would be different if someone wanted to keep playing and the fans were married to the name but the game doesn’t necessarily match the name anymore. From what I’ve seen, that’s not the case with Brett Favre.”
But is it the case with Jeter, whose current batting average (.284) and on-base percentage (.345) would make for the worst full-season numbers of his career? Will the Yankees have to part with a star who has limited range in the field and limited power at the plate, a No. 2 hitter who has 1,334 strikeouts – second to Mickey Mantle’s 1,710 on the franchise’s all-time list?
“That’s not something that’s on my radar at all,” Cashman said.
He’s too smart to talk about an impossible situation to be named later. Yet the GM knows how it ended in New York for Patrick Ewing and for Mark Messier. He knows how it all ended for Phil Simms, who walked into Dan Reeves’ office one day thinking he was being summoned to sign footballs for charity, only to be told by Reeves that he was fired.
It’s not the craziest prediction I’ve ever read, and depending on how badly the Dodgers need a shortstop in two years (and how desperately this Yankee icon might want to relocate thousands of miles away from Alex Rodriguez), the prospect of Jeter being reunited with Joe Torre seems well within the realm of possibility.