Derek Jeter and Manny Ramirez pay huge dividends
The wasted dollars flow freely in baseball. The longer the contract, the better the chance of throwing away millions.
Maybe your guy gets injured, or he loses his fastball, or your team collapses around him.
Or maybe your guy is Derek Jeter, playing out the final months of what might be the best big contract in baseball history. It’s either him or Manny Ramirez, and we can’t wait to hear from the Boston precincts.
“I don’t try to sit around and rate what I’ve done,” Jeter said before Saturday’s game at Angel Stadium. “I just try to be as consistent as possible.”
And so he was. Jeter got two hits. The New York Yankees won.
That is what he does. That is what the Yankees do.
Sign a guy for $100 million, and you might be more likely to be sorry than happy.
We don’t have to look hard to find $1 billion worth of “Can we have a do-over?” contracts, all signed with the best of intentions: Todd Helton ($142 million), Alfonso Soriano ($136 million), Vernon Wells ($126 million), Barry Zito ($126 million), Mike Hampton ($121 million), Jason Giambi ($120 million), Carlos Beltran ($119 million) and Ken Griffey Jr. ($117 million).
Total World Series championship rings: zero.
In 2004, Albert Pujols signed for a relatively modest $100 million. But never did so much money flow in such a short time than in the winter of 2000-01.
Alex Rodriguez signed with the Texas Rangers for $252 million. Rodriguez lasted three years there. He led the American League in home runs every year, albeit with chemical assistance, and won a most-valuable-player award. The Rangers finished last every year, with declining attendance, and they could not sell stadium naming rights, even with that star power.
Jeter signed with the Yankees for $189 million. He has not led the league in anything since then, except for plate appearances. He has played in all but two All-Star games since then, with four top-10 finishes in MVP voting.
“Everyone thinks people who get those contracts should get Cy Young or MVP,” said Scott Boras, baseball’s most prominent agent. “He has never attained that. But the fact is that he is the core of the Yankee franchise.
“He certainly provides the optimal performance every day. He gives you offensive production at a premium position.”
Boras does not represent Jeter. He represents Ramirez now, but he did not during that winter of 2000-01, when the Boston Red Sox signed him for $160 million.
The Yankees have won the World Series once since Jeter signed that contract, although they won four times with him before then and 22 times without him.
The Red Sox won twice with Ramirez, after nearly a century of failure. He made the All-Star team in each of his eight years in Boston, with five top-10 MVP finishes.
He led the league in batting average once, home runs once, on-base percentage three times. He and David Ortiz menaced opponents in October, and Ortiz appears lost without him. He also had some reported chemical assistance, at least in 2003.
He hit, and the Red Sox transformed their image from cursed losers, selling out just about every game at Fenway Park and driving demand so high that the club could raise prices to NFL levels.
Ramirez has the most home runs in postseason history, Jeter the most hits.
Jeter said he would rather not discuss whether his contract might have been the best, or even how proud he might be to have delivered consistency and success for so long, when so many others have fallen short in one or the other.
“I don’t think about it,” Jeter said. “It’s not something I try to judge.”
If you judge by rings, by statistics, by the transformation of Ye Olde Town Team into Red Sox Nation, the vote for best big contract in baseball history might go to Ramirez.
Yet, Ramirez huffed and puffed his way out of town. Jeter, as the face of the Yankees, provides excellence day after day, year after year, on the field and off. He is the captain. When the old Yankee Stadium closed, Jeter spoke on behalf of the most storied franchise in American sport.
In a letter to Jeter last year, Commissioner Bud Selig called him " Major League Baseball’s foremost champion and ambassador.”
Added Selig: “You have represented the sport magnificently throughout your Hall of Fame career. On and off the field, you are a man of great integrity, and you have my admiration.”
That, we imagine, would be one vote for Jeter.
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