There is much ado these days regarding Derek Jeter and his contract negotiations with the New York Yankees. Jeter’s agent is baffled by the Yankees negotiation tactics, which appear to be closing in on a ‘take it or leave it’ $15 million per year for three years. It is a lot of money for an aging 36 year old shortstop, even if he is the most important Yankee in the history of history. *
* Or at least history as defined by Yankee fans and New York media who have canonized Jeter over the years.
The common consensus is that Jeter won’t leave New York. He can’t leave New York. He is New York. As my favourite writer Joe Poz wrote yesterday, it isn’t a matter of if he will sign, just a matter of how and when.
There is little doubt that Jeter wants to remain a Yankee. There is little public doubt that the Yankees want Jeter in pinstripes next year. Assuming those assumptions to be true, the odds are that Jeter will be back. If you are really cynical, you could interpret the Yankees hardball tactics as a subtle move to push Jeter out the door. I don’t think that is the case, but the case can be made.
What I do know is that it is not going to be the most shocking event in the history of sports if Jeter leaves the Yankees, no matter what the media and fans say. Sports history is filled with iconic players leaving the team that made them icons. Players who absolutely should have completed their career with one team often end up playing out the string elsewhere.
The National Football League
- Jerry Rice– the greatest NFL player of all time as anointed recently left the 49ers to play for Oakland and Seattle.
- Emmitt Smith– the all-time leading NFL rusher and face of the Dallas Cowboys ended his career in Arizona.
- Joe Montana– left the 49ers to finish his career in Kansas City.
- Brett Favre– left the Packers to make a mess in New York and in Minnesota.
- Joe Namath– the face of the New York Jets and most important player in early AFC history played out the string for the Los Angeles Rams.
- Bruce Smith– the all-time NFL sack leader left Buffalo to join the Redskins for the end of his career.
The National Basketball Association
- Michael Jordan– the greatest basketball player and most famous and iconic athlete of the past 30 years did not finish his career with the Chicago Bulls. Instead he missed the playoffs a couple of times with the Washington Wizards.
- Patrick Ewing– the most iconic New York Knick in the past 30 years had stints with Seattle and Orlando at the end of his career.
- Hakeem Olajuwon– the most iconic Houston Rocket of all time ended his career north of the border in Toronto.
- Karl Malone– the definitive Utah Jazz player left to join the Lakers in a failed bid to end his career with a NBA Finals title.
The National Hockey League
- Wayne Gretzky– the greatest hockey player of all time played for four teams in his career.
- Bobby Orr– the second greatest hockey player of all time left the Bruins and finished his career in Chicago.
- Gordie Howe– the fourth greatest hockey player of all time left Detroit and played for seemingly another 15-20 years before ending his career in Hartford.
- Mark Messier– after leaving Edmonton, the Moose became the face of New York. This didn’t stop him from leaving and playing for Vancouver for three years before ending his career in New York.
- Guy Lafleur– iconic Montreal Canadiens star left the Habs to play the Rangers and Quebec Nordiques.
Major League Baseball
- Willie Mays– the ‘say hey kid’ and iconic New York/San Francisco Giants player ended his career with the New York Mets.
- Pete Rose– MLB’s all-time leading hitter left Cincinnati to play in Philadelphia and Montreal before ending his career back with the Reds.
- Wade Boggs– the definitive Boston Red Sox player of the 1980s finished his career with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Finally, Yahoo Sports has posted an article of the seven most famous Yankees who were sent packing to play elsewhere. Jeter’s agent calls Jeter this generation’s Babe Ruth. I wonder if his agent is aware that Babe Ruth ended his career as a Boston Brave?