If you asked me two days ago what I thought would have to happen for Derek Jeter not to re-sign with the Yankees, I'd basically have only three educated guesses:
1) He decided to focus his attention on his new chain of Derek Jeter's Taco Hole restaurants.
2) He was forced from the game when MLB instituted a ban on players with the fade buzz cut popularized by 90s hip hop group Kid 'n' Play.
3) His fiance Minka Kelly demanded he retire, and since she looks like this, he immediately obliged.
In case it's unclear, I hadn't been taking the various reports about discord between the Yankees and Jeter seriously. And why should I have been? Of course both sides would make it work. Why would you ever dissolve the perfect marriage?
To paraphrase the great philosopher Kanye Omari West: The way schools need teachers, the way Kathie Lee needed Regis, that's the way the Yankees need Jeter.
But things took a turn for the queasy on Sunday morning, when Jeter's agent, Casey Close, made the very deliberate choice to publicly express his frustrations with the negotiation process.
"There's a reason the Yankees themselves have stated Derek Jeter is their modern-day Babe Ruth," Close told the Daily News. "Derek's significance to the team is much more than just stats. And yet, the Yankees' negotiating strategy remains baffling."
Baffling? Uh oh.
After months working under the assumption that player and team would keep all talk of a deal in-house, it took Close just 34 words to swing the front door wide open, potentially letting out a whole bunch of demons in the process.
It's ironic that Close referenced Ruth, when Ruth himself was once coldly disposed of by the same organization his client is attempting to make a deal with. I think it's safe to say that playing out the string with the Boston Braves wasn't the Bambino's personal preference.
It's now clear that Close, and ostensibly, Jeter have made the decision to let the public into the negotiation process. Public sentiment will always be incredibly strong for Jeter, but the move still strikes me as curious.
Jeter is coming off the worst season of his career, after all, and at 36, better days may not be ahead. You don't have to be an expert in the contract negotiating business to know that the captain is in a vulnerable position.
That's why I disagree with the decision to go public. It smacks of desperation, like a trailing football team going for it on 4th and 15 from their own 30.
To the Yankees' credit, I think they've handled a delicate situation fairly well to this point. With Hal Steinbrenner's "things could get messy" slip a notable exception, the organization has taken a very reserved tone regarding all questions pertaining to the future of No. 2.
Now Jeter's camp has put the Yankees in a position where they can very easily decide to fire a return shot. Remember, we're talking about a lot of very rich men with healthy egos. You can bet there was an emergency meeting down in Tampa on Sunday, with club officials trying to decide if Close's comments warranted a public response.
That's what makes this a tricky situation. If Hal slips up again, or the outspoken Randy Levine decides he needs to respond, or God forbid anyone put a tape recorder in front of Hank's face, the rancor between player and team could multiply ten-fold.
It all makes you wonder how Jeter himself feels about how the situation is playing out. Surely he trusts his representation, but does he have the stomach for a Texas standoff? It's hard for me to imagine Jeter — a man practically allergic to drawing attention to himself — digging his heels into the sand and holding the Yankees hostage for a contract he knows he's probably not worth.
Then again, I'm surprised things have even reached this point. Baffling indeed.