By Joe Auriemma
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
– Dylan Thomas
Yes, that actually is a famous poem and not just something that was made up for Rodney Dangerfield in the movie Back to School. However, this literature does apply to the topic that has our message boards lighting up like a Christmas tree and our own Steven Goldman under attack by Yankee fans.
At the end of the 2011 season, Derek Jeter’s 10-year contract expires and the Captain becomes a free agent. The Yankees need to start thinking about a plan for Jeter, who will be 37 by the time the contract expires.
Now Jeter’s defensive skills at shortstop have diminished over the last couple of years and maybe he is declining a little bit offensively. He still did hit .300 with 11 home runs and 69 RBIs last season, mind you. However, you can’t simply take a player’s numbers and apply them to the worth of the player. He has been a valuable member of the New York Yankees organization since 1995 and brings that certain intangible that doesn’t show up in a box score, heart and leadership.
If Jeter wants to remain a Yankee after his contract expires, the Yankees should try to work with him on remaining in pinstripes. However, that means making a couple of concessions on Jeter’s part. He has to understand that he’s probably not going to get any more mega deal contract offers. At 37 years old, depending on his production at that point and if he chooses to come back, the Yankees should let him know that they truly want him back, but it has to be on short-term deals for the rest of his career.
Jeter will probably also have to move positions at that point. The Yankees need to have a plan in place to make sure they can properly replace him at the shortstop with a younger player who has more range. This is a point that is probably going to be tough for Jeter to concede, but it’s something that many of the other great Yankees have done during the waning days of their career.
Left field might be the perfect spot for at that point. If Yogi Berra on two bad knees at the end of his career could play there, so can Derek Jeter. Think about the left fielders the Yankees had during the Dynasty run: Gerald Williams, Tim Raines, Chad Curtis, Ricky Ledee and Shane Spencer, just to name a few.
It would have to be a complete and utter meltdown of Jeter’s all-around game over the next two seasons for the Yankees to even consider just letting this gem of a player and public relations savior simply walk away. I don’t think those concessions are too much to ask a player who has given all he has to one organization since he was just a young man. And if you are Derek Jeter, it is probably something that he will want to go along with as long as he knows the Yankees truly want him to return.