Monday, August 27, 2012

Did Cash Fire Up Jeter In 2010?

(Did Cash use his Shaolin style on Jeter at the negotiating table in 2010?)

Barring a complete collapse in September AND a big-time month from somebody else, Derek Jeter is going to win the AL Silver Slugger Award for shortstop this season.  As a 38-year-old that is an incredible feat by itself, and it becomes even more impressive when you consider that Jeter isn't backing into the award by any means with his .323/.364/.448 (.354 wOBA) batting line this season.  In fact, put Jeter up against all the SS in the National League and the only one with a chance to beat him in the Silver Slugger category would be Ian Desmond.

Jeter has been absolutely brilliant this season, and has been excellent with the bat for over a calendar year now.  With the way things ended in 2010, it looked like Jeter was going to become an anchor on the lineup and the payroll when his new deal was signed.  With the way the negotiations went leading up to Jeter signing that new deal, it begs the question of whether or not Cash's public tactics served as a motivating factor for Jeter to improve his game.  It's not analytical, and there's no way to prove it, but the idea just popped into my head the other night and I think there might be some legitimacy to it.

Consider.  Jeter is a very proud player, a very competitive player, and someone who prides himself on being in the lineup and being a productive, winning player every single day.  In the second half of that 2010 season, Jeter was not that.  He hit just .265/.340/.342 after the ASB and at long last it finally looked like Father Time was catching up to him at age 36.  There was never any doubt that Jeter was going to re-sign and finish his career as a Yankee, but there was cause for concern with Jeter's performance and reason to believe that he might not get the $20+ million per year deal that he probably thought he deserved based on his resume.

Cash recognized that the Yankees needed to stop handing out exorbitant amounts of money to guys in their 30s, even their own guys, and Jeter was the first casualty.  When the negotiations didn't go well to start, Cash took to the airwaves and front pages and basically dared Jeter to find a better offer on the open market, an offer that he knew no other team would come close to offering.  It was a big slap of reality right in Jeter's face, something that would have been almost unthinkable to do to the greatest Yankee icon since Mantle before, and Jeter was very vocal in his unhappiness with Cash's choice to take the negotiations public.

Fast forward to ST 2011 and there was Jeter, working on a new approach at the plate to help counter the previous year's regression.  The changes didn't work, and Jeter quickly scrapped them, but it was a sign that Jeter was taking his first brush with mortality seriously.  After he hit the DL, he went to work again on his swing and approach, and came back in July and proceeded to hit .327/.383/.428 after the 2011 ASB.  Add that line to Jeter's aforementioned slash in 2012 and what you have is the best offensive shortstop in baseball in that time frame and a guy who did at age 37 and 38.  Jeter was smart enough to recognize that he couldn't just make it work the way he always had and he had to make some adjustments to continue to succeed at his age.  He's made the adjustments, it's worked for him, and he's proven to everybody that he still has plenty left in the tank.

So did Cash inspire Jeter with his comments in the media?  If so, did he do it intentionally?  Was that a tactical ploy by Cash to spark something inside Jeter?  To play to Jeter's competitiveness and pride and spark him into wanting to prove Cash and everybody wrong for questioning him after his poor 2010?  It seems a little crazy, but honestly, I wouldn't put it past Cash to do that and I wouldn't put it past Jeter to take Cash's comments to the media in 2010 personally and to use them to fuel himself through this (likely) final contract of his career.  We'll probably never know, but if that is what happened, and that's what we've been watching in Jeter's resurgence over the last year plus, then that's the ultimate Ninja GM move by Cash and something that has worked out for everybody.

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