The really baffling thing is that Jeter — through Close — has made his feelings public. For a decade, Jeter has stood apart from other players in that money has never been an issue. His expired 10-year, $189 million deal had no opt-out dates or escalator clauses. He has always been well paid, without carrying Rodriguez’s burden of being the game’s richest player.Gee, you think so, Tyler? It's laughable to think that somebody who signed the second-highest contract in baseball history at the time doesn't care about money. Or that he wouldn't have gladly taken the highest-paid contract in MLB history if it were offered to him. And any naivete on Kepner or other reporters' part on this issue is willful and deliberate. Do they think that Jeter does the Nike and the Gillette and the Gatorade and the Ford commercials just because he likes the products? Do they think Jeter hawked his "Driven" cologne just because it was a scent he wanted other men to wear? C'mon now.
As it turns out, it was naïve to think of Jeter as above the fray.
As Squawker reader Symphony always says about the players, "Make that money." Being well-compensated for your talents is nothing to be ashamed of. And Jeter has helped a lot of people with him putting much of his money into his Turn 2 Foundation.
But I've been complaining for years about the unrealistic way the media has put Jeter on such a pedestal, "above the fray," if you will, as a living saint. That he's somehow a better person than anybody else in the game, who cares more about winning, and less about money, than any of his peers. The press has a penchant for doing this with certain favorites, like Brett "He's Like a Kid Out There" Favre, even though they know better. Like the way they covered for Joe DiMaggio, and pretended he was so classy and dignified, even though he was obsessed with both money and with being called the greatest living ballplayer.
Or when Jeter biographer Ian O'Connor claimed the captain "is the ultimate money player who doesn't play for money." Spare me. Most athletes, Jeter included, think of themselves first, last, and always. Nothing wrong with that -- you have to be that way in order to perform at such a high level -- but let's just be honest about it. They're not going to play for free. Why should they?
(And before you call me out about A-Rod, of course he's a diva. But, as I pointed out in the comments section of Kepner's piece, is it any less diva-like to have Bob Sheppard announcing Jeter's name from the grave?)
Anyhow, after Kepner admitted his naivete, he's still determined to keep polishing the ol' Jeter image:
The same competitiveness that drives him on the field, it seems, has carried over to his off-field priorities. That is probably why so many athletes strive to make money they will never be able to spend. They are intensely competitive, and — in an equation that is hardly unique to sports — money equals respect.....Heaven forbid we ever admit that somebody who is building a 32,000 square foot Florida mansion known by neighbors as "St. Jetersburg" would ever be all about the Benjamins. No, Kepner still can't quite to bring himself to admit that Jeter might actually care about money; he's got to turn it around to show that it's just more evidence of his "competitive instincts" and stellar character.
If Jeter is baffled, chances are he is hurt, and his pride is wounded. We might find that hard to imagine when the dollars are so high. But in the end, it might be a good thing. All the bickering reminds us of the depths of Jeter’s competitive instincts. Extra motivation never hurt an aging athlete.
It's true money is a way of keeping score. But as I've said before, the real thing here is that Jeter thinks he deserves to make more than Alex Rodriguez for the way he's carried the pinstripes all these years. The irony, of course, is that it doesn't this fit with either the "Jeter doesn't care about money" meme, or the "A-Rod is sooooo jealous of Jeter and not the other way around" meme that the media have constructed over the years.
What do you think? Tell us about it!