In the latest installment of JCTV, former Yankees hurler David Wells chats with Jack Curry about the lefty's All-Star music lineup, his life after baseball and whether or not he could still pitch in the majors.
In the latest episode of JCTV, Yankees legend Reggie Jackson talks about his work with the team in spring training, his pride in being part of the Yankees' organization and his favorite memories as a player.
In the latest episode of JCTV, Jack Curry chats with Carlos Beltran about the outfielder's dream of playing for the Yankees, his admiration for Bernie Williams and chasing an elusive championship ring.
In the latest episode of JCTV, Florida State head football coach Jimbo Fisher talks about winning the national championship, his daring fake-punt call in the title game and his lifelong love of baseball.
Back in 2007, Derek Jeter told Gene Michael, the Yankees’ super scout and a man who helped him with his footwork as a minor league shortstop, that he planned to become a baseball owner after he retired. Jeter asked Michael, who was 69 years old at the time, if he wanted to be Jeter’s general manager.
“How much longer are you going to keep playing?,” Michael asked.
“Ten years,” Jeter said.
Michael was confused. If Jeter played those 10 more predicted seasons, he would have be active until the end of 2016. If Jeter put together an ownership group and and then was able to find a team to purchase in, say, a quick three years, it would be 2019. By then, Michael would be 81.
“I asked him if he wanted an 81-year old G.M.,” Michael explained. “Maybe I’d be better off being an 81-year old manager.”
While Michael chuckled at the exchange, he was flattered that Jeter tried to recruit him more than a decade ahead of time. To Michael, that conversation showed how serious Jeter is about eventually owning a team. Long before Jeter knew that 2014 would be his final season as a Yankee, he was privately plotting his post-playing career. In the latest episode of #JCTV, Jeter elaborated on how he would like to shift from shortstop to the owner’s box.
“That’s the next ultimate goal, to be an owner,” said Jeter. “I would love to call the shots. I think I’ve learned a lot in my career, not only what goes on on the field, but I learned a lot from our late owner in how to run an organization. I know I still have a lot to learn, but I’d like an opportunity to do that.”
As challenging as it to become one of the best shortstops in baseball history, as Jeter has done, there will be new and different challenges in trying to become an owner. It’s incredibly difficult for any athlete to make that transition smoothly. Jeter has seen what Michael Jordan, his friend, has experienced as Jordan has shifted from being perhaps the greatest basketball player ever to an owner who is still trying to be identified as competent.
Gene Michael is confident that Jeter will succeed in his quest to become an owner and said Jeter could “be another Steinbrenner” because he was demanding of himself and would definitely be demanding of his team. When I told Jeter about Michael’s comparison, Jeter said he considered it “a compliment” to be compared to the man that bought the Yankees in 1973.
“In my opinion, I’m a little biased, obviously, but I feel as though he’s the best owner in sports, or was the best owner in sports,” Jeter said. “I think a lot of owners have learned a great deal from him, myself included.”
Jeter had an interesting slip of the tongue in his last comment. He said a lot of owners had learned a lot from Steinbrenner, “myself included.” Although Jeter surely didn’t mean to call himself an owner now, he definitely plans on calling himself an owner after he finishes playing.
When Brett Gardner's name floated around as a possible trade chip for the Yankees in the off-season, general manager Brian Cashman wasn't interested in trading the outfielder. He was much more interested in signing Gardner to a contract extension. On Sunday, the Yankees did just that as Gardner agreed to a four-year, $52 million deal that will begin in the 2015 season.
By signing Gardner one year before he could became a free agent, the Yankees made a savvy baseball decision. While the Yankees don't typically negotiate extensions with players that are nearing free agency, they recognized the importance of having a reliable player like Gardner to pair with Jacoby Ellsbury in the outfield for the next several years.
"I love everything about the way Gardy plays the game," Cashman said. "He's a guy who will do whatever he can to help the team win. You want to keep guys like that around."
Every time I quizzed Yankees executives about the possibility of trading Gardner for a pitcher, they stressed how much they valued Gardner's speed, defense, plate discipline, his on-base percentage and his team-first attitude. If the Yankees were going to trade Gardner, they would have needed to be overwhelmed by any potential offer. That never happened.
What did happen is that Cashman began conversations with Joe Bick, Gardner's agent, about a new contract at the Winter Meetings in December. Using Michael Bourn's 4-year, $48 million deal with the Cleveland Indians from last year as a guideline, the two sides managed to move at a decent pace to reach an agreement.
Gardner, who already had a $5.6 million salary in place for this year, will make $12.5 million in each season from 2015 to 2018. The deal includes a fifth-year club option for $12.5 million, with a $2 million buyout. If the Yankees exercise the option, Gardner will make $62.5 million and will be with the team through the 2019 season. Ellsbury's seven-year, $153 million deal runs through 2020, with an option in 2021. Gardner, who didn't get a no-trade clause, sounded relieved to know that he was staying with the Yankees.
"It takes a lot of pressure off me and going out and having to perform in a walk year," Gardner said. "Free agency is something that kind of intrigued me, but it also kind of scared me. I've never been anywhere else. I got drafted here almost nine years ago. I love it here. This is where I wanted to be."
A former walk-on at the College of Charleston, Gardner was drafted by the Yankees in the third round in 2005. Cashman said some baseball evaluators told him that Gardner would never play center field for the Yankees, but Cashman thought differently. So did Gardner. Even after hitting .260 at Class AAA in 2007, Gardner told me in 2008 that he expected to soon be the center fielder for the Yankees. He was right.
Now Gardner will be with the Yankees a lot longer, although he will be in left field since Ellsbury is the center fielder. While Ellsbury and Gardner are similar players, the Yankees relish the idea of having both of them in their lineup for many more years. Gardner offers the Yankees a dimension that few players can give because he has the ability to change games with his legs, his bat and his glove.
"He really has developed into a real solid, every day player," Cashman said. "He's tough and he's a gamer. I think he's part of the solution here."
Even the most ardent Yankees fan wouldn't consider April 8, 1992 an important date in the team's successful history. The Yankees didn't even play a game on that day, which meant it was as benign a day as a franchise could experience. But something memorable did happen on that seemingly sleepy day.
Dick Groch, a Yankees' scout, was busy that day, busy completing his scouting report on a high school shortstop from Kalamazoo, Michigan named Derek Jeter. Almost 22 years later, it is surreal to analyze how accurate Groch was in forecasting the future for a 17-year-old player. Groch filed the report on April 8, 1992, which is why that innocuous day is actually a relevant date in Yankees' history.
When Jeter discusses his decision to retire after the 2014 season at a press conference on Wednesday, he will explain why this is the end. There will also be questions about how Jeter, the kid who told his parents and everyone else that he would play for the Yankees, started his career with the organization. While Jeter was drafted in the first round by the Yankees on June 1, 1992, don't overlook the importance of Groch's report from two months earlier.
After receiving Groch's report, the Yankees were more committed than ever to selecting Jeter with the sixth pick overall. Scouts routinely use a 20 to 80 scale to rate the different skills of a player, with a score of 50 considered to be an average Major Leaguer. A 60 means a player is above average and a 70 means a player is among the best of the best. Groch rated Jeter's overall future potential as a 64, meaning he believed that Jeter would be a well above average player and an All-Star.
While Groch's numerical ratings of Jeter's hitting, running and throwing were revealing, his comments about Jeter were more intriguing. As I read Groch's report, it was eerie to realize how precisely he had predicted Jeter's career.
Under the section of the reported entitled, "Summation and Signability," Groch wrote, "A Yankee!" A five-tool player. He will be a M.L. star times five!!."
In the section for "Abilities," Groch wrote, "Above average arm, quick release. Accurate throws with outstanding carry. Soft hands, good range, active feet. Very good runner. Flow on the bases. Shows power potential. Quick bat."
In the section for "Weaknesses," Groch wrote, "Anxious hitter. Needs to learn to be more patient at the plate. Swing slightly long."
When Groch had to give a "Physical Description," for Jeter, he wrote, "Long, lean, sinewy body. Long arms, long legs, narrow waist, thin ankles. Live, electric movements."
In Groch's report, he graded Jeter's in intangibles. He rated Jeter as "excellent" in dedication, emotional maturity and agility, "good" in habits, aptitude and coachability and "fair" in physical maturity since the shortstop was still a skinny kid. Although the report listed Jeter as 175 pounds, Jeter has said he was 156 when the Yankees drafted him. Groch was prescient enough to give Jeter the highest ranking for dedication and emotional maturity, traits that have been hallmarks of his career, on and off the field.
Groch's report also used the 20-80 scale to give Jeter a present rating and a future rating for 10 different skills. Jeter's future scores included one 70 (for running speed), one 65 (for fielding), five 60s (for base running, arm strength, arm accuracy, baseball instinct and range), one 55 (for aggressiveness) and and two 50s (for hitting ability and power). Merely giving Jeter, who has 3,316 hits and counting, a 50 for hitting ability was one blemish in the report.
When Jeter was being scouted, teams knew there was a slight possibility that he could go to Michigan to play baseball. Groch scoffed at the notion and said the only place Jeter was going was to the Hall of Fame. So Groch will eventually be right with that prediction, too. The scout was right about most things with Jeter, which is why the report he filed on April 8, 1992 made that day a memorable one for the Yankees.