Does Derek Jeter have anything left to prove?

Leave a comment

SI’s Tim Marchman has a good piece up this morning in which he breaks out what the numbers and career progression would need to look like in order for Derek Jeter to pass Pete Rose for the all-time hits record.  Upshot: it almost certainly won’t happen, but it’s not impossible.

Personally I’d like to see it simply because Jeter is way more likable than Pete Rose ever was.  Of course that character is probably what will keep him from doing it because as Marchman notes, it takes a pretty shameless guy to hold on for as long as Jeter would need to after his prime in order to make it, and Jeter doesn’t seem like a Pete Rose or Brett Favre kind of guy in that respect.

More interesting for our purposes, though, is Marchman’s discussion of Jeter’s legacy. If you guys think I was disrespectin’ Jeter yesterday by simply saying that he’s overhyped, try this on for size:

What is an issue, more than the hits record he isn’t going to break or the controversies over his inevitable move off of shortstop and his contract that aren’t going to materialize, is Jeter’s legacy. For such a revered winner, Jeter has presided over a lot of failure as captain, from the worst collapse in playoff history to a nearly decade-long run during which absurd payrolls that routinely neared or exceeded $200 million bought not one world championship.

All of this is less his fault than anyone’s, but there are probably college freshmen with no clear memories of the last time Jeter won a ring. It would be nice to think he doesn’t have anything left to prove. But is it really true?

Before you go crazy, do know that Marchman prefaced all of this by saying “let’s stipulate that Jeter is great, as winning a winner as ever won.”

With that out of the way, I’ll say that I don’t think Jeter has anything left to prove.  To the extent the Yankees haven’t won a championship in the past several years it has been a function of (a) chance; and (b) less-than-ideal roster construction by the front office, and it’s not like Jeter could control either of those things.

And let’s remember: despite people complaining that New York is in some sort of title drought, winning a championship in a 30-team league is really tough, even with all of the Yankees’ inherent advantages.  That Jeter found himself on teams that won titles in four of his first five seasons is the anomaly here, not the fact that they haven’t won any since.

I think the only thing left to determine insofar as Derek Jeter’s legacy goes is whether he is “merely” great, as a typical decline between now and the end of his career would establish, or if he’s inner-circle great, as a multi-year continuation of his 2009 resurgence would show.  When you get to that level, however, you’re really splitting hairs, aren’t you?

Minor League Baseball teams sold over $70 million in merchandise in 2017

1 Comment

Every so often here, we discuss the criminally low pay of Minor League Baseball players. Most of them make less than $7,500 a year, which includes the regular season as well as spring training, playoffs, and offseason training. The abysmal pay forces minor leaguers to eat unhealthy food, live in cramped quarters, and forego consistent, quality sleep, among other things.

What makes this situation worse is that Minor League Baseball is a huge money-maker for their parent teams in Major League Baseball. Josh Norris of Baseball America reported yesterday that Minor League Baseball teams sold $70.8 million in merchandise in 2017. That represented a 3.6 percent increase over the previous record set in 2016. This is just merchandise. Now think about concession and ticket sales.

Minor League Baseball COO Brian Earle said, “Minor League Baseball team names and logos continue to be among the most popular in all of professional sports, and our teams have made promoting their brand a priority for their respective organizations. The teams have done a tremendous job of using their team marks and logos to build an identity that is appealing to fans not just locally, but in some cases, globally as well.”

You may recall that Major League Baseball had been lobbying Congress to pass legislation exempting minor league players from the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. Doing so classified baseball players as seasonal workers, which means they are not entitled to minimum wage and overtime pay. That legislation passed earlier this year. Minor League Baseball generates profits hand over fist and it is now legally protected from having to share that with the labor that produced it.

Many points of divergence led us to this point, but the question is how do we change it? Minor leaguers are routinely taken advantage of because they don’t have a union. Compare the minors in baseball to the minors in hockey, where minor leaguers have a union. As SB Nation’s Marc Normandin pointed out last month, the minimum salary for American Hockey League players is $45,000 and the average salary is $118,000. They receive a playoff share of around $20,000, and receive health insurance that covers themselves as well as their families. Furthermore, the minor league hockey players’ per diem is $74, about three times as much as minor league baseball players’ per diem of $25.

Major League Baseball and its 30 teams have shown no inclination towards treating minor league players simply out of moral obligation or good will, so the minor leaguers need union coverage to force their conditions to improve. This could be as simple as the MLBPA expanding its coverage to the minor leagues because, after all, some minor leaguers do become major leaguers, right? Or the minor leaguers could themselves create a union. It’s easy to say, but tougher to do, which is why they still don’t have a union.

At any rate, every fan of baseball should be enraged when they read that Minor League Baseball keeps setting records year after year when it comes to selling hats and t-shirts, then refuses to share any of that wealth with the labor responsible for it. It’s morally reprehensible.