There was a time when criticism of Derek Jeter was pretty much off-limits -- at least if you had any hopes of going into New York and making out alive.
Those days, it seems, are over.
Jeter started of so slowly this season that he abandoned the changes that were supposed to help him rebound from a poor 2010 season, which included a career-worst .710 OPS. Four hits on Sunday raised Jeter's batting average from .221 to .257 this year, but that pesky OPS is languishing at .601 -- probably because The Captain has as many extra base hits (two) as Drew Butera.
Jeter will turn 37 this season, and most would concede we are witnessing the downhill slide -- perhaps rapid -- of a brilliant career. What we might not have predicted, though, is how Jeter would take some direct off-field hits as well. Per an upcoming book by ESPN New York's Ian O'Connor, which details his strained relationship with Alex Rodriguez years ago, but more importantly with Yankees' management this past offseason during contract negotiations:
The book, "The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter," details a Nov. 30 sit-down in which Jeter, his agent Casey Close and Creative Artists Agency attorney Terry Prince met with [G.M. Brian] Cashman, team president Randy Levine and co-owner Hal Steinbrenner to iron out their differences. The Tampa summit lasted four hours, but Jeter stayed for only the first 45 minutes, telling his employers -- especially Cashman -- how angry he was that they had made details of the negotiations public.
When Jeter got up to leave the room, Cashman asked the shortstop to sit back down and hear him out. "You said all you wanted was what was fair," the GM told the shortstop. "How much higher do we have to be than the highest offer for it to be fair?"
Jeter, who had no other offers in his first pass at free agency, ultimately signed a three-year, $51 million guaranteed deal plus an option year and incentive bonuses. But the negotiations were often difficult. When Close told Daily News columnist Mike Lupica that the Yankees' negotiating stance was "baffling," Hal Steinbrenner gave Cashman the green light to take the fight to Jeter and Close in the media. The quote that would anger Jeter the most was the one Cashman gave to ESPNNewYork.com's Wallace Matthews, who quoted the GM saying that Jeter should test the market to "see if there's something he would prefer other than this."
There is plenty of time for fences to be mended, of course -- and perhaps they already are, books to be sold notwithstanding. But for a guy whose harshest in-house criticism we can remember is that he partied too much -- i.e. he was a little too awesome -- this is fairly surprising to us.