When Is It Time to Say Goodbye?
When Is It Time to Say Goodbye?
It’s never easy to say goodbye to an icon. Yesterday, the Indianapolis Colts released their franchise player, Peyton Manning, as they look to move into a new era with the #1 draft pick that will undoubtedly be Stanford QB Andrew Luck. There was some debate on the radio about how the decision to move away from Manning was easy because the team possessed the top pick. One more win and it’s possible the Colts, with the #2 pick, give Manning another opportunity to lead their team after missing a season due to a neck injury.
The Yankees are no stranger to difficult goodbyes. They’ve had to see three popular 90s icons- Bernie Williams, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada- retire the last five years rather than come back for one last season. They were fortunate that each elected to retire a Yankee, versus seeking employment elsewhere. It prevented the PR fallout that comes when a popular player succeeds elsewhere.
It always begs the question about whether you keep your iconic players together till their skills disintegrate, or trade them a year earlier and gain maximum value. It’s not easy since you have to weigh what’s good for the team on the field versus the public relations of moving forward off the field. Yankees fans clamored for Bernie’s return for about two years. As good as Williams was, he was nowhere near an icon.
The Celtics watched their big three of Larry Bird, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale grow old together. They resisted the temptation to trade Bird, despite offers from his hometown Pacers, that would have possibly netted them Chuck Person and Rick Smits. The Knicks held on to Patrick Ewing past his expiration date, only to dump him for an injured and expensive Glen Rice. That trade sent them into a salary cap spiral that took a decade to clean up.
Seeing that Indianapolis parted ways with a player that was bigger than the franchise brand, you have to wonder how the remaining “core two” Yankees- Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter- will say goodbye.
With Rivera it appears likely that he will hang it up after this season. Unless there is a severe drop-off, the greatest closer of all-time will go out on his terms. I can’t see a scenario where he would wear another uniform or suffer a demotion like his 600-save club brother, Trevor Hoffman.
Jeter is another story. If not for the politics of his popularity, I believe Brian Cashman would have parted ways with him after the 2010 season. The intangibles and leadership that made him invaluable during his first decade in the big leagues, are no longer necessary in a clubhouse that is looking to make its own mark, not continue the 90s legacy. Intangibles don’t go that far when the bat goes from one of the most feared clutch hitters in the game to a below league-average hitter without power.
Jeter staved off the doubters when he hit .327 in the second half of last year. Still, he is very expensive, as he is owed $16 and $17 million dollars the next two years, with a player option for another $8 million in 2014. With money now being an object in the Yankees Universe, it’s possible that Jeter’s salary could prevent them from signing a big name starter next offseason (Cole Hamels, Matt Cain) or re-signing Robinson Cano or Curtis Granderson. Unlikely, but a possibility.
You also have to wonder how the Yankees are going to handle any kind of decline from Jeter. They were fortunate he turned it around post 3,000th hit or Joe Girardi would have faced a serious lineup dilemma by dropping Jeter to the 9-hole, where his current skill-set profiles unless he hits significantly north of .300. Even then, the speedy Brett Gardner would be a far better choice to leadoff.
You also have to wonder if the easier decision would have been to let him walk after 2010. With the money they spent on Jeter, they could have re-invested it in Jose Reyes, a young and speedy player that could score 150 runs at the top of the Yankees lineup. Perhaps they would have been able to acquire Hanley Ramirez, probably the best offensive shortstop in baseball, this past offseason.
For as much as Celtics fans loved Larry Bird, I bet they would have traded the final two years of his career for a title run in the 90s. Colts fans love Manning, but if Andrew Luck is winning playoff games in a couple of seasons they will get over the pain and nostalgia they are currently feeling.
The Yankees are not in the same position since MLB is a cap-less sport. It’s not like they won’t make the playoffs because Derek Jeter isn’t hitting. During his early summer stint on the disabled list last season they went 14-4. No doubt his steady defense was missed, but his diminishing physical skills reduce the gap between him and any other decent shortstop. Even with the self-imposed budget you have to wonder if they would allow Jeter to hamstring the payroll if and when his salary became a sunk cost.
Derek Jeter is a proud individual. He doesn’t like being told he can’t do something. He also has a tremendous amount of pride and ego (all great players do), and he won’t take a demotion in the lineup kindly. He might not make the public scene that his buddy Jorge Posada did, but he certainly will make it known that he believes he belongs at the top of the order. It will be a firestorm in this city, a scenario that will put the focus on Girardi, something that normally doesn’t mesh with his less than sparkling personality. Jeter has repeatedly said he wants to play until he is in his 40s. He also has said he will walk away if he feels he can’t perform at a high level. I never trust athletes when they say that since they often are the last ones to realize when it’s time to go. I also have my doubts he walks away from a single penny of his current contract. Mother Teresa, he’s not.
Perhaps the Yankees will look back and wonder if they should have displayed the same courage the Colts did yesterday with Peyton Manning by saying goodbye to an icon before it’s too late. It may have prevented an uglier situation from developing later on.
In the spirit of Manning spending the rest of his NFL career in a new uniform, NYBD contributor Michael Maggi made a list of pro athletes, mainly superstars, who spent short and forgettable stints with a team other than the one or two they were best known for. This was random as it could be at any point in their career.
1) Joe Namath- St. Louis Rams
2) Duke Snider- SF Giants
3) Joe Montana- Kansas City Chiefs
4) Mike Piazza- Florida Marlins
5) Pete Rose- Montreal Expos
6) Wayne Gretzky- St. Louis Blues
7) Darryl Strawberry- San Francisco Giants
**Do you also know that Strawberry is one of three players to appear in a game for the Giants, Dodgers, Mets and Yankees? Do you know the other two? Answer is below, don’t peak and see if you could figure it out.
8) Michael Young- Toronto Blue Jays (drafted)
9) Trevor Hoffman- Florida Marlins
10) Herschel Walker- NY Giants
11) LaVar Arrington- NY Giants
12) Kurt Warner- NY Giants
13) Jose Canseco- Yankees
14) Ivan Rodriguez- Yankees/Houston Astros
15) Yogi Berra- Mets
16) Willie Mays- Mets
17) Reggie Jackson- Baltimore Orioles
18) Jari Kurri- NY Rangers
19) David Cone- Boston Red Sox
20) Michael Jordan- Washington Wizards
21) Harmon Killebrew- Kansas City Royals
22) Frank Robinson- Cleveland Indians
23) Warren Spahn- Mets/SF Giants
24) Randy Johnson- Houston Astros
25) Dwight Gooden- Tampa Bay Rays
26) Johnny Unitas- San Diego Chargers
27) Patrick Ewing- Orlando Magic
28) John Olerud- Yankees
29) Brian Leetch- Boston Bruins
30) Brett Favre- Atlanta Falcons/New York Jets
31) Ray Bourque- Colorado Avalanche
32) Babe Ruth- Atlanta Braves
33) Hank Aaron- Milwaukee Brewers
34) Wilt Chamberlain- Harlem Globetrotters
35) Bobby Orr- Chicago Blackhawks
36) Larry Csonka- NY Giants
37) O.J. Simpson- San Francisco 49ers
38) Jerry Rice- Seattle Seahawks/Denver Broncos
39) Eric Lindros- Dallas Stars
40) Gordie Howe- Hartford Whalers
41) Bill Russell- Sacramento Kings
I will add a couple of others to Michael’s list:
Willie Mays with the Mets, Rickey Henderson with the Newark Bears, Keith Hernandez with the Cleveland Indians, and Jim Kelly playing for the USFL’s Houston Gamblers.
Let’s have some fun, give me some names – any sport- that stand out to you.
The answer to the other two players, along with Darryl Strawberry, that played for the Giants, Dodgers, Mets and Yankees are Ricky Ledee and Jose Vizcaino.
For more from Mike Silva, visit nybaseballdigest.comBy Mike Silva