Derek Jeter wasn’t the only one unhappy to see the details of his contract negotiations splashed on the back covers of the New York tabloids. In his office in Tampa, Fla., you can bet Hal Steinbrenner spent a few moments fuming, as what both sides agreed should be a private negotiation spilled into the public arena.
“We were all upset and a little bit angry that it reached the level that it did,” Steinbrenner said. “You’ve always got unnamed sources making this comment or that comment. That’s what sells papers. But it was escalating, no doubt, which is why we sat down together again face-to-face and started hashing this thing out. It was a difficult three weeks, but we got it done. Everybody is ready to move on.?”
The truth was, both sides knew that they should continue their relationship. Jeter wanted to wear no other uniform and the Yankees needed him on the field as their shortstop and team captain.
“In the very first meeting we had, I tried to make that as clear as I could, that we wanted him to be a Yankee,” Steinbrenner said. “This family has a lot of respect for him and the contributions he has made for the organization.”
With talks stalled, Steinbrenner said that the turning point was a pair of meetings between Jeter’s camp and the Yankees, one in Tampa and another in New York.
“I think it helped a lot,” Steinbrenner said. “Number one, we got to air our frustrations about how big the media part of it had become. We just talked about where we thought we needed to end up, and it all turned out for the best.”
Now it’s on to improving the team, and Steinbrenner said he has the money already earmarked for a big offer to free agent left-hander Cliff Lee.
“I’m a budget guy, you know that. But we’ve got some money to spend,” Steinbrenner said. “If we’ve got money coming off, we almost always put most or all of it back in. That’s what the fans expect. They expect us to field a good team every year and we’re going to do that. We are involved.”