Via Mike Salfino in the WSJ –
New York’s reported initial offer to Mr. Jeter, a free agent, called for him to take a 28% cut from last year’s $21 million salary. Mr. Jeter is believed to have countered by asking for a slight raise. According to the website Baseball-Reference, if Mr. Jeter were to accept that Yankees’ offer, he’d be taking the second-biggest salary cut ever among the Yankees’ legends when compared with their peak season. Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio both were awarded final salaries that matched their top earnings (Mr. Mantle was clearly in decline). Players back then had to negotiate salaries each year with no free-agent rights. Despite that, Whitey Ford was given a nominal 1.3% cut relative to peak earnings after a 73-inning, seven-start 1966. Mr. Ford’s battery mate, Yogi Berra, signed his last-recorded Yankees contract for less than 1% off his peak salary despite entering that season as a 36-year-old catcher. Don Mattingly is the most recent example of an iconic Yankee at the end of the line, but Mr. Mattingly’s final salary was negotiated five years prior as part of a long-term deal.
Only Babe Ruth’s pay cut from his peak earnings would be more draconian. In his final deal with the Yankees (he was later traded to the Boston Braves), Mr. Ruth received a 54% cut from his peak salary.
I still think it’s apples and oranges to compare what happened before 1976 and today – since, before free agency, the players in the past had almost no leverage in contract talks. It was take what they offer, or hold out, or retire. And, the last two options didn’t pay anything.
Bottom line, it’s looking more and more like Jeter’s going to take a pay-cut on his new deal. And, if he doesn’t want to do that, he can hold out or retire.
Hey, maybe it is just like the old days, now, for Jeter?