01/26/2011 11:32 AM ET
Borden: Jeter sideshow is just beginning
New contract merely a prelude to endless speculation
By Sam Borden / SNY.tv
Could Derek Jeter move from shortstop to the outfield? Maybe, but that's not a foregone conclusion. (AP)

Early on Tuesday morning, Brian Cashman was asked a question about Derek Jeter's future and answered it by saying, essentially, that he would be surprised if Jeter played the next four years at shortstop. Cashman also said that he thought Jeter could be a potential option in the outfield if a position change ever did take place.

The probative news value of this statement was, of course, nothing. No one -- except maybe people with the last name "Jeter" -- actually believes Jeter is going to be the Yankees shortstop when he's 40 years old. Cashman's putting words to that accepted notion hardly qualifies as something worthy of a spot on the ticker at the bottom of the screen.

What it does do, however, is offer the latest example of just how much of a circus this whole end-of-career scenario is going to be with Jeter. Cashman spent much of his day on Tuesday explaining what he really meant that morning, clarifying and setting the record straight over his comments, proving yet again that for all Jeter has done for the Yankees, all he has meant to them since he won a World Series with them as a kid in 1996, it just isn't going to be easy for anyone to figure out a graceful way for him to get off stage.

Now, let's say this from the top: Jeter isn't stepping off that stage anytime soon. He's still a talented player, still productive -- albeit less so than in the past. He had a career year in 2009, and it wouldn't surprise me at all if he bounced back from a mediocre 2010. If nothing else, he has plenty of pride.

But let's not ignore the reality, too, that Jeter is far closer to the end of his playing days than the beginning. Cashman, and others who have talked about a potential move to the outfield for Jeter, often like to bring up Hall of Famer Robin Yount, but as astutely noted in this commentary, Yount was midway through a 20-year career when he switched from shortstop to the outfield. Jeter -- much as Yankees fans might like to believe he'll play forever -- is far past his own midway point.

Now there are some -- like Darryl Strawberry, for example -- who believe Jeter will never play the outfield, and the truth is that it's pretty ignorant (as well as insulting to current outfielders) to just assume that Jeter would be able to seamlessly make such a switch. Cashman apparently thinks Jeter can. And that's fine. Maybe it will happen, maybe it won't.

All we know for sure right now is that recently it seems like anything involving the Yankees and Jeter has become a lot more toxic than it used to be. For years, there was no drama with the captain, no mess. When they won, he was their face, both gracious and humble; when they lost, he was their face, too, both dedicated and confident. It was easy.

Lately it is less so. Contract negotiations between Jeter and the Yankees were surprisingly difficult for a deal that involved a player who didn't want to leave and a team who absolutely wanted him to stay. There were leaks, verbal assaults and public posturing. Then, when the deal was finally done, the questions about where Jeter would hit in the lineup and what position he would play began in earnest. The sideshow, as it were, was officially open for business.

Cashman knew all that and still went along with a hypothetical on Tuesday, still answered honestly -- and give him credit for that -- when a fan at this breakfast Q&A asked him about No. 2. The fallout and the controversy and the buzz all over the Internet following his remarks was entirely predictable.

Cashman, of course, was just giving his opinion on the subject because no one can possibly predict what the future will look like for Jeter and the Yankees. All we know for sure right now is this: Whatever it is, it isn't going to be easy.

Sam Borden is an award-winning columnist for LoHud.com and The Journal News and is a contributor to SNY.tv.
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