The incredible columnist Joe Posnanski tossed out a great question the other day, one that cuts right to the heart of what is is to be a New York Yankee fan as the 2011 season approaches. So, I have to throw the question out there for you.
Given the chance, right now, would you trade Derek Jeter to Florida for Hanley Ramirez? Wow, you can look at that so many different ways and it stirs up so many conflicting emotions. Here is how Poz framed the debate:
This question is unfair on many levels. One, it's not possible. The Marlins (of course) wouldn't trade Ramirez for Jeter, and the Yankees don't even have Jeter under contract so could not trade him. Two, it's not equitable. Jeter is 36 going on 37, Ramirez is 26 going on 27, Jeter is showing clear signs of decline, Ramirez (even taking into account a down year in 2010) is one of the best player in baseball. This is a trade that any non-Yankees fan would make in a heartbeat. It's an absurd, talk-radio-caller kind of trade.
But I wasn't looking for a baseball judgment. That's obvious. I was looking to see just how sentimental Yankees fans are about the Captain. We all know that Jeter's contract is up, and we all know he will end up playing for the Yankees next year because there's really no viable option. But in the meantime, there has already been some testiness because there are many millions of dollars at stake, and Jeter is coming off by far the worst year of his career (a 90 OPS+, a league leading 515 outs, terrible defensive numbers), and there are numerous issues involved here.
So I wanted to know: How much do Yankees fans really love Jeter? Would they be willing, in his declining years, to consign him the Florida wilderness to get his 3,000th hit? Would they be willing, in his declining years, to trade him away for a younger and clearly superior player ... and not just ANY younger and clearly superior player but one who has a reputation as a malingerer, a pain in the neck, in many ways the anti-Jeter.
Personally, I just don't think I could bring myself to do this. My head tells me quite obviously that in the 2011 season Ramirez is a far superior player to Jeter. Ultimately, I know it's about winning World Series No. 28 and -- theoretically -- the more talented player gives you the better chance to win.
This is Jeter, though. The greatest shortstop in Yankee history and in a TMZ era where everyone's mistakes get exposed, one of the best ambassadors the Yankees -- and baseball -- have ever had. This is a guy with five rings, and who was a central figure in the Yankees achieving each of those five championships. This is a guy who, next season, should become the first player in franchise history to get 3,000 hits as a Yankee.
Hanley Ramirez is a great talent, and he will still be putting up great numbers loooong after Jeter has hung up his spikes. He is, however, a lot closer to Manny Ramirez than he is to Jeter attitude-wise.
It's an emotional reaction rather than a baseball one. No way, though, I could bring myself to make this move.