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A One-Team Player: Derek Jeter and the Yankees

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Retired New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, right, looks around during a pregame ceremony after his No. 2 was retired in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium in New York, Sunday, May 14, 2017. The plaque is a replica of the one in Monument Park. Photo: AP Photo | Kathy Willens

There have always been trades in sports but the other night we saw something you don’t see nearly as much as you did years ago: A star player being honored by the team for which he or she spent his entire career.

Derek Jeter spent every season of his baseball life with the New York Yankees. One of the main reasons for this is the team has money to burn, that is increasingly rare.

With the advent of free agency in baseball and the general strengthening of sports unions, players have far more opportunity to sell their services at the end of their contracts. That was not the case in the past and this means players tend to move from team to team far more frequently. Even with the salary caps in the NBA and NFL, as players age, they aren’t worth the cap space and so, almost universally, end up finishing their careers with a second or third team.

This is a good thing for the players and the free market. It’s good other teams can willingly pay salaries to induce players to move. It’s good teams improve by getting better players. It’s good for the players. As a Libertarian I absolutely support the ability of players to sell their services to the highest bidder. Yet, it makes me a little sad we don’t see more stories like Jeter and the Yankees.

If you read my blog with any regularity you know I’m from St. Louis and that means, of course, I’m a St. Louis Cardinals fan. Something happened a few years ago that will prevent a moment here in my hometown from mirroring that of Jeter and the Yankees.

A fantastic baseball player named Albert Pujols spent the first 10 years of his career in St. Louis and we won two World Series’ while he was here. When his contract came up, the team simply could not afford to pay what the market demanded. Again, I’m not complaining, just commenting. It would have been wonderful if Pujols could have ended his career here in St. Louis and I could have been at Busch Stadium they day we retired his jersey number. It would have been a fantastic memory.

Certainly, Pujols will come back to St. Louis at the end of his career and be honored, it just won’t be quite the same. I think this story plays out in cities all across the country as star players move on to richer contacts with other teams.

I’m envious of Jeter, the Yankees, and the Yankee fans who got to share that wonderful moment. I also don’t think there is a solution to this issue. Players get older and certain teams have more money to spend than others. It’s reality.

Therefore, the events of the other day are increasingly rare and wonderful. I hope everyone got a chance to watch the Yankees games, it was a double-header, in which they retired his jersey. It’s something sports fans from every team should get to witness at least once in their lives.

I’m going to have a chance to watch the Cardinals retire number 4 in a few years and that will be a wonderful day here in St. Louis.

Here’s to hoping you and your team get the same chance someday.

By Tom Liberman

Tom Liberman is a regular fellow from St. Louis, Mo., who enjoys spending time with his wonderful family and great friends. He writes Sword and Sorcery fantasy novels in his spare time. 

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