I was listening to DC sports talk today while I waited for my wife to get off the subway. The drive-time show on the ESPN affiliate (which I like to think of as "Stories that were on Deadspin or Pro Football Talk Three Days Ago") had a generic old-school baseball reporter on talking about the Derek Jeter situation.
While said reporter was making the point that both sides know that there's no possibility that Jeter signs anywhere else, he mentioned as an aside something along the lines of "sure, it would be a huge deal if a team like Kansas City signed him, but we know that won't happen." It wasn't entirely clear what this precisely meant, but it ran similar to a sentiment I've heard on the radio a few times over the last week, as well as on Twitter, chat feeds, etc. Namely, that if Jeter signed any other team, it would be a huge deal in that city.
How would Royals fans react if (just go with it) the Royals signed Derek Jeter?
So let's imagine that the Royals somehow convinced Derek Jeter to sign. Looking at the early rumors on what the Yankees will offer, that would, conservatively, probably need to be something like 4 years/ $80 million dollars.
I close my eyes and try to imagine that day for Royals Review. On Royals Review. Certainly, it would be the biggest traffic day in the history of the site. So would the day after. And probably the next day. It would, unquestionably, be a gigantic story. A week-long story.
I hate to play the Media-Types In The Big Cities Don't Get Us card, but I'm not sure that the people of Kansas City would be doing cartwheels down I-35 if Jeter became a Royal. I know I wouldn't. Then again, I'm in this really weird 1% of fans who thinks about the game in a specific way. I'd see an aging player sucking up a huge percentage of payroll.
But this isn't about me. This is about you, us, and mostly, our friends and family members and the rest of the fanbase. Causal fans. Non-fans. Everyone.
Memes that would develop:
- You have to believe that the hardcore Yankee hating portion of the fanbase would be a bizarre combination of ecstatic and furious. You know these guys. They make hating the Yankees a huge part of their fan experience. They love a good "Yankees Suck" chant. They've thought t-shirts about Jeter and Arod being lovers are super funny. They also have a deep-seated belief that the Yankees have destroyed baseball. Would they really love having Jeter around? I just deleted a two sentence analogy trying to convey a situation when conflicting feelings of anger, inadequacy, envy, and personal pride all coalesce. It's a little indelicate, so it's not there. Anyways, it would be a weird dynamic.
- Many, stat-types or not, would react with a muted enthusiasm. Look, dude had a low batting average last year. So everyone knows about it. Everyone knows he had a down year. The FOX guys talked about it quite a bit. Still, when you're in the BA frame of reference, that tells me something. I think we'd hear a lot of "we've never had that ideal leadoff man. Jeter isn't what he used to be. But if he can hit close to .300, steal some bags, and hit in the clutch, you take that every time."
- How would Jeter fit with the bubbling excitement about the greatest farm system eva? I imagine if Dayton really signed Jeter, he'd say something like, "we all know about the young players on this team or in this system, we need Derek to teach them how to win." I think there's a huge percentage of the fanbase that would absolutely eat this up. A few local media guys too. I think there'd also be a portion of farm system fans who would be upset that Jeter's signing would mean that Butler or Greinke or other wouldn't likely be able to stay on the roster.
And, I do think there would be a fair amount of "We signed Derek Jeter!!!!!!!!" reaction. I just don't know what the percentage is. How much would attendance go up? There's very little evidence that individual players drive baseball attendance. How many season tickets would the Royals sell? Another 5,000? 10,000? Sure, the Royals could expand their attendance base, but is it really some kind of sleeping giant? Can metro KC support the Royals and Chiefs at near sell-out levels on a full-time basis? Even with Derek Jeter, the 2011 Royals are going to be pretty bad. Would there be anti-Jeter anti-management backlash if the Royals started out 10-20?
Am I underselling how big the reaction would be?
You guys are much closer to this, in many ways, than I am. How would it play out?