The topic that day was whether the Yankees would actually keep their payroll below a supposed preset limit of around $178 million, a surprisingly low number for the franchise at the time. What had happened, Jeter was asked by a reporter, to George Steinbrenner’s big-spending Yankees?
“Whoa, buddy, you don’t think that’s a lot of money?” Jeter asked, swatting the question effortlessly into foul territory.
The questioner would have to bear down. Of course it is, the reporter responded, but usually the Yankees are not bound by any financial constraints.
“How many teams spend more?” Jeter demanded to know as he rummaged through his locker.
Well, not many, the reporter answered, but this is the Yankees, after all. Shouldn’t you have the largest payroll in baseball? Jeter, while rapidly pulling on his socks in a manner intended to convey that the interview would end soon, said, “So, the team with the highest payroll always wins the World Series?”
Bang, there it was. Jeter was already ahead in the count in this interview, and then he sent the final question far into right field for a base hit. He added a bit of a smirk, almost an early-morning version of his signature handclap at first base.
Exasperated and empty-handed, the reporter threw up his hands like a beaten pitcher and declared: “You know, this is why you are such a good hitter. You never give in. You absolutely refuse to give in.”
Jeter laughed. He liked the analogy. He knew he was stubborn, and he knew it was useful, both on and off the field.