Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Definition of "Chuztpah"

Thanks to my many Jewish friends in college, and since college, I have become familiar with a lot of Yiddish words. I love these words for a few reasons. They are fun to say, particularly in a comic sense, because you can really chew on them. Just try and say "putz" without laughing. And, some Yiddish words are just better at defining what you mean. For instance, I can't think of a better word than "schlepp" for what is describes.

One of those great words is "chutzpah", which can best be defined as nerviness. But you don't have to look it up in the dictionary, because Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter and his agent are the embodiment of the concept. The 36 year old Jeter, who hit .270 last year, wants a 4 to 5 year contract at $23 million per year, according to this story in today's NY Times. That's right, $23 mil a year for hitting .270, and having perhaps the least range of any shortstop in the American League.

Now Jeter has been a great player for the Yankees over the years, and the positive face of the team during his career there. His importance to the team over that time explains why the Yankees offered him $15M a year for 3 years, despite his age and decline. What makes this crazy is that he is bargaining with only one team, and has no leverage whatsoever. If he doesn't sign with the Yankees, a player of his age and skill would be lucky to latch on with someone for one year at about 1 to 2 million.

I imagine that Jeter is counting on Yankees fans, who love him dearly, to pressure the team into keeping their favorite player at any cost. And, the Yankees are the only team that could even afford the mistake of paying Jeter $15 million. But really, $23M? The Yankees have a lot of Jewish fans so I'm guessing the word "chutzpah" is getting thrown around a lot among them.

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