Most minor league players never reach the majors, but one former New York Yankees prospect went so far as to sue the organization for his failures.
For a time, Derek Jeter was the face of the New York Yankees. It was understandable why that would be the case – he was a professional, business like baseball player, the kind of star that the franchise gravitated towards.
To one failed prospect, Jeter was something else as well. According to a lawsuit filed against the Yankeed by former minor league shortstop Garrison Lassiter, Jeter also controlled the Yankees, leading to the organization not developing his talents properly. Then, when he was let go by the organization, Yankees employees libeled and slandered him to other teams in an attempt to keep him from reaching the majors.
So what was the purpose of all of these shenanigans? In Lassiter’s mind, it was to make Jeter look good. Naturally, he was looking for damages, demanding $34 million in compensation for lost salary.
A simple check at his resume essentially disproves the theory that Jeter held Lassiter back. He was a 27th round draft pick in the 2008 MLB Draft, but that was more due to his commitment to play football for the Tar Heels. New York eventually gave him a $675,000 signing bonus, the equivalent of a mid second round pick.
At the time, he was considered to have a quick bat and an excellent left handed swing. However, his approach at the plate needed a great deal of refinement, especially against better pitching. His high leg kick also had the potential to be troublesome, especially as he would see better fastballs.
Those concerns proved out to be correct. Lassiter never got past high A in his five years in the Yankees system, posting a career .244/.326/.302 batting line. He did not display much power or speed in that time, with just 35 extra base hits and ten steals in his 908 plate appearances. Lassiter simply was not major league material.
But this is something that he failed to understand. When his lawsuit against the Yankees was dismissed, he then sued the Cincinnati Reds for $1.65 million, or the equivalent of three years at the major league minimum. This lawsuit claims that the Reds policy of having their tryouts be for players between the ages of 16 and 22 is discriminatory, and that, although he is 30, he should have a chance to try out. The three years’ salary is for the three times he was turned down in his attempt to get a tryout.
That lawsuit against the Reds came just 11 days after he sued Proehlific Sports, a training complex owned by former NFL receiver Ricky Proehl. In that lawsuit, he blames the facility for failing to get him an NFL tryout, although his football career came to an end in high school.
The reality is that most players in the minors will never get to the majors. That does not mean that their time in the game is done; they can always go into coaching or scouting. A player who spent five years in the minors would be sought after, especially if they had the right attitude.
But that is not the case with Lassiter. He refuses to move on and accept that he simply was not major league quality. Even his former teammates noted that he did not have what it took – he did not have the footwork for short, nor did he have the bat to play third. It is not his fault. Professional baseball is a difficult game.
However, Lassiter cannot accept that. Instead of signing in the independent leagues, working on his game, or moving on, he blames everything but himself for his failures. It was Jeter. It was the Yankees front office. It was Ricky Proehl or the Reds tryout requirements.
Garrison Lassiter just cannot admit that he was not good enough to be a major league player. It is not the New York Yankees fault.