Sportswriter Ian O'Connor's new book details Derek Jeter's frosty relationship with Alex Rodriguez
After reading an excerpt of Ian O’Connor’s new book about Derek Jeter in the New York Post, it seems that the iconic shortstop is not going to be cast in the most favorable light for freezing out future teammate Alex Rodriguez in the early part of the last decade.
“The Captain” chronicles Jeter’s relationship with Rodriguez from the early days when they were best¬† friends, spent a lot of time with each other off the field and appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated together as young studs in 1997.
Your truly remembers a Yankees-Mariners brawl in Seattle in 1998. When players on both teams were mixing it up on the field, Jeter and A-Rod were off to the side having a pleasant conversation.
Yankee outfielder Chad Curtis, who was as old school as they come, criticized Jeter for violating one of the cardinal rules in baseall — thy shall not fraternize with a member of the opposition, especally during a fight.
In many ways Curtis was right, but criticizing Jeter was like criticizing the Pope. Although he was a hard-nosed player, Curtis essentially was ostracized by his teammates for having the temerity to call out Jeter, not yet the captain but already immensely popular.
As most every baseball fan knows, the relationship between Jeter and Rodriguez changed after Rodriguez made his ill-fated comments during an ESPN radio in 2000, when he signed a 10-year, $252 million contract with the Texas Rangers.
Rodriguez had grown jealous of the popularity of Jeter, who was getting endorsement deals and the like.
“He just doesn’t do the power numbers,” A-Rod said. “And defensively he doesn’t do all those things.”
Given A-Rod’s talents, we’ve always found him to be one of the insecure superstars in sports (although that may be lessening now as he gets later into his career and finally won a World Series ring in 2009).
According to O’Connor, a thin-skinned Jeter never forgave A-Rod for those comments. To many Yankees fans, Jeter is the golden boy, immune to criticism, who will be showered with even more love as he draws closer to 3,000 hits (Jeter climbed within 55 hits off the magical mark after going 4-for-6 in Sunday’s 6-3, 11-inning win over the Orioles. It was his first four-hit game since August 4).
However, his refusal to forgive A-Rod frankly comes across as stubborn, willful and even worse, vindictive. According to O’Connor, one Yankee official said he was too scared to talk to Jeter about trying to make up with Rodriguez.
“It would have been the last conversation I ever had with Derek,” the official said. “I would’ve been dead¬† to him. It would’ve been like approaching Joe DiMaggio to talk him about Marilyn Monroe.”
It’s funny in a sense because Jeter always handles himself so well in public, knowing exactly what to say and how to act.
Then again, he’s always guarded his privacy religiously, not allowing anyone but his family and friends to get close. Of course, there’s never been a hint of scandal during his career.
Freezing out A-Rod always struck us as perplexing. Even if didn’t necessarily hurt the team – and maybe it did — it doesn’t seem how a team captain is supposed to behave.
O’Connor points out that Jeter, who always prided himself¬† on his professionalism, dismissed A-Rod for his diva-like behavior. A-Rod did always seem to go out of his way to seek acceptance and attention.
Rodriguez never really was a bad guy and you always had to respect and admire his talent. He just seemed to have an uncanny ability, unlike his more polished teammate, to say and do dumb things.
Of course he never was going to be fully accepted in New York playing alongside the beloved Jeter (it was A-Rod who agreed to move to third base, not Jeter.) And with his playoff struggles, A-Rod become the poster child for the Yankees’ playoff failures from 2004-07.
Three months after the ESPN interview, A-Rod put his foot in his mouth again, stating¬† in an Esquire interview that¬† Jeter “has never had to lead,” the obvious implication being that Jeter played on a much better team and was just one cog in a powerful championship wheel.
According to O’Connor, A-Rod knew he shouldn’t have said what he said and tried to seek Jeter’s forgiveness.
Rodriguez drove 90 miles from the Rangers’ training camp to Jeter’s home in Tampa to apologize, but Jeter wouldn’t have any of it.
O’Connor quotes bullpen catcher Mike Borzello, who is close with Jeter, as saying: “If you do something to hurt (Jeter), that’s it, you’re done. “You had no chance.”
O’Connor writes that Don Mattingly, then the Yankees’ hitting coach who once had a chilly relationship with Wade Boggs, actually asked Jeter to “fake” a friendship with A-Rod.
Regardless of whose side you’re on in this saga, O’Connor’s book surely will be a juicy read.
Tags: Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Don mattingly, Ian O'Connor