Two very different personalities in almost every sense of the word. One is a player who always put the team first, had insane work ethic, never argued with umpires, and was respected throughout the entire league. He was made the 15th Yankee captain, due mostly in part to his will to win, and the perfection he expects from himself, and his teammates.
The other had the chance to go down as one of the greatest ball players of all time if not for controversy. He argued with umpires, he started team wide brawls, slapped balls out of opponents hands and yelled as he ran past them on a routine flyball. Not to mention a little steroid scandal that was the talk of baseball for years.
If you haven’t already guessed, the former is Derek Jeter, and the latter is Alex Rodriguez. Two complete opposites on and off the field, but were at one point closer than brothers. So close that teammates of Derek Jeter once asked him “are you going to your boyfriends house?” These two were inseparable at one point, and it started way back in 1993. Derek Jeter, who was in the Yankees farm system at this time was at a Miami Hurricanes baseball game. The Hurricanes were hosting the University of Michigan, and that’s when Jeter and A-Rod met for the frist time.
The two had their first full Major League season together in 1996. Rodriguez has already been in the league for two years up to that point, and Jeter had only played in 15 games in 1995. That 1996 season was a sign of the times for both players, as A-Rod made his first All-Star Game, his first American League batting title, as well as being second in the MVP race. Jeter took home the Rookie of the Year in ’96, and was a huge part in the Yankees winning their first World Series in 18 years. The friendship was being seen all over the world, as the two most promising players in recent baseball history were taking the sport by storm.
In 1999, during a Yankees-Mariners game, Mariners pitcher Frankie Rodriguez was screaming at some of the Yankees players. Yankee catcher and eventual manager Joe Girardi told Rodriguez that if he wanted to fight, then get out of the dugout, and Frankie did just that. The two teams brawled with each other, but Jeter and A-Rod stood at home plate, laughing with each other. This drew ire from Yankee outfielder Chad Curtis who was seen arguing with Jeter about what had just taken place.
Jeter and A-Rod’s careers took two different paths almost. Rodriguez was the far better player, but never had as strong of a team that Jeter had. Besides Rodriguez, Griffery Jr. and Martinez, the Mariners had nothing, especially pitching. Jeter on the other hand, was surrounded by talent and was a huge part of the Yankees winning Championships in 1996, 1998, 1999, and 2000. With their friendship big news in heading into 2000, Rodriguez was set to become a free agent, but didn’t sign with the Yankees, saying he would rather beat the Yankees than join them (no Kevin Durant here). A-Rod went on to sign richest contract in American sports, signing a $252M deal.
In an interview, A-Rod boasted this new deal, and even took some shots at his best friend, Derek Jeter. A-Rod said “A guy like Derek, it’s going to be hard for him to break that”. That same summer, Jeter signed a $185M extension, but Jeter in an interview said “I’m not trying to beat Alex’s record anyway. The only record I’m concerned with is Yogi’s record, and that’s the ten championships.” This little back and fourth could be seen as the first wrinkle in the friendship of Jeter and A-Rod. It didn’t help in 2001, when Rodriguez did an interview with Esquire and Jeter’s name was mentioned multiple times. A-Rod spoke on the media, and how they make him seem like a “dickhead” while they treated Jeter like a god, and saying Jeter “has been blessed with great talent around him”, and that teams never say “don’t let Derek beat you”.
After this article was published, Jeter was asked to comment on what his best friend said about him. Jeter only said “I’ll ask him tonight and I’ll talk to you tomorrow. The only thing you can ask him is what his intentions were. Do I think his intentions were bad? No.” Rodriguez came back and said his comments were taken out of context, and even drove from Rangers’ spring training in Port Charlotte to Jeter’s house in Tampa Bay to ask for forgiveness. Jeter, who knew Rodriguez was making the drive to his house, made him wait hours upon hours while he ate at an area nightspot. The next day, Jeter still look somewhat confused and even said “The confusing thing is it came out of nowhere.”
In 2004, following a potential trade to Boston that was blocked by the players union, the Rangers traded Rodriguez to the New York Yankees, who swept in from out of nowhere, shocking the baseball world. The Yankees then took Rodriguez, who some considered the best short stop in the league, and moved him to third base. At his introduction ceremony, Jeter didn’t seem all to pleased with the move. Since his arrival, Rodriguez seemed to take attention away from the one thing Jeter wanted to do…winning. Evidence of this is that infamous ALCS game against the Red Sox in 2004. A-Rod hit a weak ground ball back to the pitcher, Bronson Arroyo, but instead of just running the ball out, Rodriguez slapped the ball out of Arroyo’s glove. After this, Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling asked a reporter “Does Jeter do that?”. Schilling then said “You know for a fact he doesn’t because Derek Jeter is a class act and a professional, that’s why”.
That wasn’t the only time opponents have weighed in on the Jeter and A-Rod “relationship” or lack thereof. A few months after Schilling’s comments, Trot Nixon chimed in saying “He can’t stand up to Jeter in my book or Bernie Williams or [Jorge] Posada.” Kevin Pillar also joined in the fun, saying “Derek Jeter, he’s a Yankee, period. Alex Rodriguez’s salary doesn’t dictate that he’s a Yankee”. Jeter was asked about all these comments, but didn’t stick up for A-Rod. As a matter of fact, no Yankees player stood up for Rodriguez. Their relationship soured even more, with Rodriguez making headlines for all the wrong reasons, and Jeter trying so hard to stay out of the issues. In 2006, Yankee fans began booing the slumping Rodriguez (as we do). Jeter, who was the King of New York for awhile now, could’ve said something to quiet the boos down some. Instead, Jeter simply said “My job as a player is not to tell the fans what to do.”
In August of 2006 in a game against Baltimore that the Yankees were losing pretty badly, a pop fly to the infield sent A-Rod and Jeter together. Some confusion as to who’s ball it was, lead to the ball dropping in the infield to add to the bleeding. Jeter could be seen staring daggers into A-Rod’s back, and Jeter didn’t even go and pick up the ball. Yankee management had had enough at that point. Yankees skipper Joe Torre had a talk with his players, and Yankee GM Brian Cashman all but pleaded with The Captain to fix the relationship with Rodriguez. Don Mattingly, who had one of the biggest feuds with his own teammate Wade Boggs even went up to Jeter and said “I faked it with Boggs, and you have to fake it with Alex”. Cashman echoed those exact sentiments.
In Spring Training 2007, Rodriguez was asked about his relationship with Jeter. A-Rod responded by saying “People start assuming that things are a lot worse than what they are, which they’re not, but they’re obviously not as great as they used to be. We were like blood brothers.” Jeter publicly said that he didn’t have an issue with Alex, but also said “I don’t feel it’s necessary to talk about thinks that have nothing to do with baseball.” It should be noted that Rodriguez won his second career MVP Award that year, but the Yankees lost the ALCS in 4 games to the Cleveland Indians.
The following year, Joe Torre left the team, and George Steinbrenner relinquished control of the Yankees to his sons Hank (God bless the dead) and Hal Steinbrenner. Then, in 2009, a bombshell hit not only the New York Yankees, but the entire baseball world. Selena Roberts, who was writing for Sports Illustrated had reported that Rodriguez had tested positive for two anabolic steroids years prior to 2009. Rodrgiuez admitted to the act in a press conference while his teammates, who looked absolutely pissed off having to be there watched. Later, Jeter said “As teammates we’re gonna help him out, you know realize it’s gonna be difficult, you know our job is to try to support him as he tries to get back on the field”. Jeter also had said “I can’t emphasis it enough, everybody wasn’t doing it”, and also said he felt A-Rod had cheated himself and said another individual mistake would reflect poorly on the leagues many non-using players.
Rodriguez then got hurt, missing the first month of the 2009 season as he recovered from hip surgery. Rodriguez’s name did not stay out of the headlines though, as an alleged affair with Madonna was brought to light along with the steroid scandal and the injury. When Rodriguez returned from injury on May 8th in Baltimore, Rodriguez smacked the very first pitch he saw over the left field wall for a home run and even helped the Yankees turn the season around as they were hurting without him in the lineup. Jeter even saw a change in Rodriguez’s attitude, as A-Rod seemed a lot more humble, and more focused on winning ball games. When Jeter broke Lou Gehrig’s Yankee hit record, A-Rod was the first to congratulate him.
The Yankees played the Minnesota Twins in the ALDS and both Jeter and Rodriguez dominated that series and were really seeming to feed off of each other’s performances. Jeter and Rodriguez were also seen dining together with Minka Kelly, and Kate Hudson. The Yankees went on to win their 27th World Series Championship, and Jeter and A-Rod’s problems seemed to have gone away. Then, in 2011 Ian O’Connor wrote a book title The Captain, and in it he spoke about a lot of the issues that Jeter and A-Rod had over the years. Jeter denounced the book and said “Make sure everyone knows it’s not mine. I had nothing to do with that book”, and A-Rod didn’t even mention the book. When Rodriguez retired in 2016, Jeter attempted to reach out to Rodriguez but got no reply. A-Rod later told Michael Kay that his “inbox is completely full” and hasn’t had time to reply.
In 2017, both Jeter and A-Rod agreed to do interviews on a BTIG Charity Day for CNBC. However, they weren’t told that the interview would be with both of them together. The entire interview was extremely awkward, and you can just see by the players’ body language that neither wanted to be sitting there, next to the other. They were then asked about their relationship by CNBC’s Bob Pisani, and Jeter just laughed and said “You’re bringing up stories from 20 years ago”, never really denying that the two still had troubles. Jeter was reportedly “beside himself angry” over the interview “because nobody told him he’d have to be sitting there next to Alex Rodriguez” said Dan LeBatard.
When the Yankees retired Derek Jeter’s jersey later that month, he was joined by Yankee greats Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams, and others. Rodriguez? Nowhere to be found. Rodriguez had later said “It was Mother’s Day. I was with my mother”, but when he was asked if he was even invited to the ceremony, Rodriguez didn’t confirm nor deny.
Earlier this year, when Jeter was inducted into the Hall of Fame, Rodriguez wrote a lengthy Instagram post congratulating him, saying “I was lucky to be by your side on the left side of the infield for so many years. I needed you more than you needed me. You were our #tablesetter on our magical 2009 run and I can’t thank you enough.” So maybe…just maybe their relationship is headed for better days, but if history has taught us anything, it’s that these two are just completely different people. But let’s hope that one day we can get an actual sit down interview where they both don’t look like they’re completely disgusted by the sight of each other.
Featured Image: USA Today
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