Frenemies: The Complicated Story of Derek Jeter and Alex Rodríguez

Derek Jeter, also known as the captain, is one of the most loved and respected names in sports. The jump, the plunge, the 3,000th hit, the tee shot on his last at-bat at home; there are so many legendary moments in his storybook career. Jeter is a serious type of player, who prioritizes the team and that everyone respects. Their Jordan brand motto is even respectful. Her personality reflects her straightforward and serious work ethic. He never let anything distract him from winning. It can be said that he possessed the prized mamba mentality.

Alex Rodriguez, also known as A-Rod, is one of the most controversial and undeniably great players in MLB history. Rodríguez simply hit the diners; he threw 696 long balls in his career. (ESPN). But, off-field antics and suspicion of steroids will always be associated with Rodriguez’s legacy. Rodriguez used to get into fights with other teams and is known for talking shit to opposing players. Off the field, he seeks attention and is the opposite of shy. He’s almost the exact opposite of Jeter. Somehow, these parallel superstars coexisted in the Bronx for ten seasons.

In a rare instance, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez sat down together recently for an interview that was supposed to be about the BTIG charity event. From the get-go, there was an aura of awkwardness surrounding the two former teammates. In the first ten seconds of the interview, Bob Pisani casually asked “you friends now?” with an obvious tone of sarcasm. Rodriguez quickly responded with a cheesy joke and Jeter reacted with a subtle, fake laugh. The couple were clearly frustrated with the questions that were asked. “You’re bringing up stories from 20 years ago, huh?” Jeter said in a tone much more serious than Pisani. “History channel,” Rodríguez added.

Six thousand five hundred and eighty hits, twenty-eight star appearances, seven gold glove awards and six world series rings; Jeter and Rodríguez’s careers are quite respectable. (Baseball reference). Despite the endless list of accolades, Jeter and Rodriguez will never escape the recurring questions about their relationship. Two of the game’s biggest stars, in the media mecca, playing twenty to thirty feet apart at shortstop and third base for the most successful and iconic franchise in American sports. Every subtle gesture or look they give each other would generate a new headline. But how did things get so bad between the two that they can barely sit together for a charity interview without being asked about their past?

Jeter and Rodríguez were once close friends. They were both phenomenal young talents who entered the league around the same time. Both played shortstop and found success early in their careers. Jeter was named Rookie of the Year in 1996 and helped lead the Yankees to a world series title. Rodriguez quickly became an All-Star and American League batting champion in his first season. The young shortstop pair inevitably developed a close friendship. They got so close that they slept at each other’s house when the Mariners and Yankees played each other. A former teammate of Jeter’s once asked him, “Are you going to your boyfriend’s house?” when the Yankees played the Mariners in 1998. They were like inseparable little boys who got excited every time they saw each other. After all, they were twenty-two-year-olds who made a living playing baseball, and they were both very, very good at it.

The love relationship between Jeter and Rodríguez changed as the career paths of the two stars changed. Rodriguez was undoubtedly an outstanding player and had a lot of personal success, but he was stuck with an average team. Sure the Mariners had Ken Griffey Jr. and Edgar Martinez, but they lacked a solid pitching staff and never got very far in the playoffs. The Yankees, by contrast, were a turn-of-the-century dynasty. They won in 1996, 1998, 1999, and 2000, and Jeter was a major role in the Yankees’ success. Jeter was a superstar in New York; He was loved by fans and the media, and quickly became the cover boy for Major League Baseball. Rodriguez was a better ballplayer than Jeter, yet he saw almost the same attention and was envious of Jeter.

In 2000, Rodríguez was a free agent and had the opportunity to sign with the Yankees. He declined, saying he would rather beat the Yankees than join them and that he wanted to have more billboards than Jeter on his new contract. Rodriguez ended up signing the richest contract in American sports with the Texas Rangers, a mammoth $ 252 million contract. Rodriguez bragged about his new mega contract and publicly stated that he doesn’t think anyone will beat his record anytime soon, including Jeter. “A guy like Derek is going to have a hard time breaking that,” Rodriguez said of his massive contract. However, Jeter still got a sizable contract extension that same summer; signed an extension of 185 million dollars, which is not yet close to Rodríguez’s figures. Jeter told Journal News: “I’m not trying to break Alex’s record anyway. The only record that concerns me is Yogi’s record, and that’s the ten championships. “

The competition between Jeter and Rodríguez was only part of the beginning of the end of their friendship. The biggest turning point came in 2001 when Esquire profiled Rodriguez. Jeter’s name appeared several times in the magazine. Rodríguez spoke about how he thought it was unfair for sports journalists and the media to treat Jeter like a god while portraying him as a “jerk.” Rodriguez continued to criticize Jeter a bit more: “He has been blessed with great talent around him.” Rodriguez may have had a valid point, Jeter wasn’t a once-in-a-generation player of the type, but Rodriguez’s harsh comments about his best friend caused a permanent dent in their relationship. I spoke with reporter Bryan Hoch, who has covered the Yankees for the past 15 years to discuss the deterioration of Jeter and Rodriguez’s friendship. “The Esquire interview may not have been the first domino to fall into the relationship, but once it was published, I think it became a point of no return for Derek.” Jeter felt hurt and betrayed by the comments of his former colleagues and responded like the stern person that he was. Hoch said of Jeter: “Derek didn’t forgive anyone who crossed paths with him easily (he still doesn’t, actually) and I think their relationship was always cold after that.”

The situation became even more complicated in 2004 when, in a historic and successful trade, Rodriguez was transferred to the Yankees. Together, finally, Jeter and Rodríguez in the same uniforms, playing for the same team. The Rangers realized that spending more than $ 20 million a year on one player isn’t worth it if you’re just going to lose all the time, so they tried to trade Rodriguez to the Boston Red Sox. The trade with Boston was eventually blocked by the players’ union and, out of nowhere, the Yankees emerged to trade for Rodriguez. Rodriguez’s transition to pinstripes wasn’t as smooth as you might imagine; “I think there was some caution about what Alex was going to present to the Yankees universe. Great player, reigning MVP, but massive contract and some baggage. Derek and his teammates wanted to focus on winning another World Series, but Alex’s arrival brought a lot of unwanted noise. “

Rodriguez’s skill as a player definitely helped the Yankees on the field, but his antics and boyish style of play certainly had an impact. In the Yankees’ infamous 2004 meltdown in the American League Championship Series against the Red Sox, Rodriguez hit 2 of 17 and made headlines by hitting the ball with Boston’s first baseman Bronson Arroyo’s glove. Red Sox players like Curt Schilling and Kevin Millar criticized Rodriguez, saying Jeter would never do something so classless. Rather than defend his teammate, Jeter did his best to avoid controversy by remaining silent. This pattern continued for a few years; Rodríguez would create stories while Jeter would do his best to avoid them.

An important chapter in Rodríguez’s career that needs to be mentioned are the PED scandals. In 2009, a Sports Illustrated article reported that Rodriguez tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs the previous season. In baseball, PEDs are inherited killers. Bonds, Mcguire, Clemens, Sosa, all these names are synonymous with PED, not with their achievements in the field. A scandal like this can affect the morale of the entire team; could have created even more tension between Jeter and Rodriguez in the Yankees locker room. But, fortunately for the team and Rodriguez, the players seemed to support Rodriguez. Hoch stated, “I think considering Jeter’s background, it was difficult for him to reconcile how Alex could have done some of the things that he did, given the natural ability he was blessed with.” If anything, the PED scandal showed that even though Jeter and Rodriguez had their differences, they were still teammates and still believed in each other’s best.

2009 was an extremely important year in the history of the Yankees. By his standards, the Yankees were in a playoff drought; they missed the postseason for the first time in more than a decade in 2008 and their last world series title was in 2000. The team that dominated the turn of the century was gone; Joe Torre’s last season as manager was in 2008. There was a new urge to win in the Bronx. Hoch called it “mission 27.” The team brought in new players during the offseason and changed the chemistry at the clubhouse. Hoch said: “CC Sabathia bonded the clubhouse and Alex was especially bonded with Melky Cabrera and Robbie Cano.” The team won the world series that year against the Philadelphia Phillies. The 2009 championship race even helped reestablish camaraderie between Rodriguez and Jeter’s broken relationship. “There was a moment after the ALDS victory in Minnesota when Derek, Alex, Kate Hudson and Minka Kelly sat together and enjoyed a party in their hotel ballroom,” said Hoch. “Given its ups and downs, it said a lot that a moment like that could still happen.”

Jeter and Rodriguez will probably never be the loving couple of best friends who slept at each other’s house again. The rapid change in their relationship shows how journalism and sports media can affect people. There were many reasons why Jeter and Rodríguez parted ways as friends; Different career paths, different goals as players and different personalities were important keys, but the few words of criticism that were published in the Esquire 2001 profile made the big difference. Both players acted like children who refused to forgive each other for a seemingly insignificant reason. To this day, Jeter and Rodriguez are not 100 percent compatible. When I asked Hoch about Jeter and Rodriguez today, he said: “I think they are talking, but I don’t think they will ever get together. Derek is much closer to José Posada ”. The charity interview with CNBC summarizes their current relationship; clumsiness and avoidance. In 2017, Jeter’s jersey retirement ceremony was attended by nearly all of his former teammates except one. When asked if he was invited to the ceremony, Rodríguez replied: “It was Mother’s Day. I was with my mom. “

Julian Dimuro

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