August 22, 2006
Left Side Cold Front
Five days ago, I wrote:
While I would suggest that Derek and Alex are not best buds these days, I have seen enough of them over the years to know that they do not strongly dislike each other. At the worst, I would say that they're now like any other two co-workers who know that it makes more sense to get along and be civil (and sometimes joke with each other) rather than to work against each other.
That was just an observation on my part - from a distance. But, today, a contact that I have who is friendly with a member of the Yankees asked me if I saw the Mike Lupica column on Sunday. When I said, "No, why?" they replied with "Trust me, it's dead on." So, I just found it. Here are the highlights from the feature:
I asked four Yankees last week to talk about the relationship between Jeter and A-Rod on the condition that none of their names would be in the newspaper, just because asking either Jeter or A-Rod about this union is about as illuminating as asking the Clintons about theirs. All of the Yankees I talked to have baseball opinions I respect. Not one of them has a beef with either player.
"I would call the relationship professional," the first one said. "And that's all it needs to be, as far as I'm concerned. As long as any two guys on a team don't have the kind of relationship that gets in the way of us winning, that's pretty much all anybody cares about."
"No more than that?" I said.
"Professional," he said.
The second guy I asked described the relationship as "professional" as well, saying that he saw the normal camaraderie between Jeter and A-Rod that he saw between other guys in the clubhouse.
The third Yankee smiled and said, "Let's just say they're acquaintances."
I told him they had to be more than acquaintances, they've nearly played together now for three full seasons.
"Acquaintances," he said again.
I asked him if he thought it was important to A-Rod that Jeter liked him. The guy nearly yelled out an answer, laughing now as he did.
"Alex wants everybody to like him," he said. "I like him. But when you want everybody to like you or love you as much as he does, and you're playing alongside somebody the fans are always going to love more, then you're going to have problems. Not Jeter. Jeter's Jeter, he doesn't change. I'm talking about Alex. He worries about stuff that Jeter never does."
The last guy was simply asked to come up with one word to describe the relationship. He thought about it for a while.
"Truthfully?" he said. "It's chilly."
The other day, a reporter was talking to another star Yankee and the Yankee saw the crowd in front of A-Rod's locker and said, "Better get going, you don't want to miss today's excuse."
For what it's worth, Gehrig and Ruth were not friends - and neither were Munson and Jackson - and they won rings together. So, I don't see this as being a big issue. But, it's still interesting to know how the two feel about each other - since they're both under contract to play with the team for the next four years.
I have to wonder if their relationship will get better, or worse, over that period of time. Jeter will never ask out of New York. It's his town - heck, he's earned it. A-Rod has to learn that he can't be "Jeter" in the hearts of most Yankees fans. If he can't come to terms with that, maybe Alex will ask out of New York?
I have a feeling that the topic of the relationship between Jeter and A-Rod is something that we will hear about again - before it's said and done.
Posted by Steve Lombardi at August 22, 2006 03:14 PM
When's the last time anyone saw Alex give Derek a big bear hug after a victory? He used to do it every time (last year I think). I haven't really been watching that closely though this year. I feel as if they were pretty good friends last year while Alex was playing great ball. This year it seems like things have gone sour as Alex struggles.
Don't trust anything Lupica has to say. This guy is the most obvious Red Sox slave there is. He's a Boston guy who's working in New York; he hasn't had anything positive to say this team since 2001.
Knowing the way he flogs this team all the time, would four players really betray the sanctity of the clubhouse?
And who would have the balls to talk about A-Rod's "excuses" out loud? It doesn't look like A-Rod has a great relationship with his teammates (just as a contrast, check out how close Bobby Abreu already seems with guys like Cano and Melky), but I think if anyone said something like this -- which is basically cruel -- they would lose respect for him.
"I have a feeling that the topic of the relationship between Jeter and A-Rod is something that we will hear about again - before it's said and done."
Sure it will, you seem fascinated by it.
I read this story too. I wouldn't be surprised if Lupica made up some or all of these quotes.
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This does illustrate a flaw in Jeter's personality -- he holds a grudge far too long. It seems to me that ARod has done more than enough to compensate for the remarks he made a few years ago. He switched positions and has been nothing if not upbeat about Jeter publicly.
I find ARod very annoying this year and am a fan of his past numbers rather than the man. It seems that, at least partially, ARod's performance problems this year are mental. A supportive Jeter may have helped ARod and thus helped the team. It's almost as if the "captain" has not been performing his leadership role this year.
(I hate to admit that I agree with Michael Kay about this!)
Nothing like creating a controversy out of thin air to get people to read your stuff. Lupica that is.
The exchange where the alleged Yankee says "Truthfully? It's chilly," sounds like it came directly from the mind of Lupica. Can you imagine anyone on the Yankees saying something as cheesy as that to Lupica? I mean, really? "Oh Mike, sure I'll answer some of your questions. We have to get the real story out there, you know, and you would never misquote me to start a controversy, right Mike? Of course I'd be glad to answer questions off the record that have nothing to do with the pennant race. Things aren't as tranquil as they seem in this clubhouse, and it's high time I spilled the beans. Time to dish..."
The other quotes aren't even bad. Who cares if Jeter and Rodriguez aren't best friends? I bet Randy Johnson and Mike Mussina aren't either, but who gives a damn?
I think Jeter's speculative flaw is common to ultra-competitive people. Michael Jordan is notorious for holding and even creating grudges over perceived slights. He would use them to fire himself up and intensify his play, and it worked. It wouldn't surprise me if Jeter was the same way.
That said, it does appear that he needs to let it go if he is still holding a grudge against A-Rod, even though A-Rod's remarks were pretty bad. But A-Rod really needs to chill and not worry so much about this stuff. I think he just needs a good dose of Sheffield, those two seem to really play well off of each other.
Also, it should be mentioned that Ruth and Gehrig were once very good friends despite being completely opposite, but they had a falling out over some comments Ruth made about Gehrig's mother, which was an unpardonable sin in Gehrig's eyes. But I do believe they somewhat made-up after his illness.
If "Lupie" is to be believed:
Yep, that really sucks when a guy who's more talented than Jeter goes out of his way to get Jeter and his other new teammates to like him....
You join an organization and go out of your way to blend in to the new team and immediately nip any rumors about you
(overpaid pretty boy, etc.) in the bud.
Then the established star continues to be a prick about comments** you made before you joined the team?
Do you have any doubt that it would be "chilly?"
**Comments that were true BTW: By almost every quantifiable measure, Alex is more talented than Derek.