Alex Rodriguez ruined his friendship with Derek Jeter ... and then they became teammates
(suspenseful music) - Here are
Jeterin the 90s.
Theywere opponents but loved each other so much that it bothered their
teammates. Here are
Jeterin 2017, so uncomfortable that sitting through an interview together is a chore. What happened to this close
friendshipand what replaced it? Was it beef? (suspenseful music) It was the furthest thing from beef at the outset.
Jeterhad just been drafted by the Yankees when a starstruck
Rodriguez, still in high
school, met him at a college baseball game in 1993.
Rodriguezwas drafted that year by the Mariners and thereupon began the blossoming. Their careers blossomed as
theyworked their way into the Majors. In 1996,
becameRookie of the Year and helped the Yankees win their first World Series since the 70s. A-Rod
becamean All-Star, MLB Batting Champion, and AL MVP runner-up, but his Seattle team fell short of the postseason, and their
friendshipblossomed. A-Rod and
Jeterwould sleep at each
other's homes when their teams played and were so chummy during Mariners-Yankees games that
teammateswould tease them about it. In fact,
Jetergot publicly chastised by teammate, Chad Curtis, for goofing off with the opposing A-Rod during a Yankees-Mariners brawl in 1999. But the two were inseparable.
Theywere the cover boys in a 1997 Sports Illustrated about MLB's great young shortstops, and, well, I can't mention that without showing you the famous shirtless shortstops photo on
the inside. I didn't expense this magazine, for the record. This is coming home with me. (upbeat instrumental) So, things were going great, but an interesting dynamic was forming, a familiar one in the beef history universe. A-Rod was better at baseball. He managed to stand out even in lineups featuring monsters like Ken Griffey, Jr., Jay Buhner, and Edgar Martinez, but the Mariners lacked pitching outside of Randy Johnson and never went far, and A-Rod's national popularity perhaps
lagged behind his individual excellence.
Jeterwas much more famous. He was young and good-looking in New York which got him more attention from fans and press and Mariah Carey.
Jeter's numbers were quite good in their own right, and he was part of a historically dominant Yankees team that won the World Series again in 1998 and
thenin 1999 and 2000 as well.
Theymade that last World Series by defeating A-Rod's Mariners in the ALCS, and
theywere definitely A-Rod's Mariners at that
point, having traded both Johnson and Griffey in the years prior. A-Rod was unbelievable in that series, and
Jeterwasn't much worse. The Yankees won and Jetes went on to be World Series MVP.
becamea free agent that winter, and the Yankees had interest in his services, though
they'd want him to move to third base since
Jeterhad shortstop locked down. A-Rod said nah, he'd rather beat the Yankees than be a Yankee.
They've already won enough. But
Rodriguezdid flirt with
the crosstown rival the Yankees had just vanquished in that World Series. Super agent, Scott Boras, came to the New York Mets not only looking for a massive contract but for big market perks and fame surpassing
Jeter's. A-Rod wanted his own office and marketing team, billboards galore, access to a private jet, and so forth. The Mets said nah, man, nevermind. A-Rod wound up with the lowly Texas Rangers, signing what was, at that point, the richest pro sports contract ever, 252 million dollars
over ten years. With much less fanfare,
Jeterwas in the process of negotiating a new longterm deal to stay in New York, and the newly mega-rich A-Rod had some thoughts. On ESPN Radio, in December 2000,
Rodriguezspeculated who, if anyone, might match his record salary and ruled out his pal,
Jeter. He didn't have the power numbers, didn't do the same stuff defensively.
Rodriguezeven threw out some guesses on the money for which
Jeterwould eventually sign, and the papers noticed.
dismissed the comments. He wasn't trying to break salary records. He was trying to break championship records. Doesn't mean he wasn't getting paid though. In February,
Jeteragreed to stay with the Yankees on a ten year, 189 million dollar deal. While finalizing baseball's second largest contract, he simply stated, "I don't play for money. "I play to win. Everybody makes good money." Man, I wish I was good at sports. So now both friends were making yacht loads
of cash, but
Alexwasn't done talking. Esquire gave
Rodrigueza big profile that ran around the start of the '01 season.
Jeter's name came up a few times. He came up when
Rodriguezgrumbled about how sportswriters, like Mike Lupica, rank
Jeter"way up there," while painting himself as a "dickhead," and
Jetercame up again when, provoked a bit by Boras,
Derekhad "been blessed with great talent "around him," never really "had to
lead," and was never the main "concern" in a killer Yankees lineup. All fair points, but maybe not the coolest thing to say to the national media about your best friend. As soon as the article published,
Jeterwas ambushed by reporters at spring training. He told them he would have to chat with A-Rod about his intentions in saying stuff like that.
Rodriguez, who was privately flabbergasted at how he came off in the article, insisted the comments were taken out of context and he
would never dog his friend like that. He even enlisted the article's author, Scott Raab, to fax
Jeteran apology to which he got no reply.
Rodriguezrealized the blame would fall on him and drove from Rangers spring training to
Jeter's house in Tampa to ask forgiveness.
Jeterwas dining out at the time and supposedly prolonged his meal to delay the confrontation as long as possible. The next day
Jeterreportedly looked miffed and still said he was confused about the whole incident but
told media that he and
Rodriguezhad talked, he'd given his friend the benefit of the doubt,
they'd stay friends, and he had a feeling
Alexwas done running his mouth like that. So, not exactly forgiveness, but
Jeterwanted more than anything to stop talking about stuff that wasn't baseball. This will be a theme. And that did put a stop to things. A-Rod said he loved his friend, and he was indeed done talking about him. In his next game at Yankee Stadium,
Rodriguezgot booed and
he homered to help the Rangers to a rare victory. And the interactions between the two at the All-Star Game were only noteworthy because
Derekto pop star, Joy Enriquez, his date for the occasion, and she ended up
Derek's girlfriend. After that taste of beef, a little slider, an empanada, perhaps, things had quieted down and
theystayed that way for a few years.
Jeter's Yankees hit their version of a drought, losing the World Series in 2001 and 2003 and failing to make
it that far at all in 2002. Meanwhile,
Rodriguezwas putting up MVP numbers over in Texas, but the Rangers spent the whole time losing. After another crappy season in 2003, Texas realized paying one dude a gajillion dollars wasn't worth it if
theywere just gonna lose all the time, so
theytried to trade
Rodriguezto the Red Sox in a big, complicated deal that would have changed the parameters of his contract and netted the Rangers Manny Ramirez and Jon Lester. It would've been a big
deal, but the Players' Union shot it down because
Rodriguezvoluntarily diminishing the value of his contract like that. Texas was now ready to move on with A-Rod, but
thenthe Yankees came calling by surprise. The Yankees were loath to mess with
Jeter's role even with a better shortstop available, but
theydid have a hole at third base after Aaron Boone suffered a freak off-season injury. So what about A-Rod joining the Yankees and shifting over a position. Kind of
Rodriguezwanted to get the hell out of Texas and a deal was done. The best shortstop in baseball was now a Yankee, but he wasn't playing shortstop, and the guy who was playing shortstop maybe still had a grudge against him. The ensuing press conference, in which a kind of glum looking
Jeterdressed A-Rod in his pinstripes, was fittingly awkward, but the two of them were saying the right things, and
Rodrigueztook his move to third base in stride. Both players knew their
relationship would be under scrutiny.
Jeterclaimed the worst thing that could happen for the local media would be for him and
Rodriguezto get along.
Rodriguezjoked that paparazzi would have to see them holding hands and going to a movie to declare any beef dead.
Jeter, ever wary of drama, tried to downplay any discomfort at spring training, no problems, let it go, it's over.
Rodriguezalso said any feud was behind them, but he was characteristically more candid. He revealed to the
public that drive he'd taken to
Jeter's house for forgiveness in 2001, and he acknowledged that friends, who had one been tied at the hip, didn't have the same relationship anymore. Those were the kind of statements that would keep the media spotlight on the two of them, intentionally or not, and definitely annoy
Jeter. Throughout that first season, the two of them were careful not to betray any tension and things mostly quieted down, but
Rodriguezhad some dramatic moments on the
field against the rival Red Sox. In July, he provoked a huge brawl at Fenway. In October, he was arguably the face of the Yankees historic ALCS collapse against Boston. He batted two for 17 during New York's losses in games four through seven. That included the bizarre moment in Game Six when, instead of simply running out the weak grounder he hit with
Jeteron first, A-Rod slapped the ball out of Bronson Arroyo's glove, screwing up New York's momentum that inning and generating a
controversy that lasted well after Boston's eventual World Series victory. Noted asshole, Curt Schilling, drew unfavorable comparisons between A-Rod's lack of composure and
Jeter's class. Months later, Trot Nixon said
Rodriguez"couldn't stand up "to
Jeter" or some other longtime Yankee greats. Kevin Millar joined in, too. The Red Sox deliberately and repeatedly used
Jeter's name to pick on A-Rod.
Jeter, naturally, was asked about those comments but refused to
stick up for his teammate. That was really the shape of this relationship for a few years. A-Rod generating stories, and
Jetertrying so, so hard to avoid them. (upbeat music) The two never went directly at each other, at least not openly. There was a flimsy rumor that
they'd physically fought after a throwing error in a 2005 loss to Tampa, but the Yankees shot that down hard. The signs of tension came from indirect, passive aggressive acts, like, in 2006, when Yankee fans booed a slumping
Jeterkind of shrugged off any responsibility to stop them. When A-Rod briefly broke that slump, with a game-winning homer,
Jeterdidn't project enthusiasm. He didn't even wanna talk about it. He was just like, "Ask him how he feels... "Hopefully this gets him going." Later that year, when former Yankee, Darryl Strawberry, suggested
Jeterought to support
Rodriguezmore, he was like what do you want me to do? But it's hard to distance yourself from A-Rod
drama when you stand ten yards away from him every game. In August 2006, the Yankees were getting crushed by the Orioles, and a routine pop-up brought the two old friends together.
Jeterstared two holes through the back of A-Rod's head and didn't even go grab the ball. Both players tried to dismiss the moment as a meaningless mishap, but New York management had enough. Yankees manager, Joe Torre, gave his players a talking-to, GM, Brian Cashman, pleaded with
Jeterto fix his body
language, and hitting coach, Don Mattingly, who had hated teammate, Wade Boggs, when
theywere both Yankees, told
Jeter, "I faked it with Boggs... You have to fake it with
Alex." Cashman said the same thing, just "fake it," pretend to be supportive. But
Rodriguezkept making it difficult. (suspenseful music) He hit so terribly in the '06 playoffs that Torre slid him to eighth in the lineup. At spring training the following season, A-Rod said he was a "big boy."
He didn't need support. And he admitted that he and
Jeter, once blood brothers, didn't have as great a relationship as
theyused to, but it was no big deal, and with that out there, he requested that media stop asking about
Jeter, so he could stop lying and saying
theywere still cool.
Jeter, publicly, said he didn't have a rift with
Rodriguez, and it didn't matter anyway, but he also implied that he resented how A-Rod was talking about personal, non-baseball stuff out in the
open, and privately was like, "Why doesn't he just shut up?" But shutting up just wasn't A-Rod's thing. That season he generated another controversy by shouting at Blue Jays third baseman, Howie Clark, causing him to let a pop-up drop. Joe Torre publicly scolded A-Rod for yet another childish, impulsive act, something everyone knew he'd never have done to
Jeter. Of course,
Jeternever needed that kind of scolding. He was the homegrown, attention-dodging, man of the
people, class act with a fistful of rings, not the dramatic, me first, carpetbagger who brought no further glory to a city accustomed to it. A-Rod also won his second MVP as a Yankee that season but... (upbeat instrumental) Torre left that off-season, and after a typically rocky public negotiation, A-Rod re-upped with another gigantic Yankees contract. In 2008, the Yankees missed the playoffs for the first time in
Jeter's career, and in 2009, things got worse. Writing for Sports
Illustrated, Selena Roberts reported that
Rodriguezhad tested positive for steroids years prior. A-Rod admitted the fact in a press conference attended by his distraught looking
Jeterprofessed support for his teammate, - You know as
teammateswe can 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. - But said he cheated himself and lamented that another individual mistake would reflect
poorly on the League's many nonusing players. - I can't emphasize it enough. Everybody wasn't doin' it. - It was yet another episode of
Jeterfeeling like he had to answer for controversy generated by his former best friend, and
thenA-Rod got hurt, missing the first month of the '09 season recovering from hip surgery. He had relationship controversy swirling, a steroid scandal, and now, an injury to recover from. This was his low point, and it might have been the best
possible thing for his working partnership with
Rodriguezreturned from injury with a bang, homering on the first pitch he saw,
thenhelping completely turn around a team that had been losing without him. Perhaps just as important, he returned a changed man in
Jeter's eyes, humbler, more focused, better teammate. The rest of that season was a parade of joyful moments.
Jeterbroke Lou Gehrig's Yankee hit record in September, and there was A-Rod, gleefully congratulating him. Both
players dominated the ALDS against the Twins and reveled in each other's excellence.
theywere seen dining together with their famous girlfriends to celebrate. The two went on to lead New York to a World Series win and their renewed
friendshiponly grew from there. Each faced separate drama before retiring, but together,
they'd earned a ring. Feud over... Or is it? In 2011, Ian O'Connor released The Captain, a biography of
Jeterthat details many of the stories I just told you,
and so, so much more about
Jeter's private animosity for his onetime best friend.
Jeterpublicly disavowed the book, and A-Rod never really acknowledged it, but it definitely rekindled the idea of
Rodriguezas a selfish diva craving validation and
Jeteras a fortunate curmudgeon unwilling to help him. And the post-book years have seemed icy. New York Magazine profiled
Jeterin 2014, and, when prompted to talk about A-Rod,
Jetershut down that whole line of questioning. When A-Rod finally
retired in 2016,
Jeterreached out and didn't hear back promptly from
Rodriguezwho said his inbox was full. And
thenthere's this. Both players attended a big charity event in 2017. Both agreed to a CNBC interview, and
thenboth realized, with great discomfort,
they'd be interviewed together and asked about their relationship. Their responses were all deflections, and
theywere so awkward. - This is a treat to see you two together. Now since you've both hung up the jersey, you
guys are friends now, is that what's goin' on? - Shortstop, third base, it's exactly how we were back in the day. (laughs) - Just together, right? Both of ya? - Yep. - Side by side. - But you greeted each other warmly. The press made a little thing about the back and forth between you two. Was that real or serious ever? - I think we're hitting up stories from about twenty years ago, huh? - (laughs) There's the history channel. - Yeah, that's what we're doing. -
Jeterwas reportedly "beside himself angry" about the interview in which he was also grilled about potentially buying the Marlins. That same month, A-Rod was one of the few Yankee
Jeter's jersey retirement. He claimed to have been elsewhere with his mom since it was Mother's Day but didn't quite answer whether or not he'd been invited to the event in the first place. And that's about where things stand. As their post-playing careers
continue, A-Rod and
Jeterwill praise each other publicly, but the air between them still seems frosty. And how could it not be? When
theywere young and new and unsullied by fame and fortune, it was easy to be friends, but their reputations diverged almost to opposite poles, and it rankled
Rodriguezenough that he said some things he could never take back. A-Rod's career got messier while
Jeterworked very hard to keep his quiet. But
teammatesin a massive media market
and even the slightest crackling between those two opposite personas was magnified for everyone to see. If anything, this Beef History is one of triumph, of estranged friends and foils who went through a lot of crap before finding a way to win together. But perhaps a World Series victory isn't enough. It may be a long time before
Jeterfully unpack their past, let alone get over it, but once
theydo, I think
they'll find that, however privately, however