No wonder Derek Jeter still holds a grudge against Alex Rodriguez
A-Rod had 252 million reasons to keep his mouth shut. But he kept talking.
I'm excited to watch Derek Jeter's upcoming documentary series, "The Captain," for a lot of reasons, especially regarding Alex Rodriguez.
A-Rod and Jeter were chummy early in their careers, until after Rodriguez signed a then-record 10-year, $252-million contract with the Rangers in December 2000. The money wasn't the problem, mind you — it was A-Rod's ego, braggadocious nature and self-reverence. The contract took A-Rod to new levels of celebrity and media attention. Esquire reporter Scott Raab wound up doing a profile on Rodriguez and interviewing the $252 million man with his agent Scott Boras.
During the conversation, A-Rod became animated over Mike Lupica, the baseball scribe and "The Sports Reporters" panelist (remember that show?) who'd taken to calling Rodriguez, among other things, a "spoiled brat."
"The thing about Mike Lupica that pisses me off," Rodriguez said, "is that he makes me look like the biggest dickhead in the world, and then he takes a guy like Jeter and just puts him way up there."
Boras continued on about Jeter, noting the difference between the players' stats.
A-Rod could have stopped there. But he kept going. What the superstar said next destroyed the friendship between the shortstops.
"Jeter's been blessed with great talent around him. He's never had to lead. He can just go and play and have fun. And he hits second—that's totally different than third and fourth in a lineup. You go into New York, you wanna stop Bernie and O'Neill. You never say, Don't let Derek beat you. He's never your concern."
He's never your concern.
By this point Jeter had won four championships in five seasons and was well on his way to Cooperstown.
He's never your concern?!
Rodriguez later apologized, but the damage was done, and Jeter recognized that Rodriguez was “not a true friend,” he said in the upcoming series.
A-Rod never did learn his lesson. As a Rangers fan, I came to recognize his true nature a few seasons later. The money wasn't enough — nor was being named Rangers captain with the chance to lead a young team that featured emerging stars Michael Young, Mark Teixeira and Hank Blalock.
The guy who claimed Jeter “never had to lead” turned down the chance to be a team leader himself.
Rodriguez begged and pleaded to be traded, and in early 2004, Texas shipped him to the Yankees.
After the trade was orchestrated, Rodriguez's loose lips emerged again.
"I would have never gone to Texas if they had told me, 'Alex, it's going to be you and 24 kids.' Never. For no amount of money," he told ESPN the Magazine.
That "24 kids" line still bothers me. Especially since those kids could play. In Texas' first Alex-free season, the Rangers hung in the playoff race and far exceeded expectations to win 89 games. The Yankees in Rodriguez's first season, meanwhile ... well, I think that will be covered in Jeter's documentary.