A day before full squad workouts begin in Tampa, Florida, Alex Rodriguez held a press conference in which he acknowledged that his relationship with team captain Derek Jeter has cooled from what it once was.
A-Rod held court in the first base dugout and spoke on several subjects, including (notably) Derek Jeter: “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. You don’t have to go to dinner with a guy four, five times a week to do what you’re doing. It’s actually much better than all you guys expect, but I just want to let the truth be known”.
A-Rod and Jeter were close friends in the 1990s… back when Rodriguez was a young star shortstop in Seattle and Jeter emerged as an integral part of the Yankees championship teams. But A-Rod spoke disparagingly about the Yankees team captain in a 2001 Esquire magazine article: “You go into New York, you wanna stop Bernie (Williams) and (Paul) O’Neill. You never say: ‘Don’t let Derek beat you’. He’s never your concern”. (He was also quoted as saying “Jeter’s been blessed with great talent around him” and “he’s never had to lead”).
The friendship has never recovered from the article… not even since they have become teammates.
Until now, A-Rod had denied their relationship had changed… but now he believes it is “important” that people heard the truth directly from him: “The reality is there’s been a change in the relationship over 14 years and, hopefully, we can just put it behind us”.
Jeter had left the clubhouse by the time reporters were allowed in… his agent said later that Jeter didn’t want to comment.
A-Rod said: “I’m a big boy. I’m 31 years old now, so I should be able to help myself out there. I care about what he thinks about me on the field. I think it’s important for us to be on the right page. And we are. We’re here to win a championship together”.
A-Rod was booed at Yankee Stadium for much of last season… when he hit made 24 errors. Many pundits thought that Jeter should have come to A-Rod’s defense, but many others felt that issue was overblown. Catcher Jorge Posada, for one, said: “Derek can’t stop the fans from booing. They boo all of us”.
Rodriguez is entering the seventh season of his 10-year, $252 million contract… but he can terminate the deal at the end of the 2007 season. He calls speculation that he might leave the Yankees at the end of the year hogwash: “My goal is to go in with Derek (Jeter) and Mo (Rivera) and open the new stadium. I’m saying it pretty clear, fellas”.