To say that Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez got along well while each wearing a Yankees’ uniform is a definite overstatement. The former “bros” were far from that by the time A-Rod got traded to New York in 2004.
Despite having Jeter at shortstop and Rodriguez at third-base, they managed to work together on the field and in the lineup, considering the Yankees won the World Series in 2009. Let’s take a look at the pair’s relationship over the years.
A budding relationship
The two met while in high school despite living nearly 1,500 miles apart. Jeter lived in Kalamazoo, while Rodriguez lived in Miami, but they met during a University of Michigan vs. University of Miami game.
Following their strong high school careers each was drafted into the MLB, Jeter by his life-time team, the Yankees, in 1992; Rodriguez by the Mariners one year later. Rodriguez debuted in the majors in 1994 and was named starting shortstop for his team in ’96. Jeter got called up in 1995. The following year he was named starting shortstop.
Each made a name for himself around the same time. In 1996, Jeter was voted the AL Rookie of the Year while helping the Yankees to the title of World Series Champs for the first time in 18 years. The same year Rodriguez was slugging a .358 batting average with 36 home runs, but came up short in AL MVP, voted behind Juan Gonzalez.
In 1997, A-Rod and Jeter appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated together, not only profiling them each as superstars but as best buds, too. When they were in the same town, they were allegedly inseparable, according to Ian O’Connor’s book about Jeter, “The Captain.”
According to an Abstract Sports article, “They got so close that they would sleep over each other’s houses 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 kids who got excited every time they saw each other. After all, they were twenty-two-year-old kids who played baseball for a living, and they were both very, very good at it.”
“It looked to be baseball’s greatest bromance,” according to Newsweek’s Ryan Bort in 2017.
When it all goes wrong
While each shortstop was valuable to their team in different ways, Jeter received more attention, especially by the press, for on the field performances, as well as off.
Each time Jeter had a good game, it was not only noted by the New York press but often would be picked up around the nation. Each time Jeter stepped out on the town with a notable lady, that was also noted. Seemingly A-Rod, playing for the less noticeable team in Seattle, had envy growing and a rift was starting to form.
Following the 2000 season, however, A-Rod landed a very sweet deal with the Texas Rangers, 10 years and $252 million. Now he could boast! The problem was he wouldn’t leave Jeter out of his comments.
In an ESPN interview, in referencing why he deserved a larger paycheck than Jeter, A-Rod said, “He just doesn’t do the power numbers,” and “defensively he doesn’t do all those things.”
Furthering the damage, in a 2001 Esquire interview, he said, “Jeter’s been blessed with great talent around him,” Alex says. “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.”
OK – ouch! Those are some harsh words towards his former best bud.
Payback is a B—-!
In 2004, Rodriguez found himself traded to none-other than the Yankees. With Jeter a lock at short, A-Rod was tasked with playing third. Yankees’ fans remained loyal to Jeter and were somewhat aloof to Rodriguez. While not speaking with each other, the two did manage to play on the same team, even picking up some World Series rings in 2009.
It has been said that Jeter’s attitude softened some when A-Rod admitted to steroid-use. This eventually earned Rodriguez a 162-game suspension, benching him for the entire 2014 season. But, it really wasn’t a sign of rekindled friendship.
Jeter retired from playing in 2014. He is now the chief executive officer and part-owner of the Marlins.
Rodriguez retired from the Yankees and baseball in 2016. He has served as a broadcaster and analyst for various sports networks and is currently with ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball team.
A 2018 People Magazine article reported that A-Rod claims the two are friends. Quoting an interview he had with Cigar Aficionado, Emily Zauzmer reported, “Rodriguez says that those days are behind them, though. ‘Derek and I are friends. I’ve known Derek since we were 15 years old,’ he told Cigar Aficionado. ‘Like all relationships, there’s ups, there’s downs, there’s ups, but where it sits today is where it’s always sat—with respect.’
“Rodriguez continued, ‘I have a lot of love and admiration for Derek, and he’s a five-time world champion, and what I remember most about our relationship is he’s one of the greatest competitors, consummate professionals I’ve ever been around.'”
That could be true, although we haven’t heard of them spending the night over at each other’s house recently. It just goes to show that teammates don’t have to be friends to succeed.