Derek Jeter realized Alex Rodriguez was not a ‘true friend’ after the latter’s infamous interview with Esquire in 2001.
That’s according to Jeter himself, who opened up about the incident in “The Captain,” a seven-part docu-series that debuts on ESPN on July 18 after the Home Run Derby.
One day, Jeter and A-Rod would become teammates, but their intertwined saga began years before.
Star shortstops who were born about a year apart, Jeter and A-Rod forged a friendship that was constantly covered both in the press and during games whenever the Yankees played the Mariners in the mid-to-late 1990s.
The bromance ran so deep that they actually had sleepovers at each others’ homes when their teams played each other. There was even the infamous moment in 2000, when their teams had a bench-clearing brawl, and Jeter and A-Rod’s chumminess amid the scrap was enough to aggravate Jeter’s fiery teammate, Chad Curtis.
Eventually, a juxtaposition emerged, where Jeter became an enormous star as the Yankees won the World Series four times in five years. And then there was A-Rod, whose gaudy stats propelled him to receive a 10-year, $ 252 million contract from the Texas Rangers, an eye-popping record contract at the time.
There was constant chatter comparing and contrasting their respective accomplishments, and it became something of a faith versus reason debate where stark believers in intangibles would choose Jeter and devout statisticians were certain A-Rod was far superior.
Then came the Esquire story.
“We managed to convince Esquire Magazine that this would be a good story,” author Scott Raab said in the documentary. “We had a chance not just to write about a player, but also an agent in Scott Boras that many considered to be the devil.”
The interview took place for a couple hours, during a Heat game in Miami. Raab’s competitive juices were flowing, as he spotted a writer from rival GQ Magazine also in town to write an A-Rod story. Raab went into the interview trying to learn about who A-Rod is; he said he did not go into it expecting the star to say “something that would piss Derek Jeter off.”
“I ran into the guy, and said I’m gonna destroy you. We’re competing on the same story? Don’t even bother, ”Raab recalled.
The tape of the interview has survived to this day, and it revealed the context of Raab asking A-Rod about the friendship/rivalry between the two shortstops.
“No, there’s not a rivalry at all. Not even, I mean rivalry? Like, ours is such a brotherhood that there’s definitely no rivalry there. And it’s weird, because even with my brother [we] have aa little rivalry, ”Rodriguez said. “But with Derek, I’m his biggest fan and I think it’s vice versa.”
Then Raab asked A-Rod what he thought about Jeter’s character.
“He’s reserved, quiet. Jeter’s been blessed with great talent around him. So he’s never had to lead. He doesn’t have to, he can just go and play and have fun, and hit second. I mean, you know, hitting second is totally different than hitting third or fourth in a lineup because you go into New York trying to stop Bernie [Williams] and [Paul] O’Neill and everybody. You never say, ‘Don’t let Derek beat you.’ That’s never your concern. ”
Raab knew right away he had his ammo to demolish the relevance of GQ’s profile.
“I knew especially when I transcribed those tapes, that those quotes were gold,” he recalled.
More than two decades later, Jeter still does not seem to have completely shaken the remarks.
“Those comments bothered me because, like I said, I’m very, very loyal,” Jeter said. “As a friend, I’m loyal. I just looked at it as, ‘I wouldn’t have done it.’ And then it was the media. The constant hammer to the nail. They just kept hammering it in. It just became noise, which frustrated me. Just constant noise.
“When that came out, I felt really bad about it,” A-Rod said. “I saw the way it was playing out. The way it was written, I absolutely said exactly what I said. It was a comment that I stand behind today. It was a complete tsunami. It was one of the greatest teams ever. To say that you don’t have to focus on just one player is totally fair. By the way the same could be said about my team with the Mariners. We had Ken Griffey Jr., Edgar Martinez, Jay Buhner. If someone said that about me, I’d be like, ‘No s – t. Absolutely. You better not just worry about me. ‘”
Nonetheless, Rodriguez apologized to Jeter at the time.
Jeter was inclined to accept it-except A-Rod gave a similar interview to Dan Patrick, telling the radio host about Jeter something to the effect of, “There’s not one thing he does better than me.”
Jeter thought that A-Rod was “diminishing” him to justify his own blockbuster contract.
“In my mind, he got his contract, so you’re trying to diminish what I’m doing, maybe to justify why you got paid. When you talk about statistics, mine never compared to Alex’s. I’m not blind. I understand that. But, we won! You can say whatever you want about me as a player. That’s fine, ”Jeter said.
“But then it goes back to the trust, the loyalty. This is how the guy feels. He’s not a true friend, is how I felt. Because I wouldn’t do it to a friend. ”
Jeter had explained that he received advice from his father growing up to have many acquaintances, but keep his inner circle of friendship very tight. Therefore, Jeter concluded, he would have no issues cutting people out of his life if he felt he had been truly wronged.
Raab claimed to have sent a fax to Jeter at Yankees spring training, seeking to clear everything up, and explain that Rodriguez had said flattering things about him as well during their sit-down, but Jeter has no recollection of having received it. In any event, he was not of the mindset that a fax would have done anything to repair the harm.
For his part, A-Rod recognized that this was the end of what their close friendship had been, and psychoanalyzed himself as to why he may have erred at the time.
“From that moment on, it was never quite the same ever again,” he said. “I think it’s really [my] not understanding the way things work. In many ways, my father leaving when I was 10, not getting that schooling at home-the hard knocks, the tough love-it resulted in insecurity and some self-esteem issues. As I got older, I realized, all you had to do is be yourself. ”