This isn’t going to be popular, but there is no other way to say this. Derek Jeter, team captain of the New York Yankees, is wrong; dead wrong. By not publicly addressing Alex Rodriguez’s latest disgrace Jeter is sending a clear and deafening signal about what he thinks of A-Rod.
On Tuesday, the day after Rodriguez went on live television and spoke to ESPN’s Peter Gammons and admitted he had taken illegal substances from 2001 to 2003; Jeter was contacted by reporters at the Yankees spring training facility in Tampa, Florida where he was asked about his feelings on A-Rod’s predicament. Jeter, who along with other Yankees has answered numerous questions about Rodriguez in the past, clammed up this time.
“I’m not addressing Alex’s situation until everybody’s here,” the Yankee captain said to reporters present. He was referring to the legion of New York scribes who descend on the Yankees’ complex every year looking for stories.
“I’m not going to do it every single day,” Jeter said, clearly upset by the particular line of questioning. “Are things a distraction? It’s a distraction when you talk about it every single day.”
Jeter told reporters if they had baseball questions he would answer them, but any questions about A-Rod and the steroid scandal were off limits…..for now.
By not making any kind of statement Jeter is leaving the door of conjecture wide open at least until the full squad of players arrives in Tampa and spring training officially begins. Jeter’s silence unfortunately leaves it up to others, such as Brett Gardner, to feel like they have to make statements.
Gardner, who was unfortunate enough to be caught out in the open, was surrounded by reporters and asked to give his worldly view of A-Rod’s circumstances. Gardner, probably not comfortable by all this sudden attention, issued a sagely edict in saying he didn’t watch A-Rod’s ESPN interview. He told reporters he didn’t know if everyone on the team would forgive Rodriguez, but said, “I know I already have.
“He’s our teammate and I think anyone with the organization will if they haven’t already and we can all work together and hopefully play for a World Series.”
It’s reassuring to know that young Mr. Gardner forgives A-Rod for his faux pas, but I don’t think the organization wants young players competing for the center field position on the club popping off about distractions affecting the club. That’s not Gardner’s fault, its Jeter’s.
This isn’t the first time Jeter has played favorites or has been less than 100% convincing in his support for his third base teammate.
In December of 2004, after Jason Giambi’s federal grand jury testimony on the BALCO situation became public Jeter came out in full support for his then first baseman.
“Jason made a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes. He’s got to deal with it,” Jeter said. “It’s an unfortunate situation, and you feel for him that he’s going through it. He’s on our team, so I expect him to be back, and we have to support him as a teammate.”
Jeter went a step further.
“I’m sure he’s had a lot of time to think about what he wants to do, but I’m here to support him as a teammate and as a friend,” Jeter said. “Jason Giambi is a great person, one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. No one is immune to any problems. This is a rough period for him, but I’m sure everyone will be supportive.”
When the hometown fans booed Giambi in June of 2005 Jeter jumped into the breach again, telling fans to start cheering for Giambi for the good of the team.
When Andy Pettitte went before the microphones and apologized to all of New York, after it had been revealed in George Mitchell’s report to baseball that he had used illegal substances, there was Jeter along with Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada sitting beside him showing their support for their comrade and friend.
Even after Pettitte revised his original statement, a lie, about the number of times he used performance enhancing drugs, Jeter and company were still there to support him.
“Andy knows how I feel about him, and he knows how we feel about him as an organization,” Jeter said. “It took a lot of courage for him to come out and be honest about it. Hopefully he can move on.”
Well, believe me Derek; A-Rod knows exactly how you feel about him too.
It is no secret that Jeter and A-Rod are no playpen pals. That ended long ago after Rodriguez made some ill advised remarks about Jeter in Esquire magazine.
“He (Jeter) has never had to lead,” A-Rod was quoted as saying in the April 2001 edition. “He can just go and play and have fun. He hits second – that’s totally different than third or fourth in the lineup. You go into New York; you wanna stop Bernie (Williams) and Paul (O’Neill). You never say, ‘Don’t let Derek beat us.’ He’s never your concern.”
A-Rod apologized for those remarks with a weak explanation saying what he said were to praise Jeter, not to knock him. Even I have a hard time with that one. Regardless, it cooled off a once valued friendship.
In 2006, when A-Rod was going through a slump and the fans were booing him Jeter received a lot of flak for not standing up for A-Rod the way he had for Giambi. “From Day One I’ve said I support Alex,” he said. “The only thing I’m not going to do is tell the fans what to do. … I don’t think it’s my job to tell fans to boo or not to boo.”
The difference with all these scenarios is likability. Jeter likes Giambi and Pettitte, and Rodriguez he doesn’t.
Clearly, Rodriguez is a sensitive guy. He’s dumb a lot of the time as to how he conducts himself and in what he says, but he’s not stupid. He wears his emotions on his sleeve. All he wants is acceptance. He needs it from the organization, from the fans, from his teammates, and most assuredly Derek Jeter. He sees how Jeter is revered in the Big Apple. He sees Jeter’s success in a town where success is fleeting, and all he wants is to taste some of what Jeter has.
By saying nothing at this point Jeter is letting A-Rod squirm on the proverbial hook until he decides he wants to come before all the microphones and give his public proclamation on Rodriguez’s latest calamity.
If Jeter didn’t want to address anything until the full spring training season got underway he could have very easily remedied that with a call to Yankees’ media relations director, Jason Zillo. He could have issued a statement telling the world that he won’t answer any questions concerning A-Rod or his confession of using steroids until after the full spring training is underway. He could’ve thrown A-Rod a bone in the statement advising that as team captain he was throwing his full support behind his embattled teammate. End of statement.
That small exercise would have placated the reporters on hand who would have had the statement as advanced notice Jeter wasn’t talking and it would possibly have saved junior teammates like Gardner from pontificating on the situation.
As team captain it is Jeter’s responsibility to be a voice for the organization and an advocate for his teammates. He doesn’t have to love them all, but he has to be the first guy there to lend full support to the guys on his squad when they mess up. Privately, he can tell whomever ‘you’re an S.O.B., and what you did was wrong,’ but publically he has to support them.
Alex Rodriguez, just like Andy Pettitte and Jason Giambi are and were troubled individuals going through rough waters in a scandal forever to be known as the “steroid era.” As Yankee captain Jeter doesn’t get to pick and choose who he fully supports. He has to be the bigger man and support all of his teammates equally.
A-Rod shouldn’t be viewed any different.