Five days ago, I wrote:
While I would suggest that Derek and Alex are not best buds these days, I have seen enough of them over the years to know that they do not strongly dislike each other. At the worst, I would say that they’re now like any other two co-workers who know that it makes more sense to get along and be civil (and sometimes joke with each other) rather than to work against each other.
That was just an observation on my part – from a distance. But, today, a contact that I have who is friendly with a member of the Yankees asked me if I saw the Mike Lupica column on Sunday. When I said, “No, why?” they replied with “Trust me, it’s dead on.” So, I just found it. Here are the highlights from the feature:
I asked four Yankees last week to talk about the relationship between Jeter and A-Rod on the condition that none of their names would be in the newspaper, just because asking either Jeter or A-Rod about this union is about as illuminating as asking the Clintons about theirs. All of the Yankees I talked to have baseball opinions I respect. Not one of them has a beef with either player.
“I would call the relationship professional,” the first one said. “And that’s all it needs to be, as far as I’m concerned. As long as any two guys on a team don’t have the kind of relationship that gets in the way of us winning, that’s pretty much all anybody cares about.”
“No more than that?” I said.
“Professional,” he said.
The second guy I asked described the relationship as “professional” as well, saying that he saw the normal camaraderie between Jeter and A-Rod that he saw between other guys in the clubhouse.
The third Yankee smiled and said, “Let’s just say they’re acquaintances.”
I told him they had to be more than acquaintances, they’ve nearly played together now for three full seasons.
“Acquaintances,” he said again.
I asked him if he thought it was important to A-Rod that Jeter liked him. The guy nearly yelled out an answer, laughing now as he did.
“Alex wants everybody to like him,” he said. “I like him. But when you want everybody to like you or love you as much as he does, and you’re playing alongside somebody the fans are always going to love more, then you’re going to have problems. Not Jeter. Jeter’s Jeter, he doesn’t change. I’m talking about Alex. He worries about stuff that Jeter never does.”
The last guy was simply asked to come up with one word to describe the relationship. He thought about it for a while.
“Truthfully?” he said. “It’s chilly.”
The other day, a reporter was talking to another star Yankee and the Yankee saw the crowd in front of A-Rod’s locker and said, “Better get going, you don’t want to miss today’s excuse.”
For what it’s worth, Gehrig and Ruth were not friends – and neither were Munson and Jackson – and they won rings together. So, I don’t see this as being a big issue. But, it’s still interesting to know how the two feel about each other – since they’re both under contract to play with the team for the next four years.
I have to wonder if their relationship will get better, or worse, over that period of time. Jeter will never ask out of New York. It’s his town – heck, he’s earned it. A-Rod has to learn that he can’t be “Jeter” in the hearts of most Yankees fans. If he can’t come to terms with that, maybe Alex will ask out of New York?
I have a feeling that the topic of the relationship between Jeter and A-Rod is something that we will hear about again – before it’s said and done.