Derek Jeter has been pretty much untouchable from a P.R. perspective for his entire career. Rarely have there been stories portraying him in a bad light and, even when there was something to chew on, it was never anything that stuck to him (quick: if A-Rod had issues with his taxes like Jeter did, how many stories would have been written about it?).
That has changed somewhat since last year. Part of it was because of his surprisingly contentious contract negotiation with the Yankees. A lot of it has simply been a function of him not being the same player he was in his prime. Even the most seemingly bullet proof public figures take some shots eventually, because that’s just how it works. It’s simply Jeter’s turn, I suppose.
The biggest shot is coming next month. ESPN New York’s Ian O’Connor has written a book about him called “The Captain.” It focuses on Jeter’s relationship with Alex Rodriguez and, if the teaser in yesterday’s New York Post is any indication, it will not be a flattering portrayal:
“The Captain,” by sportswriter Ian O’Connor, out next month, chronicles the bond between the Yankee stars — a soap-opera saga filled with power and betrayal — from their days as rookies playing for different teams but as close as brothers, to their icy co-existence in The Bronx. Jeter’s unyielding insistence on loyalty and his dislike for A-Rod during the third baseman’s early years in pinstripes was so legendary that one Yankee official admitted he was too scared to talk to Jeter about making amends with his teammate.
According to O’Connor’s account, Jeter seemingly went out of his way to maintain his grudge against Alex Rodriguez over the latter’s less-than-flattering comments about Jeter back when he played in Texas (that whole “he’s never had to lead” stuff from a GQ article). That, rather than swallow his ego and lead, he was actually a primary reason why the Yankees’ clubhouse was so dysfunctional for so long after A-Rod arrived. He could have been the bigger man, set an example for his teammates and helped A-Rod assimilate better but … he didn’t.
I have no idea what to make of this. I’m always wary when unauthorized biographies go too deeply into psychology because, really, if you haven’t at least spoken with the subject about it all, how can you know if what you’re hearing is reliable? And of course, O’Connor has a bit of a history in being a bit heavy handed when it comes to drawing moral and ethical conclusions involving ballplayers. Perhaps like that “The Yankees are better off without A-Rod” story he wrote in the Bergen Record a couple of years ago, O’Connor will disavow and delete this book too. But then again, this may be a case of the Post making the book sound more of a Jeter indictment than it really is. Perhaps it’s just a compilation of clubhouse gossip.
Today Jeter is quoted in the post: “Make sure everyone knows it’s not mine,” Jeter said. “I had nothing to do with that book.” I suppose that this won’t be the last statement someone affiliated with the Yankees makes about it.