And that was
As the conscience
and soul of the team, Rivera is everyone's touchstone. When asked if he had
counseled Rodriguez this summer, Rivera said, "He has my support, [but] he
has to figure it out on his own. Sometimes you try so hard to do things so
right that you do them all wrong. It's like moving in quicksand. The more you
move, the more you sink."
As revered as
Rivera is, though, no one is more important to the Yankees' clubhouse culture
than the captain, the 32-year-old Jeter. As younger players Rodriguez and Jeter
enjoyed a close friendship, often staying with each other when the Yankees
faced the Mariners. But they have had little personal connection since 2001,
when Rodriguez referred to Jeter as a number-two hitter in an Esquire story,
code for a complementary player. Giambi referred last month to "the heat
that exists between them."
Jeter, who publicly
supported Giambi when he was being blasted for his BALCO involvement, has
refused to throw any life preservers to Rodriguez this summer. I asked Jeter
why he hasn't told the critics to ease up on A-Rod. "My job as a player is
not to tell the fans what to do," he said. "My job is not to tell the
media what to write about. They're going to do what they want. They should just
let it go. How many times can you ask the same questions?"
Had he ever seen
such persistent criticism? "Knobby," he said, referring to error-prone
former second baseman Chuck Knoblauch. "[Roger] Clemens for a whole year.
treatment been worse?
know," Jeter said. "I don't think about that. I'm just concerned with
doing what we can to win."
Here is the way
Hall of Fame slugger Reggie Jackson, a Yankees special adviser and a member of
the franchise's mythological pinstriped society, explained the yin and yang of
the Jeter-Rodriguez relationship: "Alex is too concerned with wanting
people to like him. Derek knows he can control only things within the area code
Rodriguez must be
deferential to Jeter because birth order within the Yankees' family is a
powerful influence. Rodriguez will never be as popular as Jeter with New York
fans, will never catch him in rings or Yankees legacy, in the same way the
younger brother never will be the oldest, no matter how many birthdays
When I asked
Rodriguez about his relationship with Jeter this year, he replied, "People
always want to look at someone's silence and equate that with a negative thing.
I don't see it that way."