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And that was it.
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. Tino [Martinez]."
Has A-Rod's treatment been worse?
"I don't 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 DJ."
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 pass.