Baseball fans remember Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez for many things. Apart from their jaw-dropping career statistics, Jeter's iconic jersey number 2 and Rodriguez's number 13 on the backs of a pinstriped New York Yankees jerseys are as easily recognizable as Jackie Robinson's number 42. Jeter also had an infectious smile that he'd flash after perfectly fielding double-play ground balls at shortstop. Rodriguez gave some of the best post-game interviews. Last but not least, they were both masters of good at-bats. Both Jeter and Rodriguez knew when to swing for contact, when to foul close pitches off, and when to watch for balls.
As it turns out, Jeter could also hold a grudge.
In his unofficial biography of Jeter titled “The Captain,” sportswriter Ian O’Connor colors the nature of Derek Jeter's friendship with Alex Rodriguez. The pair shared a healthy friendship early in their MLB careers. Rodriguez played for the Seattle Mariners and Jeter played for the Yankees. They met at a Michigan-Miami baseball game in 1993 and instantly became friends.
And then Rodriguez came to New York and all that changed.
Derek Jeter never forgave Alex Rodriguez for criticizing him in the media
By 1998, the two had been friends for five years. They were such good friends, in fact, that many of their teammates accused them of dating each other. Former MLB first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz particularly enjoyed teasing Rodriguez about it.
“Are you going over to your boyfriend’s house?” he once asked Rodriguez as he went to visit Jeter. Little did he know they wouldn't stay friends for long.
In 2000, their friendship started to collapse. Rodriguez had become jealous of Jeter's popularity in the New York limelight. Apart from his baseball acclaim, Jeter ranked high among "People" magazine’s Most Beautiful People.
That same year, Alex Rodriguez signed a monster contract with the Texas Rangers. The 10-year, $252 million deal earned Rodriguez significant media attention, which he used to put down Jeter. It just so happened that, around the same time, Jeter signed a 10-year with the Yankees worth $189 million — $63 million less than Rodriguez's.
"Jeter held a tremendous grudge against Arod when he came over & the fans were behind Jeter causing great pressure on Arod." - @ Mercury Rising...
In an ESPN interview, a reporter asked Rodriguez why he thought teams considered him more valuable than Derek Jeter.
“He just doesn’t do the power numbers,” he explained. “And defensively he doesn’t do all those things.”
Three months later, "Esquire Magazine" interviewed him. Rodriguez fanned the flames by adding that Jeter “has never had to lead [his team]."
After realizing how hurtful his comments were, Rodriguez drove from the Rangers Spring Training camp to Jeter's home in Tampa Bay, Florida. He tried to apologize, but Jeter practically ignored him. The damage had been done.
“If you do something to hurt [Jeter], that’s it, you’re done,” said Mike Borzello, a bullpen catcher and close friend of Jeter. "You had your chance.”
Things only got worse from then on out. At the 2001 All-Star game, Alex Rodriguez introduced his date, Latin singer Joy Enriquez, to the other players. They were delighted to meet her — especially Derek Jeter. He asked her out on a date. Not long after, Jeter and Enriquez started going steady. Rodriguez was furious.
The Yankees traded for Rodriguez in 2004, and the grudge continued in close proximity. During one game, Jeter intentionally bumped Rodriguez when he was about to catch a fly ball. Rodriguez fell to the ground and Jeter gave him a disgusted look. You couldn't miss it.
Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman talked to Jeter privately after the game.
“Listen, this has to stop,” Cashman said. “Everybody in the press box, every team official, everyone watching, they saw you look at the ball on the ground and look at him with disgust like you were saying, ‘That’s your mess, you clean it up.’ ”
The petty drama continued for almost four more years. In 2008, however, the pair put their differences aside and repaired their old friendship.