Yesterday’s announcement that Derek Jeter would end his glittering major league career at the end of the 2014 season sent a number of folks into a flurry of activity. In the Bronx, one executive was mindful of the commercial opportunity, while back in the land of the allegedly impartial, the Yankee captain was hailed for not being a jerk. Except of course, do we really know?
Jeter’s been hailed almost as often for his ability to maintain his privacy (translation : sports media are impressed by who he’s fucked) as for his clutchiness, but there’s been a few exceptions. Mop Up Duty’s memories of Jeter’s handling of a 2003 shoulder injury at the hands of Blue Jays journeyman catcher Ken Huckaby are less than fond, there’s been accusations he gave a famous starlet an STD, and perhaps most damning, the charge the sure-thing Hall Of Famer wouldn’t lift a finger to intervene when A-Rod was getting booed-to-death at Yankee Stadium. From November 1, 2006 and SI.com’s Phil Taylor :
A-Rod is a man of tremendous insecurities, even though he struggles to appear as though he has none. He craves acceptance, and on the Yankees, there is only one man who can bestow that him, and that man is the sainted Jeter. All the Teflon shortstop had to do, at any point in the season, was to let it be known that he was on A-Rod’s side. The rest of the Yankees, and then the public, would no doubt have followed suit. A few words of support to the media would probably have done the trick. Jeter’s never been much of a talker, so perhaps that was too much to ask, but words weren’t even necessary. It would only have taken a token gesture from Jeter — a hand on A-Rod’s shoulder, some horseplay in front of the television cameras — to send the message that A-Rod had Jeter’s stamp of approval.
But the Yankee captain couldn’t bring himself to do that. By his silence, by his body language, he sent the unspoken message that he had no interest in helping A-Rod out of his funk. Go ahead and boo him, go ahead and rip him in the press, Jeter seemed to be saying. I don’t like him any more than you do. By all accounts Jeter has never forgotten some mildly disparaging remarks A-Rod made about him years ago in a magazine article. But apparently he has managed to forget that Rodriguez switched from shortstop to third base when he became a Yankee rather than ruffle Jeter’s feathers, and that he has deferred to him at every turn ever since he came to New York.
Whatever sin A-Rod committed against Jeter, he has more than paid penance for it. Jeter is no one’s MVP until he finds a way not just to accept A-Rod, but also to help him. That’s what leaders do.