"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Bobbing For Gossip

Yesterday we got our first looks at Ian O’Connor’s new Derek Jeter book, “The Captain,” with promises of dirt and controversy. And, in turn, we got our first backlash and criticism of the book from fans who dislike this kind of rumor-mongering coverage of Jeter – who may be playing like an Eduardo Nunez with less range but is still, dammit, Derek Jeter.

The Post (of course) trumpets the book as “a soap-opera saga filled with power and betrayal.” Dun dun DUN! But when you look at what the book actually contains, that seems to be overstating things a bit. Here’s what the Post followed that up with:

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 Yankees official admitted he was too scared to talk to Jeter about making amends with his teammate.

“It would’ve been the last conversation I ever had with Derek,” the official said. “I would’ve been dead to him. It would’ve been like approaching Joe DiMaggio to talk to him about Marilyn Monroe.”

Don Mattingly, then the hitting coach and former captain, tried to intervene, citing his own unfriendly history with teammate Wade Boggs.

“I faked it with Boggs,” he told Jeter. “And you have to fake it with Alex.”

So…Alex Rodriguez really annoyed Derek Jeter? No kidding. (I am way more interested in this Mattingly-Boggs feud. Tell us more, Donnie!) I admit to finding the above quote somewhat interesting just because I’m always curious to know how players talk to each other when there aren’t ESPN cameras and reporters nearby. But I also recognize that all of this is massively silly. These are grown professionals, not middle schoolers in the cafeteria. Who really cares whether Jeter and A-Rod like each other? Does anyone think that was a bigger issue for the Yankees than, say, pitching? There’s more:

“If you do something to hurt [Jeter], that’s it, you’re done,” Mike Borzello, a bullpen catcher close with Jeter, told the author. “You had your chance.”

Jeter got a measure of revenge at the 2001 All-Star Game, when a smitten Rodriguez introduced him to Latin songstress Joy Enriquez. Jeter wasted no time — the singer and the shortstop began dating.

I think this is abut as close to scandal as we’re getting here, and it hardly qualifies. But I did actually find this bit kind of interesting as a look into clubhouse dynamics:

In the 2008 off-season, Cashman set his sights on signing prized free agent CC Sabathia, the Milwaukee Brewers’ Cy Young Award winner.

“CC’s main concern was our clubhouse, and how people got along,” Cashman told the author. “I told him the truth. ‘Yeah, we are broken. One reason we’re committing [$161 million] to you is you’re a team builder. We need somebody to bring us together.’ ”

The Yankees ponied up extra cash — the most expensive contract for a pitcher to date — to bring the clubhouse Band-Aid to the roster.

Meanwhile, time — and most importantly wins — softened the rift between the two players.

“Derek understands Alex’s positives and negatives,” said Buck Showalter, who managed both Jeter and Rodriguez early in their careers. “He’s come to understand the way Alex is.”

Oh sure, credit time and wins if you want to… Is there nothing C.C. Sabathia can’t do? Can we send him to the middle east?

Anyway, it seems like this book will be a font of fresh details, but it doesn’t appear to describe any big events or ideas that we didn’t already know about. There’s also apparently a significant amount in here about Jeter’s most recent contract negotiations – ESPN NY has some of those details -  but, again, while it sounds like a detailed account it’s also mostly what we’d already inferred from the winter coverage. I don’t think I’ve ever met O’Connor; he’s been around for a long time and has very good sources, as well as a talent for stirring things up. I remember a few years ago (I can’t seem to find the article – anyone remember when it was?) he drew some criticism for tracking down and interviewing Steinbrenner at his house, at a time when the Yankees owner was maybe no longer sharp mentally and not talking to the press. I think that was defensible, in that Steinbrenner was still the team’s owner, officially, and as such a public figure; at the same time, I can’t say it wasn’t uncomfortable to read. That’s hardly an issue here, though – Derek Jeter can take care of himself and is a perfectly valid target for a juicy book.

In fact, for all the people who are already criticizing the book – while Jeter wants to make sure people know that he’s not officially affiliated with it, he did talk to O’Connor for it, and allowed many of his friends and coworkers to do the same. Guys like Mike Borzello, quoted above, aren’t about to agree to an interview with O’Connor without checking with Jeter first. Technically it’s “unauthorized,” but Jeter clearly cooperated to a certain extent, so presumably he at least got the chance to explain his side of things.

Without having read it I can’t say anything for certain, but from the information at hand, I don’t think it’s the sordid mud-flinging that people seem to be expecting. Maybe a little embarrassing, sure. But fans’ views of Derek Jeter this year will be influenced by how, or if, he hits, much more than by any tidbits in “The Captain.”

11 comments

1 rbj   ~  Apr 26, 2011 2:19 pm

So let's see, Derek Jeter highly prizes loyalty. And if he feels you've violated it, he'll hold it against you. O.K. yawn.

Tinkers & Evers didn't speak for 20 years.

2 Alex Belth   ~  Apr 26, 2011 2:31 pm

1) Great point!

3 Just Fair   ~  Apr 26, 2011 2:47 pm

I hope The Captain does not read the banter. That would be one small sleepover.

4 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Apr 26, 2011 2:49 pm

[3] Hahahah!

5 RagingTartabull   ~  Apr 26, 2011 3:07 pm

I love Jeter, but I still agree with Bill Simmons: theres something weird about a 35 year old man who still cares that much about what his parent's think

6 Shaun P.   ~  Apr 26, 2011 3:13 pm

[0] Emma, I don't recall if O'Connor did that interview with Steinbrenner when he was seemingly out of it, but I know we discussed it on the Banter. The info is in the archives, somewhere.

O'Connor, of course, also wrote an article in Spring Training of 2009 (for the Record's website, IIRC), stating that the Yanks would be far better off with Cody Ransom at third than A-Rod. Its was ridiculous, and rightfully ridiculed, and then magically disappeared from the Record's web site. River Ave Blues, fortunately, kept a copy of it.

Color me unimpressed by the whole thing.

7 stormer   ~  Apr 26, 2011 3:15 pm

[5] I would rather that than be the child of the parents of Manny Ramirez. At least he doesn't live with them in the off-season in his childhood bedroom. I'm talking to you Wang! Now get your blanket and come down for dinner.

O'Connor book: I agree, yawn. Jeter is a good kid, but not particularly forgiving. Alex is a douche bag. Gossip rags of aging superstars make money. Old news.

8 glennstout   ~  Apr 26, 2011 3:19 pm

Franz Lidz did the Steinbrenner interview.

9 RagingTartabull   ~  Apr 26, 2011 3:35 pm

[8] Lidz did the interview in the now defunct Conde Nast Portfolio magazine, O'Connor did the phone interview during the '07 ALDS where Steinbrenner said if the Indians won he "didn't think" Torre would be back

10 joejoejoe   ~  Apr 26, 2011 4:03 pm

More Boggs-Donnie Baseball dirt!

11 stormer   ~  Apr 26, 2011 5:12 pm

If you are going to have a no-no broken up, so be it. But does it have to be by this guy? http://usat.ly/gLXNyX

Sorry Moose..... I feel your pain.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver