Saturday, December 18, 2010
SMALLS TALK: Jeter and A-Rod, How Times Have Changed
It's 1998 and these two are the Sweethearts of America's pastime. They're the league's young superstars- the toast of their respective towns. You gotta figure life is pretty good for Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. And such good friends! Who knew? This playful banter appears to be more than a publicity stunt- these guys seem to be genuine friends- guys who respect each other for their great talents, and can relate to exactly what the other one goes through in daily life. Jeter even said A-Rod stays with him when the Mariners come to NYC- you kiddin' me? These guys have a legitimate bromance going on, and America is loving every second of it. The future is bright for these two emerging stars. So what changed?
A-Rod did. I'm guessing the transformation occurred shortly after he signed his earth-shattering contract with Texas, and even though Jeter had the rings, A-Rod was best. I mean, look at his bank account. He gets paid like the league's best, so he's gotta be, right? And that was good enough for him.
Jeter, on the other hand, is the consummate professional. Even if you hate Jeter (i.e. Red Sox fans) there's really nothing bad to say about the guy. Sure, his range isn't what it used to be, and his power numbers have never been stellar, but those are on-field matters beyond his control. No one can question his attitude or toughness. His leadership, his professionalism- it's all exemplary. He's the captain of the most legendary team in all of sports, and with good reason. He's a marketing wet dream, just ask Gatorade, Nike, and Gillette. He dates some of the world's hottest women, and you never hear a bad word about him. No messy breakups, no pictures in Us Weekly, no Tiger horror stories. Jeter just gets it. And like him or not, you gotta tip your cap to him.
A-Rod, on the other hand, tries desperately to be the apple of baseball fans' collective eye, and the harder he tries, the more people hate him. Arrogant. Juiced-up. Socially awkward. He wants so bad to just be one of the guys, but it's just not in his makeup. He's a self-centered superstar who is respected for his on-field talents, but little else. Jeter is the mayor of New York; A-Rod gets booed in Yankee Stadium. He's been on the Yankees for almost a decade now and I still consider him a new Yankee, and that's because he's never really had the Yankee makeup, and he still hasn't been granted acceptance by New York fans or even his teammates. He's an individual, and when he's done he'll have the individual accomplishments and records to go with that- complemented with an asterisk, no doubt. Jeter, on the other hand, will have a fistful of rings and a plaque in Cooperstown. Sure, A-Rod got a ring, but he needed Jeter to get it. Jeter never needed A-Rod.
It's amazing how two best buds, two talented young shortstops on the rise, took such different routes to get to the 2011 Yankee Clubhouse. And the best part: A-Rod is blissfully unaware that his records won't count, that his accomplishments will be scrutinized, that he's a villain in the eyes of countless baseball fans. He gets paid, he plays a game he enjoys, and he can date any woman he wants- life is good, right?
Hey, to each his own. I like the road Jeter took.
SMALLS TALK Series
Summer Leagues - Cape Still Cream of the Crop?
SportsCenter Commercials are Better Than Most Shows
Schilling's Bloody Sock
Red Sox Nation Goes Crazy, JD Drew Can't Be Bothered
Minor League Hats are the Way to Go
Who Has the Best Uniforms in College Baseball?