“The Captain” rolls into its second episode with the story of how Derek Jeter had matured and was ready to become the catalyst to the reemergence of a proud franchise. Behind the hazel eyes and boyish good looks, he opens up about how he took the mantle of team leader.
“I’m very loyal as a person and a player,” Jeter said. “But loyalty one way is stupidity. When I feel like you’re trying to take advantage of me I’m done.”
He braced for the real chance of being demoted had it not been for an injury to his predecessor Tony Fernandez which he says is the only reason he wasn’t optioned to Columbus to start the 1995 season.
“In 1995 my name was the subject of a lot of trade rumors,” Jeter, who was Minor League Player of the Year at the time, recalls. “My manager Billy Evers called me and told me to splash some water on my face and come to his room early in the morning and tell me congratulations you’re going to the big leagues.”
He wasn’t active for the playoffs but was in the dugout for the 1995 American League Division Series which they lost to the Seattle Mariners. By 1996, Jeter was front and center as the leadoff hitter and solidified them as a championship team. He, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, and Andy Petite were blossoming into cornerstones of a dynasty and the stage was a perfect hit for him.
Jeter arrived with Joe Torre as the new manager after the Yankees cleaned house in the front office and installed Bob Watson as the team’s new general manager. Jeter felt pressure and thought he was heading back to Columbus until the incumbent shortstop Tony Fernandez broke his arm two weeks before spring training ended.
“I always loved playing in front of people, period,” Jeter said. “I don’t care if you were a scout or a fan. I felt like I was performing and the more people the better. It gave me a chance to show off. Everybody’s watching now, right!”
After the first World Series victory in 1996, Jeter became “King of New York” and was the toast of every borough, especially The Bronx and Manhattan. Within 36 months of bringing a championship to the Bronx, Jeter was the A-list celebrity whose moves were being chronicled by Page 6. His entourage included hip hop icons such as Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, and Spike Lee who were as enamored by his talent as he was to be around them.
Jeter talks openly about his discipline and focus and how Don Mattingly taught him how to be a professional on the field. However, it was Darryl Strawberry, who had his problems navigating his social life as the young player with the New York Mets, who became his off-field mentor that gave him knowledge of a night life griot who blew his chances for the Hall Of Fame by making moves off field that diluted his play on it.
The complicated relationship with Alex Rodriguez is exposed and Jeter candidly explains how their relationship went from good friends to past tense. The Yankees were a championship team while A-Rod was a myth because he was playing in Seattle where many fans on the east coast never saw him play on TV because of the time zone difference.
That Jeter was photographed for the cover of Sports Illustrated posing with his arms around the neck of Rodriguez contributed to this narrative that their friendship was eroding. A-Rod’s blunt comments about being a better player than Jeter also helped fracture ties between the two generational shortstops, especially after Jeter led the Yankees to two World Series in three years, but most experts still branded the Mariners phenom as the best player.