“I never got along with people who were cocky or arrogant. I’m confident in my ability but not arrogant. I have a small group of friends who are like family to me. It takes a long time for me to trust someone. If they do something or slights me in any way, I have the unique ability to just cut them off.” – Derek Jeter, Captain.
Coming off their 1998 world championship, the New York Yankees started looking more like general manager Brian Cashman’s team than the one Bob Watson built. Roger Clemens was signed during the offseason and other free agents such as Chad Curtis, there was a change in the atmosphere of the clubhouse.
Jeter admitted that he didn’t like Clemens from previous incidents where the Rocket hit or flirted with his central casting chin by delivering 100 mph fastballs with precision. However, Jeter respected Clemens because “he was a gamer” and would show up every to every start ready to compete.
Curtis, however, was from a totally different world. They were an oil and water mix. Former Yankees catcher Jorge’ Posada remembered how Jeter’s blasting hip hop music rankled the feathers of Curtis and “that rubbed him the wrong way”. Their tempered feud came to a head during a heated benches clearing brawl in Seattle when Felix Rodriguez hit Curtis. During the melee’ Jeter and Alex Rodriguez appeared to be exchanging pleasantries while Curtis took a beatdown.
“First off Chad Curtis has issues with everybody,” Jeter said. “This [wasn’t] the first time I had an issue with Chad Curtis. It was the first one that people found out about.”
With a gangsta grin and disarming warmth, Derek Jeter opens episode three of “The Captain” with a look into the soul of what made him great. Like other great champions such as Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, who were affable outwardly, Jeter’s quest to be a champion was driven by things which may have been mundane to most.
In a December 2000 article with Esquire Magazine, Alex Rodriguez, Jeter’s ride or die MLB homey, answered a question from reporter Scott Raab about Jeter’s “character amongst players”. A-Rod’s answer would change their relationship forever.
“Jeter’s been blessed with great talent around him, so he’s never had to lead,” Rodriguez said. “He doesn’t have to. He can just go and play and have fun and hit second. Hitting second is totally different than hitting third or fourth in a lineup because you go into New York trying to stop Bernie [Williams] and O’Neill and everybody.
“You never say don’t let Derek beat you. That’s never your concern.”
That was also the same sentiment that was shared by Boston Red Sox shortstop emeritus Nomar Garciaparra. After the Yankees beat them in the 1999 American League Championship Series with Jeter delivering a home run in the clinching game Garciaparra said the
“We didn’t lose to the better team,” Garciaparra remembered. “We just weren’t good enough to win the series.
Jeter’s response nearly two decades later: “That’s what losers say”.
Neither Rodriguez or Garciaparra ever reached his status on the field or off it either. While they took moments to exhale Jeter “never enjoyed the moment because he a was preoccupied by “what’s next next.”
Jeter then won the 2000 World Series MVP after leading the Yankees to their fourth championship in five years when they beat the New York Mets 4-1.