The Truth About Derek Jeter And Alex Rodriguez's Feud

Even if you're not a huge fan of baseball, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez are two names you certainly recognize. Long before they were known for their championships and famous lists of girlfriends, they were two promising players with a strong friendship. 

Per Newsweek, Jeter and Rodriguez met at a college baseball game when the latter was still in high school and the former was new to the New York Yankees. A-Rod was drafted by the Seattle Mariners shortly after. At the start of their professional careers, the pair of soon-to-be baseball megastars would stay at each other's places when their teams played each other and hang out after games. The two were so close their teammates would frequently poke fun at their relationship and call them "boyfriends." However, their bond would soon take a major hit (no pun intended) and become a bitter feud that played out in the press. 

Over the years, the media were given soundbites that made it clear their friendship would never be the same. Where did things go wrong between Jeter and Rodriguez? Let's take a swing at getting to the bottom of this long-running feud between former friends.

Alex Rodriguez's snarky comments about his big contract

In 2000, Alex Rodriguez became a free agent and was looking for a new team to chase success with. After spending six seasons on the Seattle Mariners, he landed with the Texas Rangers and signed a blockbuster deal that made headlines. The 10-year contract was worth a whopping $252 million — the richest contract in sports at that time. As his pal Derek Jeter was renegotiating his contract with the Yankees, Rodriguez let it be known that this record-breaking salary won't be beat. 

During an interview with ESPN Radio (via New York Post), Rodriguez name dropped Jeter with some serious shade. "A guy like Derek, it's going to be hard for him to match that," he said. "He doesn't do the power numbers and defensively he doesn't do all those things. So he might not break the 252. He might get 180. I don't know what he's going to get. 150? I'm not sure."

Jeter's best friend giving a radio interview discussing flaws in his game and arguing he's not worth the big bucks was confusing to some — especially Jeter. When asked about the comments, Jeter brushed them off and stated he was focused on a much bigger goal. "I'm not trying to beat Alex's record anyway," he told reporters, according to the St. Louis Dispatch. "The only record I'm concerned with is Yogi's record, and that's the 10 championships."

Alex Rodriguez criticized Derek Jeter as a leader

In today's world, most frenemies subtweet each other, but back in 2001, Alex Rodriguez went to the press. In a cover story with Esquire, Rodriguez said some not-so-nice things about Derek Jeter. While discussing his annoyance with sports writers, Rodriguez drew a comparison to his pal, who he felt received plenty of praise. "Jeter's been blessed with great talent around him, he's never had to lead," A-Rod said. "He can just go and play and have fun." 

Rodriguez wasn't done talking Jeter. "You go into New York, you wanna stop Bernie and O'Neill," he said. "You never say, Don't let Derek beat you. He's never your concern." Understandably, Jeter wasn't thrilled about this, but he made an effort to downplay things. Per the AP (via ESPN), Jeter told reporters he and A-Rod had moved on from the interview drama.  

However, in "The Captain" docuseries, Jeter made it clear he actually didn't let it go so quickly. As per Us Weekly's recap, he said, "Those comments bothered me because, like I said, I'm very, very loyal. ... I just looked at it as, 'I wouldn't have done it.'" Jeter said he knew Rodriguez had better statistics as a player and the bigger contract but didn't care, as he felt Rodriguez's remarks torpedoed their bond. "But then it goes back to the trust, the loyalty," he said. "This is how the guy feels. He's not a true friend, is how I felt."

Derek Jeter dated Alex Rodriguez's ex

After the fallout from the Esquire interview, both Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez kept things civil... well, at least publicly. At the 2001 All-Star Game, Rodriguez arrived with his date for the evening, singer Joy Enriquez. He introduced her to Jeter and she apparently made a good impression on him. Shortly after, the New York Post reported that she and Jeter had apparently struck something up. "Joy wasn't exactly sure of Alex's intentions, but she and Derek just couldn't keep their eyes off each other," a friend explained. 

Dating your friend's ex definitely is not in line with "bro code" but one could argue the two athletes were no longer "bros" at the time. Whether or not bro code was broken, Rodriguez seemed cool with it all. "Obviously Derek is a great friend, and I have absolutely no reason to be upset about anything—that's crazy," he told The New York Daily News (via E! News). This would not be the first time No. 2's romance history raised some eyebrows: Mariah Carey apparently dated Jeter while still married to Tommy Mottola.

The frenemies became teammates

When your ex-best friend becomes your new coworker, things are bound to be a little awkward. In 2004, Alex Rodriguez joined the Yankees and, naturally, the sports world wondered how the two would get on. To their credit, Rodriguez and Derek Jeter both downplayed the awkwardness and promised the media and fans that things would go smoothly. 

At the press conference announcing his signing, the baseball stars made a point to smile and be cordial in front of cameras, but their lack of chemistry on the field told a different story. During Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS, Rodriguez's antics cost the Yankees a win and he soon became the one to blame for the Yankees' troubles. As the captain, the New York media expected Jeter to step in to defend his teammate against the boos of the crowd and media scrutiny, but he chose to remain silent. 

"My job as a player is not to tell the fans what to do," Jeter bluntly told Sports Illustrated. "My job is not to tell the media what to write about. They're going to do what they want. They should just let it go. How many times can you ask the same questions?" In the book "The Captain" (via New York Post), it was revealed coaches begged Jeter to simply "fake it" with Rodriguez.

Derek Jeter stood up for Alex Rodriguez

In 2009, the sports world ground to a halt when Sports Illustrated revealed sources confirmed Alex Rodriguez tested positive for steroids back in 2003 while having a career year in home runs. Rodriguez was forced to confront the controversy head-on with a press conference. In an effort to look united as a team, the Yankees sat in the front row while he read out his statement, appearing as a united front.

Though Jeter has not always been in Rodriguez's corner, he did stick up for his teammate during this time. While speaking to the press, he expressed wanting the team to stand behind Rodriguez as he owned up to and moved on from his transgressions. 

Despite the vocal encouragement, Jeter was stern about the use of steroids and it was clear he wasn't happy about A-Rod's usage. He explained that Rodriguez cheated himself by using steroids and continuously emphasized that Rodriguez's mistake was his own. "One thing that's irritating and really upsets me a lot is when you hear people say that everybody did it," he said. "Everybody wasn't doing it." He made an effort to support his teammate while still trying to distance himself from the controversy. 

A World Series win brought them together

After the steroid scandal and an injury, Alex Rodriguez returned to the field hoping to turn the Yankees' season around — and he did just that. He returned as a better player and the team finally seemed to find their stride. In 2009, the Yankees not only made their grand return to the World Series — they won. To make the celebration even sweeter, Rodriguez and Derek Jeter surprised everyone by celebrating together after the big win. 

People reported that the two teammates were joined by their respective girlfriends at the time — Minka Kelly and Kate Hudson — and they all celebrated the big win at the club together. This may have signaled that the past drama between the teammates was finally in the past. It was possible that as their chemistry on the field was improving, their friendship off the field was slowly repairing. 

Even the media, who played a role in the rift between them, began to notice that post-championship, the relationship between A-Rod and Jeter improved. An unnamed Yankee official told the New York Post that the pair grew closer during that time.

Tension lingered after they retired from the MLB

All good things must come to an end, and as Derek Jeter announced his retirement in 2014, it was clear the world was not done speculating on his feud with Alex Rodriguez. When A-Rod came up in an interview with New York magazine, Jeter made it very clear he was tired of talking about the subject. As writer Chris Smith recounted, "Jeter glares. 'This is not an Alex story.'" In 2016, when it was time for Rodriguez to retire, he said Jeter attempted to get in touch. Alas, that attempt apparently fell flat. As Rodriguez shared on "The Michael Kay Show" (via Sports Illustrated), "Derek reached out, he congratulated me, but my inbox is completely full.

In 2017, one teammate was noticeably absent at Jeter's jersey retirement ceremony. Per ESPN, when reporters asked why he didn't attend his old buddy's event, A-Rod said he was with his mother that day celebrating Mother's Day and watched it on television. When asked whether or not he was invited, Rodriguez danced around the subject. Maybe the drama between the two wasn't completely under the bridge yet?

Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez's awkward reunion

The two meet again. During a charity event in 2017, former teammates Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez sat side by side for the first time in a while for CNBC. Now, we are not body language experts or anything, but it is hard not to pick up on the lack of ease between the pair of baseball greats. Sure, they laughed and cracked jokes throughout, but one could say the vibe was more professional obligation than two buddies yukking it up. 

Bob Pisani tried his hardest to get the pair to comment on the current state of their friendship and past drama, but the sports stars didn't budge. "You're bringing up stories from 20 years ago, huh?" Jeter asked while Rodriguez laughed. Though the interview ended in smiles, Jeter was reportedly livid behind the scenes. 

According to the New York Post, ESPN radio host Dan Le Batard reported that Jeter had no idea Rodriguez would be included in the interview. "I actually learned, factually, that Jeter was beside himself angry at that interview he had to do with Alex Rodriguez, first and foremost, because nobody told him he'd have to be sitting there next to Alex Rodriguez," Le Batard said.

Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter seem ready to move on

In July 2022, Derek Jeter teamed up with ESPN to release a seven-part docuseries detailing his life and career. Throughout the doc, Jeter and Alex Rodriguez dug into the rift and their feelings about it. While promoting "The Captain," the two sat for an interview with ESPN in August 2022. Unlike the awkward 2017 CNBC interview, the vibe between them seemed much lighter. 

As the New York Post recapped, the pair of MLB icons shared that they'd recently hung out, had some drinks, and talked about the highs and lows of their relationship. Looking back on his time as a Yankee, Rodriguez told ESPN he did not love the way things went down with Jeter. "My regret was I wish we were as close as we were as teenagers in Seattle when we played," he said. Rodriguez and Jeter may have more money than most of us could even wrap our minds around, but it's still not enough to change the past.

As the ESPN chat went on, Jeter acknowledged that he's ready to leave their drama in the past and start a new chapter with Rodriguez. "Things happen in life," Jeter said. "I've gone through personal things. I lost one of my best friends in Gerald Williams [to cancer in February] and you realize life is short. You don't hold grudges anymore and you move on." It's too early to say that this BFFship is back on, but it's nice to see one feud ended on a happy note.