~Yankee Stadium, in The Bronx, on a Sunday Afternoon.
A taped recording of Bob Shepard's voice comes over the loudspeaker to announce "Shortstop, #2, Derek Jeter, #2". 56,000 strong Yankee fans and even some opposing fans, especially all of the teenage girls and young women, cheer and squeal like never before as hundreds of flashbulbs light up the Sunday afternoon. Jeter, known as The Captain, El Capitan, The Golden Boy, Mr. November, and DJ, steps up to the plate as the cheers continue to drown out his usual hip-hop themed entrance. As chants of "Der-ek Jet-er" fill the stands, DJ takes his place in the batter's box. To the dismay of the Yankee fans, Jeter goes down looking on what appeared to be Ball 4 to everyone in The Stadium but the home plate umpire. Even though he just struck out, Jeter is showered with cheers as he heads back to the dugout. Grown women are screaming out for Derek to "Marry Me" and the Bleacher Creatures in Right Field yell out that Jeter will "Get-em next time".
After Abreu walks, the fill-in voice on the loudspeaker announces "Third Baseman, #13, Alex Rodriguez". Most of the fans are cheering, some are clapping, but there are some jeers and boos being heard throughout the stadium. Alex steps into the box and gets the count to 2 and 2. The next pitch, he hits 350 feet down the left field line but foul. The entire stadium cheers when the ball is hit, but quickly realizes that it is foul when A-Rod jogs back to the plate. Alex is then fooled on the next pitch as he half swings at the pitch and is rung up by the 1st base umpire. The entire stadium groans as A-Rod swings and misses and some begin to shower Alex with jeers and negative criticism (some even relating to his current marital status or to pop icon Madonna).
Two superstars, in the same inning, stepped up to the plate and both struck out. One is cheered and the other is jeered... How can this be!?
Comparing their statistics, from not only the 2008 season but also for their careers, it would surprise many who are not familiar with the Yankees or baseball in general that A-Rod isn't the most beloved player on the Yankees. Looking at Derek Jeter's season, he is batting .281 with 126 Hits, 65 Runs, and 56 RBIs in 112 games. His numbers are down, compared to his career numbers and what he normally does in a season with an average of 200+ Hits, 100+ Runs, and 75+ RBIs. Even with his below average performance, Derek's 2008 salary is $21,600,000.
A-Rod, the reigning AL Most Valuable Player, on the other hand, always puts up big numbers in his career. This season, Alex has batted .315 with 115 Hits, 26 Home runs, 76 Runs, and 70 RBIs. Even with these solid numbers, Alex has been down compared to his career averages for 30+ Home runs, 115 RBIs, and 100 Runs. While his numbers are also down, Alex was under salary this year for a robust $28,000,000.
Looking back to their career highlights, Derek Jeter is a 4-time World Series Champion, 9-time AL All-Star, 3-time Gold Glove winner, the 1996 Rookie of the Year, 2-time Silver Slugger winner, the 2006 Hank Aaron Award winner, and the only man in the history of the MLB to win the All-Star Game MVP and World Series MVP in the same year (2000). Derek is currently 18 hits away from getting 2,500 hits for his career and is 3rd on the Yankees all-time list for most hits as a Yankee.
A-Rod, since 1994, is a 3-time American League MVP, 2-time Silver Slugger award winner, and 2-time Gold Glover. Alex is currently 13th on the all-time home run list with 544. He also has the pleasure of being the number 1 rated fantasy baseball player in the world!
With both players doing so much for the Yankees and the MLB in general, how is it that so many Yankee fans treat A-Rod with disrespect and disdain while treating Jeter like the "Prince of New York"?
The answer, to many who have followed the Yankees for years, is mostly based around the fact that Derek Jeter is a "true Yankee". People call up WFAN 660 in New York and talk about how Derek plays like a Yankee... the way that baseball is supposed to be played. On the field, he plays like a champion. In the postseason, "Captain Clutch" has 147 Hits, 17 Home runs, 81 Runs, and 48 RBIs. He puts winning over everything, including his personal accolades. The best part about 2000, the year he made history, was that the Yankees beat the Mets in the Subway Series. As popular as Derek is, in New York and across the United States, you rarely see a story about his private life. The only time Jeter is even discussed outside of baseball is when he is out helping the community with his ever growing Turn2 Foundation.
Alex Rodriguez, unlike Derek Jeter, is not a home grown hero, but rather an overpaid player that bats well below the Mendoza line when the playoffs come around. Alex provides unneccessary distraction to his team by being in the spotlight for too many non-baseball related stories. From the "Ha Play", to frequenting strip clubs in Toronto, to this most recent incident with Madonna and his wife divorcing him... Alex is too Hollywood for The Big Apple. Even though Alex graciously moved his position from SS to 3B when arriving in NYC, nobody gave him any slack when he continued to make error after error at "The Hot Corner". The expectations are high when playing in The Pinstripes and A-Rod has not able to lose the stigma of being an underachiever when it counts. Alex could hit 75 home runs and drive in 200 runs, but none of that would count if he couldn't perform in the postseason.
It is safe to say that Yankee fans have spoiled over the last 13 years as The Evil Empire continues to expect only the best from it's team. However, it is high time for the Yankee Faithful to appreciate A-Rod for being one of the best players to ever put on the uniform and play in the Yankee infield. He does not deserve comparisons to former Yankee 3Bs; Scott Brosius, Wade Boggs, or Graig Nettles. There is no doubt that he is better than all three of those former Yankees combined. And yet in New York.... he is no Derek Jeter!