In February 2009, New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez confessed that he had taken steroids while putting up big power numbers for the Texas Rangers.
“When I arrived in Texas in 2001, I felt an enormous amount of pressure. I felt like I had all the weight of the world on top of me and I needed to perform, and perform at a high level every day,” Rodriguez told ESPN’s Peter Gammons. “Back then, [baseball] was a different culture. It was very loose. I was young. I was stupid. I was naive. And I wanted to prove to everyone that I was worth being one of the greatest players of all time. I did take a banned substance. And for that, I am very sorry and deeply regretful.”
The mea culpa proved trying for Rodriguez’s Yankee teammates—in particular team captain Derek Jeter, who already had a fraught relationship with the slugger.
Airing the evening of Aug. 4, the sixth and penultimate episode of The Captain, the ESPN docuseries about the life and career of baseball legend Derek Jeter and the Yankees dynasty, sees Jeter speak as candidly as he’s capable of about the revelation that his teammate and on-again, off-again pal was juicing.
“My reaction was: another distraction. Like, fuck, we gotta deal with this now. That was my reaction,” says Jeter in The Captain.
“I didn’t want to be there,” he adds of the ensuing press conference in which Rodriguez came clean in front of a sea of microphones. “I don’t think anyone wanted to be there. I’m sure he didn’t want to be there, you know what I mean? We got to answer questions about it, man, and I did not like to answer questions that didn’t have to do with what was going on on the field.”
As The Captain makes clear, Jeter was always laser-focused on the task at hand: winning World Series titles for the city of New York. It’s the reason why he took pains to keep his private life private and limited his inner circle to those he deeply trusted—which almost never included his teammates.
“I was like, I don’t want to talk about this shit anymore!” Jeter says of the Rodriguez steroids fiasco. “But it wasn’t something that you could just end like that.”
Jeter also took umbrage at Rodriguez’s claim that steroids were part of the “culture” of the early aughts, implying that nearly everyone in the game did them.
“People always ask questions, ‘Do you feel as though somebody cheated?’ First and foremost, you cheat yourself. And I think that’s the message that needs to be out there,” Jeter told reporters at the time. “You hear about people saying this is a ‘steroid era.’ There are a few players in this era taking steroids. But it was not a steroid era… I mean, how many people are in the major leagues, 1,200? And you got 1,100 people that have not done it [steroids].”
“I worked my ass off, and there’s a lot of people that have, and I wanted to be clear and make sure that people knew, in my own way,” Jeter says of his 2009 steroid comments in The Captain.
“It dragged on for a while, but my mind goes, we gotta deal with it and let’s move on.”
Sure enough, the Yankees won their 27th World Series title—and Jeter’s fifth—later that year.
They have not won since.