Jeter, A-Rod split spawns news that's not fit to print

February 22, 2007|By PETER SCHMUCK

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- In a world where celebrity breakups have become a staple of both the grocery-line tabloids and the network magazine shows, I guess it was only a matter of time before this run of interpersonal superstar dysfunction would find its way to baseball.

If you haven't been paying close attention, it's only the biggest story of spring training. Alex Rodriguez acknowledged this week that his relationship with teammate Derek Jeter has cooled over the past couple of years. The two highest-paid Yankees stars used to be inseparable when they were playing on opposite coasts - and, for the life of me, I don't know how that's possible - but now they're just teammates. Maybe absence really does make the heart grow fonder.

"The reality is there's been a change in the relationship over 14 years and, hopefully, we can just put it behind us," A-Rod told reporters at the Yankees' spring training facility this week. "You go from sleeping over at somebody's house five days a week and now you don't sleep over. It's just not that big of a deal."

I think he was speaking figuratively there, not that there would be anything wrong with it if he wasn't. Rodriguez and Jeter emerged as baseball's top young stars at about the same time and became best friends while Jeter was winning championships in New York and A-Rod was establishing himself as the best all-around player in the game.

Somewhere along the line, maybe after that 2001 Esquire interview in which Rodriguez questioned Jeter's leadership, the relationship cooled, but that was never really confirmed until A-Rod decided to get real during his first interview of spring training Monday.

Of course, you're probably wondering why anyone would care if a couple of guys still spend their quiet nights in the offseason playing Madden 2000-whatever. I mean, we're not exactly talking about DiMaggio and Monroe. But this is the age of unlimited bandwidth and the gossip vacuum has to be filled, so a couple of buddies growing apart actually qualifies as news.

Personally, I find the whole Britney Spears/K-Fed thing much more interesting, though the pictures of Britney shaving her head left me wondering if Sinead O'Connor ever got that photo of the pope taped back together. Next to that, the fact that Jeter and A-Rod sometimes leave the ballpark in separate limos isn't going to make me rush home to watch Inside Edition.

(For the record, the only show I rush home to watch is Grey's Anatomy, but I've got to tell you, Meredith is starting to wear pretty thin. I already get to witness plenty of neurotic angst at training camp every day - and that's just in the media room - so I might have to rethink my evening viewing preferences.)

Now that A-Rod and Jeter are officially kaput, I think the most fascinating baseball couple of 2007 is Barry Bonds and George Mitchell, especially now that Bonds has thrown down the gauntlet and challenged Major League Baseball and the BALCO grand jury to investigate him to its heart's content.

"Let them investigate," Bonds said after arriving at the Giants' spring facility in Scottsdale, Ariz., on Tuesday. "Let them. They've been doing it this long."

I'm not sure if he's just being defiant or if he's truly unconcerned, but you have to think that if the feds had anything that would stick, they would have stuck it to Barry by now. This investigation has been going on for years and, so far, the lawyer who leaked grand jury testimony to a pair of San Francisco Chronicle reporters stands to get more jail time than steroid ringleaders Victor Conte and Greg Anderson combined.

Meanwhile, Mitchell's MLB-funded investigation grinds ahead with no end in sight, but he does not have the power to subpoena testimony, so the possibility of his uncovering enough damning evidence to derail Bonds' run at Hank Aaron's all-time major league home run record seems remote.

Nevertheless, look for Bonds and Mitchell to be an item all season, even though I'm sure they're just good friends.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

The Peter Schmuck Show airs on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon on Saturdays.

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