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Yesterday morning as I arrived at the bookstore where I work, I clapped my hands with glee—a coworker was unloading fresh bundles of the New York Daily News, and on the back, the paper was chastising Mr. Yankee, Derek Jeter, for his childish “feud” with Alex Rodriguez, after A-Rod said Monday that the “blood brothers” were now just co-workers.

How disappointed I was this morning to see that Jeter had already made the inevitable, “No, we’re fine” comment. I thought we weren’t scheduled for a backpedaling until next week, Derek. What gives? I was looking forward to more erudite analyses like the following, from New York Post scribe Joel Sherman:

These have not been questions about his relationship with Jessica Biel or Mariah Carey or whatever starlet of the moment Derek Jeter was romancing.

When it comes to that, Jeter is right. His off-the-field associations have nothing to do with on-the-field results. Thus, he has decided to make them off-limits and I totally respect him for that.

But this was not about Page Six. This was about E-6, error on Jeter for malfeasance as a leader.

Ooh! Snap! What else you got, Joel?

Rodriguez attempted to recast the bond between the two and, perhaps, the power dynamics Monday when he admitted that their association had dwindled from “blood brothers” to “a working relationship.” It was, perhaps, a liberating moment for Rodriguez, a chance to stop having to act as if something existed that does not any more.

Jeter’s opportunity to take the cathartic baton came and went yesterday with the Yankee captain defiantly sticking to his cover story…

Cathartic baton! Quelle poesie!

Every story on this subject from the parking lots of New Jersey to the banks of the Hudson has focused on three storylines: Jeter isn’t doing his job as Captain where A-Rod is concerned; Jeter bailed out Jason Giambi when the slugger was caught using steroids, telling fans to cheer for him, yet leaves A-Rod to be booed mercilessly; and that all of this is starting to corrode Derek’s sterling reputation.

Won’t anyone come to Jeter’s defense? Won’t Mariah Carey or Jessica Biel or any of his other beards broads come to his aid?

Ah, wait….riding up on a white horse is none other than…Don Zimmer! Calling the negative press “a disgrace,” The Gerbil said of Jeter, “What do you want him to do? Put his arm around him and kiss him?” Given the frat-boy-humor t-shirts out there, Zim could have, perhaps, chosen his words a little better.

The irony about all of this is that A-Rod made his initial comments ostensibly to put to rest the incessant questions—which have swirled ever since that 2001 Esquire article—about the nature of his relationship with his “frenemy.” I say “ostensibly” because either A-Rod really is the PR naif he sometimes seems to be, with as many foot-in-mouth gaffes as John Kerry, or he is crazy like a fox. I can’t tell anymore. He started the interview saying, “I think it’s important to cut the [redacted]…You don’t have to go to dinner with a guy four, five times a week to do what you do. It [the relationship] is actually much better than all of you guys [the reporters] expect. I just want the truth to be known.”

Funny thing is, when I hear someone blurt out the T-word, I instantly suspect them of chicanery. So when, a few moments later, A-Rod innocently added, “People start assuming things are worse than what they are, which they’re not. But they’re obviously not as great as they used to be, when we were like blood brothers.” Well that’s a little passive-aggressive, don’t you think, Mr. I Just Want The Truth To Be Known. “The reality is, there’s been a change in our relationship over the past 14 years and hopefully we can put it behind us.” I can just see the wheels turning in the Yankee press corps’ collective brain: “So there IS something to put behind them! Aha!” But if A-Rod was trying to start trouble, then the question becomes: why? WHY? You’d think it would be the very last thing the beleaguered third baseman would want.

In other Yankees’ camp gossip, Bernie Williams is still MIA. The outfielder, who spent all 22 professional seasons of his career with the team, does not want to go to Tampa as a non-roster invitee, the only position the Yankees were willing to offer him this spring. But, of course, Jeter finds a way to make this story, too, about himself:

[Williams] has not returned calls from Brian Cashman, Joe Torre, [Jorge] Posada or [Mariano] Rivera. He did return Jeter’s call two days ago.

“He called me back,” Jeter said. “I’m not going to talk about what we talked about. I can’t relate to what Bernie’s going through. He’s been here what, over 20 years? Even I haven’t been here that long.”

Oh, hyuk hyuk hyuk Derek. You kidder.

At this rate, it’s a good thing that Mike Mussina and Carl Pavano have already cleared the air. Spring Training isn’t even a week old and there’s already more drama in the Yankees’ clubhouse than you’d find naturally occuring in a high school bathroom.

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