A day after sitting through a news conference at which Rodriguez discussed his use of steroids, and just after the first full-squad workout of spring training, Jeter met with the media in the Yankees dugout for about half an hour. He quickly said that "everybody makes mistakes" and "we're here to support him [Rodriguez] through it," but Jeter spent much of the time insisting that people should not assume all players used steroids.
"One thing that's irritating and really upsets me a lot is when you hear people say that everybody did it," Jeter said. "No, that's not true. Everybody wasn't doing it."
Jeter said the idea that no players are clean is problematic.
"I think it sends the wrong message. I think it sends the wrong message to the fans, the baseball fans. I think it sends the wrong message to kids, saying that everybody was doing it. That's just not the truth," Jeter said. "I understand there's a lot of people, a lot of big-name players that have come out that were allegedly doing this, allegedly doing that, but everybody wasn't doing it."
Rodriguez, though, was doing it. He admitted using performance-enhancing drugs from 2001 to 2003 at his Tuesday news conference. Given that he is a three-time Most Valuable Player, the Yankees need him focused and productive to have their best chance at winning a World Series. Jeter said that will do what he can to help Rodriguez.
Yesterday, Jeter and Rodriguez played catch before the team divided into groups for the workout. Said Jeter: "We're here to support him through it. I don't condone what he did. We don't condone what he did. Alex doesn't condone what he did."
Jeter described himself as "disappointed" that Rodriguez had crossed the line, saying he would guess everyone was disappointed. He would not say if Rodriguez had cheated the game, but said that people who use steroids "cheated themselves." He said he still respects Rodriguez as a player because A-Rod said his steroid use was in the past.
As for Rodriguez's details about his steroid use, Jeter said he believes the story. He believes him, Jeter said, because he gives everyone "the benefit of the doubt."
Jeter expressed his belief that Yankees fans would "rally around Rodriguez," and noted that Rodriguez had been cheered when he came out for workouts yesterday. Both Jason Giambi and Andy Pettitte have dealt with admitted use of performance-enhancing drugs in recent years, and both were embraced by Yankees fans.
Jeter told reporters that Rodriguez's situation, given the magnitude of the player, was the biggest distraction in his 14 years as a Yankee. However, he said that it would not be a distraction for the team if people do not talk about it constantly.
As he has in the past, Jeter said that he never has used a performance-enhancing drug. Said Jeter: "I've never taken performance-enhancing drugs, I've never taken steroids."
Jeter's father was a drug and alcohol counselor, so he was educated about the dangers of drug and steroid use at a young age. Jeter, like Mark Teixeira earlier this week, also said that he would not have wanted to do anything to let his family down.
"For me, it was just always a situation where I didn't want to disappoint," Jeter said. "Obviously if you're real close to your family, you don't want to disappoint your family."
Rodriguez has let his Yankees family down, but so did Pettitte and Giambi before him. Now the Yankees, Jeter included, are focused on getting Rodriguez back to peak form.
"He's a vital part of the team," Jeter said.