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Continued: Man in the news: Drug suspension will define Alex Rodriguez's career

  • Article by: RONALD BLUM , AP Sports Writer
  • Last update: August 4, 2013 - 9:09 AM

Once they were pals. But Jeter began to distance himself after Rodriguez was quoted in a 2001 Esquire article saying "Jeter's been blessed with great talent around him" and "he's never had to lead."

Then Rodriguez joined him on the Yankees in 2004. Unwanted by Texas, A-Rod pushed for a trade to Boston. When that fell through, he wanted New York — even agreeing to move from shortstop to third base because of Jeter.

A-Rod tried to make it appear they were still buddy-buddy. But by 2007, Rodriguez publicly conceded the friendship had faded.

"People start assuming that things are a lot worse than what they are, which they're not," A-Rod said. "But they're obviously not as great as they used to be. We were like blood brothers."

Attention on Rodriguez had increased exponentially when he signed a $252 million, 10-year deal with the Rangers before the 2001 season. But it wasn't enough.

After Rodriguez famously opted out of his contract during Boston's 2007 World Series win over Colorado, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman was prepared to let the then 32-year-old leave. Less than two months later, New York gave him an even more lucrative agreement: $275 million over 10 years.

But in the wake of Rodriguez's drug admission, the Yankees started to worry. And that was before his first major injury.

"He's a huge investment. So he's an asset, and this is an asset that's currently in crisis," Cashman said. "So we will do everything we can to protect that asset. ... If this is Humpty Dumpty, we've got to put him back together again, to get back up on the wall."

Rodriguez overcame right hip surgery that March and helped the Yankees to their first World Series title since 2000. As the music played loudly and a crowd christened the first season of the team's new ballpark with a championship, A-Rod thought back to that sorry day of apology in Tampa.

"I just knew then when I had the 25 guys there standing next to me, and organization and my general manager, they meant the world to me," he said. "I said that day that this is going to turn out to be maybe one of the most special years of our lives, and it sure has."

It remains to be seen whether many of those same people will distance themselves from him. People's opinions have changed. Rodriguez has changed.

"It's really difficult for people to understand what happens to a player or an athlete — I don't care if it's baseball, football, whatever — when they ascend to such a level," Hofman, the high school coach, said. "It's a very difficult position because the adulation is so great, and the need for it usually accompanies it."

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