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In the mid-1990s, three young shortstops that revolutionized the position burst onto the scene: Alex Rodriguez, Nomar Garciaparra and Derek Jeter. They were the complete package not seen since Cal Ripken Jr. a decade earlier.

As far as baseball talent goes, the order listed above was usually how they were ranked: A-Rod, Nomar and Jeter. But when it comes to intangibles, leadership and longevity, Jeter hands down set the standard.

We’ll skip Garciaparra in this discussion since injuries riddled his career. But it’s funny how the career paths of Rodriguez and Jeter have evolved -- even with the two being teammates for the past 10 years.


The Captain is taking his final bows
Photo by Keith Allison, used under creative commons license.

Of course, A-Rod recently accepted his yearlong suspension, after a media-crazed legal battle with MLB got him only a slight reduction to the initial suspension of 211 games for alleged performance enhancing drug usage.

 

Meanwhile, Jeter is being celebrated as a hero ever since announcing that 2014 will be his final season in the big leagues. Just like Mariano Rivera last year, Jeter is in store for a league-wide recognition tour as he plays in each city for the last time.

Seeing where these two ballplayers are now in their lives and careers, where did it go wrong for A-Rod? You would think teaming up with the stoic Jeter might have helped him get on the right path. But instead, Rodriguez’s image is forever tarnished -- regardless of whether the allegations are true.

A-Rod was on top of the world during his days with the Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers. He even accomplished the rare feat of the winning an MVP award for a last place team.

All the success and money must have gone to his head somewhere along the way, because he truly believed that he could beat the system when dealing with his latest legal battle.

Maybe it’s unfair that he was singled out as one of a handful of players on the Biogenesis list, but had he just accepted his suspension like everyone else, maybe there would be a glimmer of hope that he could resurrect his career.

As it stands, there’s very little chance that A-Rod takes the field as a New York Yankee on Opening Day 2015. The team will likely buy out the remaining years on his contract and bid him adieu once and for all. Not many other teams would be lining up for his services either, especially given his age and the fact that he just sat out an entire year.

But now we turn to Jeter, who throughout his career always did and said the right thing. He never sparked controversy, and that’s why he’s now being lauded for his achievements.

A-Rod’s career numbers may trump Jeter’s, but Jeter was a winner, plain and simple. He let his play on the field dictate his legacy, in contrast to A-Rod, who will be more so remembered for his off-the-field antics rather than his baseball success.

Let’s just say there will never be a farewell tribute tour for the tainted slugging shortstop. While the mighty have fallen in terms of A-Rod, the cream of the crop when it comes to consistency and teamwork -- Jeter -- has risen to the forefront.