In the fall of 1998, after the Yankees secured their 114th and final regular-season victory on the way to an eventual World Series sweep of San Diego and Major League Baseball's last run of consecutive titles, Derek Jeter said: "It makes no difference what we did in the regular season."
He distances himself from what's already happened and looks toward the next, and ultimate, goal. That attitude has worked for him in the postseason and now he's hoping it will work with off-the-field distractions as he tries to distance himself from Ian O'Connor's unauthorized biography, "The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter."
The book is scheduled to be in bookstores on May 16, and although Jeter wants it made clear that he had "nothing to do with the book," there are enough new stories and anecdotes to pique any fan's interest.
Those seeking motivational material will find it in this 400-pager, which begins with the untold story of an orphaned teen named Sonny Connors. Ultimately Jeter's grandfather on his mother's side, Connors was taken in by the Tiedemann family, keepers of a fixed-up castle near the New York-New Jersey border. The author portrays a relentless work ethic and reliability in Connors, "a working-class hero," that would manifest in a young ballplayer.
"He didn't make millions," Jeter said in the Yankees clubhouse about his grandfather, "but he affected as many lives as anyone in this room."
The book is built not only on thousands of one-on-one and group interviews O'Connor had with Jeter over 15 seasons, but also on 200 new interviews O'Connor said he conducted with Jeter's teammates, friends, coaches, opponents, associates and others.
Those seeking critical appraisal of Jeter's defensive prowess -- including sabermetric analysis and whether it is even relevant in the case of a player who has won five World Series rings -- will like the "Moment of Truth" chapter. Four yeas ago, his defense had come under the microscope and "the sabermetric crowd was ganging up on Jeter," O'Connor writes. It is here when former Yankees catcher Joe Girardi re-enters the picture in 2007 as a YES Network analyst. According to O'Connor, Girardi "watched his old teammate cheat to his left to compensate for lost range up the middle, watched him get to fewer ground balls than he used to."
"I feel sorry for the next Yankee manager," Girardi said at the time, "because he's the one who's going to have to tell Jeter he can't play shortstop anymore."
Of course, Girardi took over for Joe Torre as the "next Yankee manager" the next spring and Jeter remains entrenched at short, with a No. 2 jersey that was MLB's top-seller last year. Girardi also assumed a "complicated and often turbulent relationship" between Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, the Yankees' stars on the left side of the infield. The book delves heavily into that subject, including a story about how former bench coach Don Mattingly "advised Jeter to fake a kinship with Rodriguez like Mattingly had faked with Wade Boggs" and "how an emasculated A-Rod was finally embraced by the captain on the way to their first World Series championship together."
O'Connor gives exclusive details about the dinner meeting between Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and Jeter after the 2007 season -- arranged to convince Jeter he needed to improve defensively, with apparent success. And there's plenty in the epilogue about the high-profile tension during last winter's contract negotiations.
Those looking for gossip-tabloid fare about Jeter's famously protected private life won't find much of anything new but will get a full rundown of his known dating standings, up to Minka Kelly. In the epilogue, O'Connor says Jeter reportedly had been the one to introduce Tiger Woods to Rachel Uchitel, a key figure in the golfer's controversy last year, and then quotes Jeter telling a friend: "Man, they're trying to bring me into this thing with Tiger, and I've got nothing do with it. You see why I didn't get married?"
By the eighth grade in Kalamazoo, Mich., Jeter was a straight-A student who maintained his popularity with students of both genders. The boys were in awe of his athleticism, "and the girls were in awe of his personality and looks," said Chris Oosterbaan, his creative writing and history teacher. "There were many crushes on Derek Jeter."
There is rich detail for those who want to relive classic Jeter moments, including the Jeffrey Maier catch in 1996 and the flip play in Oakland and the Mr. November walk-off homer, the latter two both occurring in 2001. Readers also will learn how one grizzled scout with the Reds, Julian Mock, changed the course of baseball history during a three-mile run on a June morning in 1992, when he decided he would take Chad Mottola with the No. 5 overall Draft pick just ahead of the Yankees.
Mottola had 25 hits in the Majors. Jeter, taken with the sixth overall pick, is the Yankees' all-time hits leader and is approaching 3,000 for his career.
The book comes almost exactly 10 years after "The Life You Imagine," the "approved" best-seller Jeter wrote with Jack Curry that focused on "life lessons."
"He is the [Joe] DiMaggio of his time, a beloved but distant figure," O'Connor said. "My goal was to humanize Jeter. I wanted to paint a public portrait of a private man while celebrating his dignified approach and explaining why his No. 2 is No. 1 in the closets of kids everywhere."
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.