amNewYork – Jason Fink – The Yankees’ season is about to get a lot more interesting.
With injured star Alex Rodriguez set to return within a week, experts say the Bombers will have their hands full, as the controversial slugger and his teammates cope with the onslaught of negative publicity over the explosive tell-all bio published Monday.
Besides alleging more extensive steroid use than A-Rod has admitted to, the book portrays him as insecure superstar whose jealousy of teammate Derek Jeter borders on obsession.
“It’s a gossip cauldron and it could turn into a fire pit if not properly managed,â€? said John Murray, a sports psychologist. “Everybody will say it doesn’t matter and talk is cheap but this is the biggest stage in the world and these players know what’s being said about them.â€?
In one telling scene from “A-Rod: The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez,â€? author Selena Roberts describes how on the night of the 2008 All-Star game at Yankee Stadium both players hosted parties with celebrity guest lists.
“Not even Madonna stopped by (A-Rod’s party), and most of Alex’s teammates skipped the bash in favor of the All-Star celebration hosted by Derek Jeter,â€? Roberts writes. “Alex was last seen sitting in a back booth at the 40/40 Club with his mother.â€?
A-Rod, 34, was constantly comparing himself to the team captain, Roberts writes, revealing something of an inferiority complex.
When out at nightclubs, according to the book, A-Rod would ask women: “’Who’s hotter, me or Derek Jeter?’â€?
“’The Jeter thing ate Alex alive,’â€? a friend of Rodriguez told Roberts. “’It was always about Jeter.’â€?
In what could prove a continuing distraction, Roberts writes that the rift between the two stars split the team.
“The tension between Jeter and Rodriguez escalated to the point where the clubhouse – and management – began to take sides,â€? the book says. “In the middle was a team that, (outfielder Gary) Sheffield says, ‘didn’t know what to think about the soap opera.’â€?
All of this has left fans wondering whether the team, which has battled tabloid stories about A-Rod before, can ignore the sideshow.
“It’s never good to have rivalry within the team,â€? said Mike Cioli, 36, of Manhattan. “I think they will be distracted but I don’t see how it will affect the performance.â€?
Sports psychologist Robert Udewitz, who practices in Manhattan, said the hype surrounding A-Rod’s off-field peccadilloes – which include a highly publicized divorce and alleged affair with Madonna, as well as the steroids admission – may well hurt the team.
“These little stressors become bigger and bigger,â€? he said. “You don’t see too many teams who thrive on adversity.â€?
Melinda Hsia contributed to this story