But the Hall of Famer's characterization of Jeter as a poor role model for America's youth almost seemed to amuse the Yankees' captain.
"That's a first for me," Jeter said. "I didn't know I was like that."
According to The Associated Press, Rice made his comments during an appearance with a group of Little Leaguers in a South Williamsport, Pa., cafeteria prior to the start of the Little League World Series.
The AP reported that Rice said he believes today's big leaguers are too focused on individual goals and getting big contracts.
"You see a Manny Ramirez, you see an A-Rod [Alex Rodriguez], you see [Derek] Jeter ... Guys that I played against and with, these guys you're talking about cannot compare," Rice said.
The former Red Sox left fielder played 16 seasons in Boston, batting .298 with 382 homers before retiring in 1989 and earning induction to the Hall of Fame this year.
"We didn't have the baggy uniforms. We didn't have the dreadlocks," Rice said. "It was a clean game, and now they're setting a bad example for the young guys."
According to baseball-reference.com, Rice's highest annual salary was $2.35 million in his final season, 1989. Jeter and Ramirez will each earn $20 million this season; Rodriguez is being paid $32 million.
"Do players in our game today make a nice salary? Of course they do," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "Have players from the past made sacrifices for that? Yes. I still think players try to grow the game today, just like they did in the past."
Ramirez and Rodriguez have both been at the center of current media firestorms, linked to use of performance-enhancing drugs -- Ramirez serving a 50-game suspension this year with the Dodgers, and Rodriguez admitting his past use in a preseason news conference.
But Jeter has prided himself on staying above the fray. He is active with his foundation, Turn 2, which encourages children to lead healthy lifestyles and stay away from drugs and alcohol, and has said in the past he was never tempted to try performance-enhancing drugs.
Girardi bypassed a question asking if it was surprising to hear Jeter's name lumped in that context.
"I've always been one that feels you shouldn't judge others," Girardi said. "Our job is to take care of who you are as an individual and try to make yourself a better individual. My feeling is that you shouldn't judge others, and I'm not going to really comment."
Asked later at a news conference to list current players worthy of the Hall of Fame, Rice suggested Mariners outfielders Ichiro Suzuki and Ken Griffey Jr. and White Sox slugger Jim Thome.
Preparing to hit in the batting cage at Fenway Park, Jeter said he had little else to offer on the subject.
"I don't know anything about it," Jeter said. "Ask [Rice]."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.