Texas-sized misstep has A. Rodriguez backtracking

August 05, 2003|By LAURA VECSEY

DEAR A-ROD,

Remember those times in Seattle when you'd sit at your locker and wonder how you'd look in blue?

Royal blue pinstripes, you'd say. Like the Mets. New York would be great, wouldn't it?

You'd smile, get that faraway look in your eye. Nothing like being 25 years old, the best player in the game, the world at your feet.

Or how about Dodger blue, you'd ponder. The Dodgers were your idea of National League tradition and history. And wouldn't Hollywood love having you around, we joked. The face, the body, the poise, the ambition. Perfect.

Once, after the 2000 trade deadline and the Mariners didn't sign David Justice or Juan Gonzalez and you were mad, you joked about how you would look in purple.

Purple? I said.

Yeah, why not? You said. Like in Arizona, where the Diamondbacks were on their way to buying a World Series championship. You pondered options there.

Then came the Mariners' loss in the 2000 American League Championship Series. A tough defeat to the Yankees, but the Mariners were so close. You played so well. A World Series was two wins away next time in Seattle, or in New York, if you wanted to hop to a big market - a decision everyone could understand.

Instead, you took Texas.

Texas! For $252 million. Sold.

Some people back then said you sold out. What are we supposed to think now?

Last time I saw you was at the All-Star Game in Chicago. You looked up, turned my credential over and read it: "Hmm. Baltimore Sun."

You meant I wasn't in Seattle anymore, just like you.

I said unlike you, I took less money to move to my new job, I joked.

You quipped: "You really had some fun with me when I left Seattle. Sold a lot of papers ripping me, didn't you?"

I said I was sorry for hurting your feelings. Nothing personal. But that, unfortunately, was a lie.

Unfortunately, your entire career has been defined by this "smart business decision" you made three years ago.

Unfortunately, for one who fashioned himself the next Cal Ripken, your character has been seriously maligned by your decision to take the money and run.

But at least you were smiling that July morning. Three years after signing the most obscene contract in the history of sports - with a team that didn't stand a chance to win - at least you were ready to bury the hatchet with one of your worst critics.

Sorry pal.

It was a bad decision three years ago. Apparently, it's a worse decision now.

We've all read what you said.

"Obviously, I want what's best for [Rangers owner Tom] Hicks. He's the best owner in the game and I would not want to handicap him from winning. If it came down to the Rangers winning or me being happy, I think I would do something contractually where I could go somewhere else and make it easier for them," you said.

"Obviously, there is nothing I would want more than to win as a Texas Ranger, but at the same time, it gets old to hear, `You are the reason why the team is not winning.' "

Earth to A-Rod: You had to know these words were one day going to spew from your mouth.

And based on how calculating you are (a political career looms, Senator A-Rod) these comments must be regarded as the first shot across the bow. Anyone who knows you understands this is the start of an orchestrated campaign to get out of Texas.

On that note, good luck tonight at Yankee Stadium. Wow. What a scene that's going to be. You can almost predict the tabloids' back-page headlines:

Pay-Rod in Pinstripes?

Who's on Third - Jeter or A-Rod?

Mets to Rangers: Let's Deal.

During this three-game stand against the Yankees, the New York Post and Daily News are going to feed on you like chum - albeit very handsome chum.

Now the high rollers will be lining up, which means the two New York teams will filter word back to agent Scott Boras.

Let's say Chicago is in play, too. During the All-Star festivities, you were spotted talking to White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf. You always did like the idea of replacing Michael Jordan.

Meanwhile, here in Baltimore, the Orioles have Miguel Tejada on their free-agent shopping list. That has to bother you. Not the Orioles' interest in Tejada, but that Tejada won the 2003 American League Most Valuable Player award when you are so far the superior player.

Sorry. You can't be MVP when you play for a fourth-place team, even though the national media tried to find a way to praise you for your superlative skills. It's just that those are the unwritten rules, just like it was unwritten in Seattle that you had to finish second to former Mariners star Ken Griffey for MVP in 1996. That made you mad, too.

For such a stellar career, there have been so many bummers.

In Baltimore, where the owner said this spring he would take on Griffey's contract, why would the Orioles go for an understudy (Tejada) when Ripken's protege/replacement has stepped onto the block?

According to reports out of Dallas, Boras already has a list of four teams that could make this deal. With $179 million guaranteed remaining on your contract, you might be the only Hall of Famer to pass through waivers.

You are truly a unique entity in this game of baseball. Different, all right, thanks to that number that ultimately defines you.

It's not "3," the number you wear for your boyhood favorite, Dale Murphy.

It's not 300, the homer plateau that made you baseball's youngest slugger ever.

It's $252 million.

With your recent assertions, I think you're starting to tell us what we already knew: The move to Texas wasn't worth it.

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