Star in pinstripes: A-Rod a Yankee

Despite his reservations, commissioner OKs deal bringing Rodriguez to N.Y.

Baseball

February 17, 2004|By Dom Amore | Dom Amore,THE HARTFORD COURANT

HARTFORD, Conn. - Alex Rodriguez became a New York Yankee yesterday. The deal that added the widely regarded best player in the game to an already star-studded roster does not have baseball's blessing, only its grudging approval.

"I am very concerned about the large amount of cash consideration involved in the transaction, and the length of time over which the cash is being paid," commissioner Bud Selig said. "I want to make it abundantly clear to all clubs that I will not allow cash transfers of this magnitude to become the norm. However, given the unique circumstances, including the size, length and complexity of Mr. Rodriguez's contract and the quality of the talent moving in both directions, I have decided to approve the transaction."

Selig's message to owners: If you sign a player to a long-term deal, be prepared to live with it.

The remnants of Rodriguez's 10-year, $252 million contract with the Texas Rangers - called a "relative disservice to baseball" by Yankees owner George Steinbrenner in 2001 - was transferred to his team by midafternoon. Selig took about 24 hours to go over the trade, in which the Rangers got second baseman Alfonso Soriano and his one-year, $5.4 million contract as well as a minor league player to be named. Rangers owner Tom Hicks will pay $67 million of what Rodriguez is owed; Steinbrenner will get Rodriguez through 2010 at a relative bargain cost of $112 million, an average of $16 million a year.

"I'm pretty excited. This is a big, big one," Steinbrenner told reporters at the Yankees' minor league complex in Tampa, Fla. "It ranks with when we signed Reggie [Jackson]."

Steinbrenner brought Jackson to New York in 1977, touching off concerns about Yankees largesse that persist to this day.

"The disparity is not healthy for the sport," Arizona Diamondbacks owner Jerry Colangelo told the Associated Press. "But everyone runs their team the way they see fit, and they did it by the rules."

Rodriguez, the American League Most Valuable Player last season, will be introduced as a Yankee today at Yankee Stadium. He has worn No. 3 and played shortstop exclusively since his freshman year of high school, but he'll wear No. 13 and play third base for the Yankees. Derek Jeter, who is scheduled to be at the news conference, remains the shortstop.

The Major League Players Association signed off on the trade early Sunday after the Yankees offset a $5 million devaluation of Rodriguez's contract by providing him with a hotel suite on the road, allowing Rodriguez to link his Web site to yankees.com and guaranteeing Rodriguez $4 million in deferred salary in 2011 if there is a work stoppage. Selig then began studying it. Though some owners were reportedly unhappy, he found no grounds to stop it.

"I think the commissioner was recognizing a fact, that this was a very, very unique situation," said Yankees president Randy Levine. "In order to structure a deal with so much money involved, it went around the norm. The commissioner was advising everybody, `Be careful in going forward with transactions like this in the future.' Of course, the opportunities to deal with contracts like this are going to be few and far between."

Levine and general manager Brian Cashman spent a good portion of their 60-minute news conference defending the Yankees against the old charges of loading up to the detriment of baseball. Levine noted that the same charges were leveled against the Yankees in 1939.

"Payrolls don't translate into championships," Cashman said. "If they did, the Florida Marlins would not have won the World Series last year, the Angels wouldn't have won the year before."

Each of the past two champions spent about $60 million on players, while the Yankees spent $140 million in 2002 and $180 million last year. Their 2004 payroll is $190 million. The Yankees paid $60 million in revenue sharing and luxury tax in '03, and will pay at least that much next year.

"Nobody was complaining when we wrote the checks for $60 million," Levine said. "We don't tell other people how to run their business; they shouldn't tell us how to run ours."

The Hartford Courant is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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