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Archive for Saturday, August 2, 2003

A-Rod must stay for Texas to improve

August 2, 2003

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— Baseball fans have endured many things in the 32-year history of the Texas Rangers. For the most part, they have willingly and patiently obliged.

One thing they should not be forced to accept or even ponder is the trade of Alex Rodriguez.

The subject was addressed by none other than the game's finest shortstop this week. Three years of cellar-dwelling finally has allowed frustration to invade his carefully crafted public persona.

Those who are put off by his canned answers and polished image should be applauding him for speaking candidly, saying if the Rangers ever thought they would be better off by trading him, he would consider waiving his no-trade clause.

Owner Tom Hicks got this one right with his adamant stand that Rodriguez shall remain a Ranger. Rodriguez's record-breaking contract is not the handicap to success it often is made out to be.

While spending 20 percent of a team's payroll on one player is not a preferred route to winning, the Rangers are capable of competing for the top spot in the American League West by 2005, anyway.

Just look at the team's victories over Boston Wednesday and Thursday night at the Ballpark. Clutch hitting from Hank Blalock, Mark Teixeira and Laynce Nix. Strong starting pitching from Robert Ellis and Colby Lewis.

These are the ingredients for building a winner around A-Rod. Throw second baseman Michael Young and outfielder Ramon Nivar into that lineup for 2004, pack bags for Juan Gonzalez and Rafael Palmeiro, cross fingers and hope pitcher Jose Dominguez is the real deal. That's how this team wins.

Some argue just getting rid of Rodriguez would be addition by subtraction, freeing up $21 million he's making this season to spend on other players. But, theoretically, if you could go out and get three $7 million players with that money, what are the odds at least one of those players would be a bust?

Is what the Rangers are getting from Rodriguez for their $21 million worse than what the soft-hitting Shawn Green and the injured Brian Jordan are delivering the Dodgers for their combined $24 million?

Aside from A-Rod's contract, the Rangers were shelling out $85 million to other players at the start of this season. In a division where Oakland watches its pennies and Seattle and Anaheim don't engage in Yankee-like spending, that's more than enough to compete.

The problem isn't A-Rod's millions. It's Chan Ho Park's $13 million average salary. It's Rusty Greer's $7 million. It's Gonzalez's and Palmeiro's refusal to consider trades that could have helped the franchise to rebuild.

Hicks has seen the light on building through the farm system which is the only way to win for this team.

It would be nice if he had signed Rodriguez for 10 years at $200 million instead of $252 million, but that's history. The Rangers had to overpay to get him to come here, but that's all right as long as Hicks is willing to keep the payroll up near the luxury tax level and as long as the club isn't making huge mistakes on other contracts.

Take the $21 million that Gonzalez and Palmeiro represent from the roster for next year and invest some of that in pitching. Hope that out of Ellis and Lewis and Joaquin Benoit and Ricardo Rodriguez and Dominguez, two consistent starters can be found.

A-Rod turned 28 last week. The 322 home runs he had hit by his 28th birthday were a major-league record. His pursual of the 500- and 600-home run marks needs to take place in a Rangers uniform.

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