Archive for Wednesday, November 19, 2003

A-Rod’s talk of future rings hollow

November 19, 2003

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— In 1996, there was no question Alex Rodriguez deserved the league's MVP award, despite his rookie status. His performance, then as a 21-year-old Mariners shortstop, was far superior to Juan Gonzalez's slugging totals in Texas.

I thought Rodriguez was a fairly obvious selection last year when he again came in second, this time to A's shortstop Miguel Tejada.

This year, with no clear choices to make from the American League playoff teams, Rodriguez's numbers again set him apart from his peers. So when he finally won the AL MVP award Monday, listening to how Rodriguez handled national and local conference calls, I couldn't help but feel ...

Duped.

It always has been easy on the eyes to marvel at Rodriguez's unparalleled skills; a little tougher on the ears to accept his carefully manicured sound bites.

If anything, A-Rod has been even smoother in handling the press than he is at turning two, no small feat for a two-time Gold Glove winner. But Monday, A-Rod came across not so much smooth as completely self-absorbed.

And the Rangers organization has to share in the blame for that.

Let's face it, the Rangers make the Red Sox and Cubs look like the epitome of major-league success. Thirty-one years in Texas, no trips to the American League Championship Series.

The Rangers have had five MVPs and one postseason victory. A-Rod never will be Mr. October here. He plays for November's Team.

Four straight last-place finishes have this organization searching for a new bottom line, and that's why A-Rod spent almost no time talking about the season he just enjoyed and virtually the whole time talking about where the future might take him.

Rodriguez didn't talk about chasing down the Angels or Mariners or A's, of building around the best young infield in baseball. He repeatedly said he was keeping his doors open and had given management options. That means, in response to the team's determination to trim payroll, Rodriguez has handed over a list of teams where he would gladly transfer his MVP skills to avoid another 90-loss summer in Arlington.

Rodriguez made it clear his loyalty was to Tom Hicks, not manager Buck Showalter. He said he hadn't spoken to the manager and had no comment on their relationship. He said nothing about hoping to lead a young team to greater heights in the competitive AL West in 2004, although he did acknowledge he was willing to return if that's what was in store.

"You hear about marquee players on the move, but these deals are hard to do," Rodriguez said. "I'll probably end up being a shortstop with Texas this year. That's fine with me."

Not really the kind of stuff that made you want to strap a Rangers flag to your antenna and drive around town.

I've always thought that the criticism of A-Rod's relationship with the owner was beyond what it's really worth. In this age, a player given that kind of financial commitment should have a say in the roster or at least be encouraged to offer opinions.

It's not as if the Rangers have had such gifted stewards in the baseball office through the years that they didn't need any help.

But that relationship seems to be the only one A-Rod has with this team. His ties to the manager are obviously non-existent. His wedding last year wasn't exactly a team party. Second baseman Michael Young served as the lone Ranger at the reception.

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