Talking Baseball

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Posted by Ben K. on Monday, January 26, 2004

Trying to save face after a disaster

Tonight, I saw something infuriating happen in the baseball world. Alex Rodriguez, the Traitor of Texas, was named team captain. I cannot believe the Rangers did this, and I refuse to believe what anyone associated with the Rangers is saying about this.

When I first saw this story, my initial reaction was one of shock. Granted, A-Rod is the best player in baseball right now and probably the best of this generation. In these respects, he would be prime captain material. But his off-field machinations have certainly not suggested a man of tact, subtlety, or great leadership abilities. With his bank account growing by $25.2 million a year, his ridiculous contract gives him control over the Rangers almost equal to that of manager Buck Showalter.

Yet, is he happy? Of course not. Would you be happy playing for a team that has finished in last place every year you've been on the team? I wouldn't be. To make matters worse, this off-season was filled with rumors that A-Rod was going to be traded to the Boston Red Sox for Manny Ramirez and a few more players. The deal, in fact (and as we all know), would have gone through had it not been for the Players' Association's rejecting a proposed contract restructuring. (A side note: I can't blame or be angry at the Players' Association for not approving this contract. Their job is to look out for Union members, and they can't start making exceptions for anyone just because they make more money than all of their other members.) In more than a few cases, Rodriguez was quoted as saying that he would be happy to leave Texas and ecstatic to join a team in Boston that is perennially playing long past the time when the Texas Rangers have all started their off-season work regimes.

Now that the trade is finally dead, the Texas Rangers management is trying to mend fences. That's exactly what the point of this latest move was. They're not trying to tap into A-Rod's ability to lead the team; they're trying to save face in front of their fans and other players. This move is their way of saying, "We're sorry we tried to trade away the only thing on this team that makes you come to the Ballpark in Arlington everyday." It's a pathetic move on the management's part, but it only gets worse when you actually look at what A-Rod, Showalter, and other higher-ups in the Rangers organization had to say.

A-Rod imparted these words of wisdom after being named captain: "I definitely think I'm going to be here for a long time. I'm probably pretty sure it will work out for the best." Well, you know what Alex, I'm probably pretty sure that your fans will give you quite a few boos this season when you step up to the plate if that's really the best you can do. Basically, Alex doesn't even know if he himself thinks it's going to work out for the best. That's really not too comforting if you're a fan of the boys in Texas.

Alex also said that he feels "a grand responsibility not only to the Texas Rangers but to our fans." A grand responsibility to play for a winning team in Boston, based on what he had to say this off-season. I have a feeling the fans won't fall for Rodriguez's lame attempts at sucking up to them. Basically, two months ago, A-Rod was campaigning for a trade to the Red Sox; now he's saying that he feels a responsibility to be the captain of the Texas Rangers. How could anyone believe a single word coming out of this man's mouth right now?

Finally, A-Rod added that he thinks the toughest days are behind him and that he's looking forward to negotiating a contract extension with Rangers owner Tom Hicks that would last until the short stop is into his "mid 40s." Of course Alex wants to renegotiate with Hicks. What other owner would even consider giving him anywhere close to 25 mil a year? Maybe if he's lucky, Hicks will give him the ballpark and that cool roller coaster behind the center field wall as part of his next contract.

All in all, this reeks of a public relations attempt to win back to the fans to the side of Alex Rodriguez. Unfortunately, it falls flat, and if A-Rod's word don't prove this point, Showalter's praise of his prima donna short stop certainly will. Showalter was apparently pleased that A-Rod will be the captain; in fact, he's supposedly been contemplating naming Rodriguez the captain for a few months. Here's what he had to say: "It is very important as we go forward that we have someone like Alex lead our young people in the proper direction and set the tone." So Buck, what tone exactly are we setting here? The one that tells the our young people to jump ship if you have a chance to play for a team that actually might make it to the World Series? The one that says hoodwink a gullible owner into paying more than market price for a player? The one that says act like you own the team and completely disrespect any managerial/coaching system already in place? I certainly think A-Rod will set a good tone for the players in that sense.

Now, I have nothing against Alex Rodriguez as a player. There's no denying that he deserved that MVP award this year. There's no denying that he deserves a plaque in Cooperstown after he retires. And it's certainly not impossible to believe that A-Rod will be remembered as the best player ever to play in the Major Leagues. But Alex won't be winning any humanitarian awards for his efforts at bringing a World Championship to Texas. I would like to hypothetically ask Buck Showalter if he really believes the words coming out of his mouth and A-Rod's mouth. Does anyone truly think this is anything more than a public relations ploy to bring out some level of redemption from what the fans would see as a faithless, horrible off season? I don't; I bet the Texas Rangers fans don't; and I believe the Texas Rangers management doesn't either.

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