07/30/2003 9:32 PM ET
A-Rod speaks out
All-Star shortstop wants to play for a winner
ARLINGTON -- Alex Rodriguez wants to play for a winning team and he hopes that team is the Texas Rangers.
But for the first time since he signed his record-setting 10-year, $252 million contract before the 2001 season, Rodriguez hinted at the possibility of playing for somebody else if the Rangers do not start winning in the near future.
"Losing is something you never want to get used to," Rodriguez said. "After a while you just want to make sure you taste winning again. I'm only 28 and I'm very young. But I think we all want to see improvements from the top to the bottom."
Rodriguez can opt out of his deal after seven years, which would be 2007. He has three player option years after that to complete his 10-year contract.
"I don't think it's time [to move on]. But in the next couple of years we are going to look closely at it," Rodriguez 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.
"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.'"
Hicks said trading Rodriguez is not an option, but he understands his shortstop's frustration. Hicks said he spoke with Rodriguez about the future of the franchise as recently as two weeks ago.
"He is an asset and we are not interested in considering any kind of trade nor does he want to be traded," Hicks said. "Does he like to lose? Hell no. Do I like to lose? Hell no. Does [manager] Buck [Showalter] or [GM] John Hart like to lose? Hell no. We are going to turn it around. You can bet on that, but it takes time. In our case, we need pitching."
By Jesse Sanchez / MLB.com
The club is in the midst of a youth movement and is attempting to build a foundation around Rodriguez, as well as players like Hank Blalock, Mark Teixeira and Michael Young. The team has also stockpiled players in the minor league system by acquiring 11 players/prospects in deals for veteran players this season.
"Alex is fully on board with building our team and our plan," Hicks said. "He knows things happen quickly, but it can not happen until you get pitching. With pitching, you get smart or lucky or both. You have to develop your own pitching and we have great potential at Triple-A."
But the Rangers are on track for their fourth consecutive last-place finish in the American League West. The pitching staff has the highest ERA in the Major Leagues and starters have pitched a Major League-low 527 2/3 innings.
"I don't think you want to go out and be a crybaby and say we have to win a championship and we have to do this or that. At the same time, you want to see improvement and you want to see this thing going in the right direction," Rodriguez said. "That doesn't mean we have to go out there and spend millions and millions of dollars to make us better. But at the same time we have to get better."
"It's like a marriage and we are early in the process. I've assured him that trading him is not an issue. We have a long-term plan and he's a part of that. He's in our budget to be our team leader."
-- Rangers owner Tom Hicks
The payroll, approximately $105 million this season, is expected to drop dramatically for the 2004 season. High-priced free agents Juan Gonzalez ($12 million a season) and Carl Everett ($9 million) both started the season with the club, but are not part of the plans for the future. Rafael Palmeiro, who is making approximately $9 million this season and becomes a free agent, might have to accept less in order to stay with the club.
That could mean the Rangers will have more money to spend on specific free agents or positions, although Hart has said the club will not seek high-priced free agents this offseason.
"I think '04 and '05 are the years that when I signed here that I thought we could make an improvement and make headway into the division," Rodriguez said. "Obviously, we play in a very competitive division and every team seems to be improving. Obviously, that's what I want to see in Texas. I want to see improvement. That's it."
Entering Wednesday's game, Rodriguez has hit 123 home runs and racked up 342 RBIs since joining the Rangers. He has hit 24 home runs and has 65 RBIs this season.
"It's like a marriage and we are early in the process," Hicks said. "I've assured him that trading him is not an issue. We have a long-term plan and he's a part of that. He's in our budget to be our team leader."
Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.