02/06/2004 6:07 PM ET
A-Rod reflects, looks forward
After hectic offseason, shortstop ready for '04 season
By Jesse Sanchez / MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- Alex Rodriguez made his highly anticipated return to Texas on Friday to cap off a busy and bizarre offseason that started with his near-trade to Boston and ended with him being named the Rangers captain.
|Juan Marichal presents Alex Rodriguez with the 2003 BBWAA American League MVP Award Friday night at the 25th Annual Dr. Pepper/Texas Rangers Mid-Winter Banquet at the Arlington Convention Center. (Darrell Byers/Texas Rangers)
"It was kind of exciting. It was like a soap opera, like a novel, and it seemed like some days were more exciting than others, but it was pretty entertaining I thought," said Rodriguez, who was in town to accept the 2003 American League Hank Aaron Award and the Rangers Player of the Year Award at the Rangers Mid-Winter Banquet.
"My wife Cynthia has a background in psychology, but I don't think all of her background in psychology was strong enough for this type of roller-coaster. But it was experience and that's the business side of baseball. I think my teammates and I, we all understand that."
Rodriguez's hectic offseason started when the Rangers and the Red Sox spent several weeks in November and December negotiating a possible trade that would have sent Rodriguez to Boston for a package that included Manny Ramirez and money. Rodriguez was not sure if the deal would be finalized.
"I still knew that the process was a lot more difficult than people gave it credit for," he said of the possible trade. "It was out of my control once it got to a level where ownership from both sides started talking. I always kept it 50-50 and I knew there was a possibility I would be back."
That deal is dead and the Rangers are no longer seeking to trade Rodriguez. Perhaps reiterating that point, Rodriguez was named the team captain during a five-hour meeting with Rangers owner Tom Hicks, general manager John Hart and manager Buck Showalter in New York last month. The organization's management was in New York to support Rodriguez as he accepted the AL MVP Award at the New York Baseball Writers' Dinner.
"You have to give Tom Hicks a lot of credit for his leadership skills to bring us together," Rodriguez said. "I thought the fact that we all had an opportunity to kind of talk, open up, and be honest with each other, and really talk about where we are and where we are going is something that I really enjoyed.
"I think the last several years, I had a lot more contact with everyone involved, and I felt we were more of a family. This year, I got away from that a little bit as far as just having more of a family-oriented attitude. We kind of talked a little bit about it so I feel good about it. Sometimes you need to talk and open up your emotions, go back and forth, and then you move forward. I think that's why I feel better."
According to several reports, Rodriguez previously had issues with Showalter and the direction of the organization. The issues between Showalter and Rodriguez were resolved during the meeting.
"A couple of weeks ago in New York was step one and I had a lot of things to take off my chest," Rodriguez said. "I think he spoke and I was very receptive to some his ideas, and John (Hart) spoke, and when the boss spoke, we all listened. Again, sometimes in a big family, communication is of the essence."
Showalter was pleased with the outcome of the meeting and said he had been considering naming Rodriguez captain for more than a year. The title of captain is something the manager takes very seriously.
"Looking at the makeup of our club last year and the way it was structured, I didn't think it was fair to put Alex in that position," Showalter said. "The great thing is that he does not have to change anything. He just has to be what he has been."
As for Hicks, he said he wished he could have organized the meeting sooner, and added that it's not an uncommon practice to have a session where different sides express their points of view.
"I see things like this in business all the time when communication issues build up," he said. "If you let them fester, they will get worse. I think it was time to get it behind us as an organization. The fact of the matter is the guys are pros and they had much more in common than they did differences."
There were not any tense moments, the owner said.
"I think the mood was relaxed because we all knew what the answer was. Alex knew he was going to be a Texas Ranger and I knew he was going to act like a professional. Buck is a professional and I knew he would do his job. Once you go through it, I think everybody feels good because you get it off your chest."
Now that Rodriguez has publicly addressed the offseason, the next order of business will likely be privately addressing his teammates. The shortstop does not foresee any problems.
"I love my teammates, and I was in great communication with all of them throughout this," he said. "They were extremely supportive through this process and they understand the business side of it. They understand my daily routine, they understand my passion for winning and that anything I convey to them, I always do it in a private way with their best interest at heart and for the best interest of the Texas Rangers at heart."
Said Mark Teixeira: "This is a business and things happen. Guys get traded, released and signed. We have to accept that. We are really excited to have him back because he is the leader of our team and the best player in the game."
Newly acquired outfielder Dave Dellucci can't wait to play on the same team as Rodriguez.
"That guy in my opinion is the best player in the history of the game, and to have the opportunity to play with him, it will obviously be extra special," he said. "I don't care how much money he makes and I don't care what happened this past offseason. As long as he plays the game hard and we win ballgames, it is all that matters."
Internal issues appear on their way to resolution, but the question remains: Will Rodriguez stay for all seven seasons remaining on his 10-year, $252 million contract?
"I can't guarantee (it)," he said. "If I had a crystal ball, I'd be in good shape right now, but I hope so. I think we take it one year at a time, but I like our future, I like our young players and I like where we're going."
Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its