Texas names Rodriguez team captain

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 26, 2004

NEW YORK - Now he's captain A-Rod.

A month after Alex Rodriguez nearly was dealt to Boston, the American League MVP and Texas Rangers management put on their finest evening clothes Sunday night and tried to put a formal end to their troubled offseason filled with trade talk and tension.

At an unusual news conference in which everyone wore tuxedos, the Rangers appointed Rodriguez their captain.

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''I feel good about with who I am in bed with and who I am married to with the Rangers,'' Rodriguez said.

In town to accept the MVP award, Rodriguez met for five hours in the hotel suite of Rangers owner Tom Hicks, with general manager John Hart and manager Buck Showalter joining in. Afterward, the quartet proclaimed the start of a new era that they hoped would culminate in Texas' first World Series title.

''I definitely think I'm going to be here for a long time,'' Rodriguez said. ''I'm probably pretty sure it will work out for the best.''

Texas wanted to get out from the burden of the record $252 million, 10-year contract it signed Rodriguez to after the 2000 season, and the seven-time All-Star shortstop was frustrated following three last-place finishes with the Rangers. Texas then agreed last month to a tentative trade that would have sent the seven-time All-Star shortstop to Boston for outfielder Manny Ramirez.

''It looked like there might be a situation that would be win, win, win,'' Hicks said.

But the deal was contingent on A-Rod agreeing to restructure his contract, and the players' association vetoed the proposal made by Boston, saying it would have reduced the deal's value by $28 million to $30 million. The union made a counteroffer that would have cut $12 million to $13 million, a plan Boston found unacceptable. The trade then collapsed.

''This was an unpleasant experience, but probably a necessary one,'' Hart said.

Showalter said he had been thinking of making Rodriguez captain for the past year, but Hicks wasn't aware of the plan until halfway through Sunday's meeting.

''I feel a grand responsibility not only to the Texas Rangers, but to our fans,'' Rodriguez said, adding that he was touched by the gesture, especially given that he's only 28.

Showalter said the only other captain under him was Don Mattingly with the New York Yankees.

''It's something I know that portrays the best in Alex,'' Showalter said. ''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.''

Rodriguez, just back from a vacation to London, Milan, Florence and Venice, said he was convinced the Rangers were ''moving this train in the right direction.'' The team is going with youth, putting a renewed emphasis on pitching.

He called the offseason ''very stressful'' and said he was ''very happy the trade talks have ended.''

''I feel very good about our plan as we move forward,'' he said. ''I feel we're going to be very good, very soon.''

Hicks looked at the injuries to Texas pitchers the last few years and said the Rangers ''had more bad luck than any team should have.''

''I think definitely the toughest days are behind us,'' Rodriguez said, adding that he looked forward to one day negotiating a new contract with Hicks that would extend ''into my 40s.''

Notes: Rodriguez received the AL MVP award at the annual dinner of the New York chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. ''As you guys know, I've had a really relaxing winter this year,'' Rodriguez told the crowd. He said that on his European vacation, he largely went unnoticed - until some kids approached him one day. ''Finally, somebody's going to recognize me, I'm A-Rod,'' he said. Then Rodriguez said the kids walked up to him and said in broken english: ''Let's go Yankees.'' … The biggest ovation at the dinner went to major league baseball vice president Phyllis Merhige, who received an award for long and meritorious service. … A-Rod's agent, Scott Boras, also represents free agent Ivan Rodriguez and said the 10-time All-Star catcher could agree to a contract this week. Detroit has offered $40 million over four years. … Hicks, a member of baseball's committee on the relocation of the Montreal Expos, hopes to whittle the contender cities to two or three by the owners' meeting in May.