02/16/2004 9:15 PM ET
Baseball abuzz about A-Rod deal
By John Schlegel / MLB.com
As the reality of the Alex Rodriguez trade sank in around baseball circles Monday, the buzz that emerged over the weekend about the blockbuster remained strong and the opinions flew about the deep meanings behind the deal.
What going to the Yankees means for Rodriguez is clear to players who know him well.
"I think it's great for Alex," said Rafael Palmeiro, a teammate in Texas each of A-Rod's three years there who's now with the Orioles. "He is going to have a chance to play in an organization that is ready to win and in an organization with lot of history and support. It's the premiere organization in baseball and I think it's a great move for him. I'm very happy for Alex."
Added former teammate Doug Glanville, now in Philadelphia: "He the type of guy who will thrive in that big market. I think he's at the point in his career where he wants to be on a winner, and he's putting that first."
OK, so it's clearly a good thing for A-Rod.
But is it a good thing for baseball?
That seemed to be the question in a lot of baseball's brightest minds Monday, once the deal that sent Rodriguez to the Bronx for Alfonso Soriano and a player to be named later was made official.
In some front offices, it was another dose of bad news that the rich have gotten richer.
"From my perspective, I don't criticize the Yankees," said Tony Tavares, president of the Montreal Expos. "The Yankees went in and operated within the rules. If you are going to criticize this move, you have to criticize Boston's ability to go out and spend the kind of money they are spending. It goes on and on.
"There's an argument that should be made from a standpoint of disparity. There should be two leagues, but it shouldn't necessarily be the American and National League. It should be the Have League and the Have-Not League. You can put all the Haves in one league -- spend as much money as they want and beat each other's brains out. And we can have the Have-Not League, where we can all maintain some kind of reasonable salary [structure] and still compete."
From one player's perspective, Glanville -- a player rep during the near work stoppage in 2002 -- says there's good and bad for the game to be found in the deal.
"Obviously, he's able to do so much to promote the game, but it can be a double-edged sword," Glanville said. "I want to go into Spring Training wherever and feel like we have a chance, and I do. And he wants to same for his team.
"There's an aspect that's good [for baseball]. Wherever you go [in the world], people know who the Yankees are. ... At the same time, you want to make sure there's a competitive balance, and that's hard to do."
From one pitcher's perspective, there can be some positive gleaned from the Yankees loading up even more. So says 2002 American League Cy Young winner Barry Zito of the A's, who doesn't mind seeing A-Rod move to the AL East, and to the Yankees with other stars like Derek Jeter and Jason Giambi.
"That's fine with me," Zito said. "Just put all the superstars on one team. Then I only have to worry about 'em a couple of times a year instead of them being spaced out all over the league and having to worry about it all the time."
Of all the people throwing in their two cents' worth on the deal, few are as intimate with the situation from its very beginnings as Brewers GM Doug Melvin.
It was Melvin who held the GM position with the Rangers when Rodriguez signed his record 10-year, $252 million contract in December 2000. Melvin didn't make it through a year of the A-Rod Era, fired at the end of 2001 and replaced by John Hart.
"I got a sense from talking to certain people there that it wasn't the marriage they thought it would be," Melvin said. "I think [Rodriguez] got impatient about losing."
Melvin says it wasn't impossible to make it work in Texas with A-Rod.
"When I hear people say that they couldn't put a winning team together because of his contract, I don't buy that," he said. "They were up there at $80 million, and the plan was to build a young team with A-Rod as the big ticket. That did not happen."
And now that the trade has happened, Melvin shares the reaction of many in baseball: You always had to watch out for the Yankees, but now they're on a whole new level -- in terms of talent, payroll, everything.
But it doesn't guarantee anything.
"It does make the Yankees a powerhouse," Melvin said. "Over a Major League season -- 162 games -- they are certainly not unbeatable but it looks like that have a very high probability of getting to the playoffs. But in a short series, they could lose. That's why the last three World Series winners are the Diamondbacks, Angels and Marlins. You don't know what can happen in a short playoff series."
For many, it was hard not to give the Yankees high marks for using their vast resources to bring in the game's brightest and costliest star.
"It's a good deal for the Yankees," said Padres GM Kevin Towers. "They just freed up some money with [injured third baseman Aaron] Boone and [Drew] Henson, and given what they have from a financial standpoint, they're the only club that could have pulled off a deal like this. This shouldn't come as a surprise. It sounds like they're getting a better deal than what the Red Sox were going to get."
Said Diamondbacks GM Joe Garagiola Jr.: "My reaction is never underestimate the New York Yankees. What the Yankees put their minds to, they seem to accomplish. They have tremendous resources, no question, but they have some pretty smart people there, too."
Towers says another lesson learned can be taken from the Rangers' side of the trade.
"It goes to show that not any one player can turn a franchise around; you still have to build with other players," Towers said. "[The Rangers] had some injuries and they didn't have the flexibility to work around the big contract they had given to A-Rod."
Paul Godfrey, Toronto's president and CEO, says the rest of the AL East doesn't need to cower in fear of the Yankees right now, just because a hitter the caliber of Rodriguez has joined forces with an already stacked lineup in the Bronx.
"Alex Rodriguez has played on teams with great hitting," Godfrey said. "Nobody can question the team he played on with Ken Griffey Jr., John Olerud and all the other stars. They didn't win, and they even had Randy Johnson. Then he moved over to the Texas Rangers, and they had unbelievable hitting. They had Rafael Palmeiro and Juan Gonzalez in the lineup, they had Pudge Rodriguez. And they didn't win -- they were in last place.
"Now he's going to a team where the dressing room is going to have 25 egos -- and big egos. That team didn't win last year, or the year before, or the year before that. It's a huge mistake to think you can automatically give it to them."
Godfrey also expresses concern about what kind of message such a deal sends to the public about where baseball stands barely 18 months removed from the brink of a work stoppage.
"From a fan's point of view, it really knocks the competitive-balance comment that we've been talking about for the last few years," Godfrey said.
Marlins president David Samson also points out that underdogs can always change what looks so certain on paper. He has some recent memories to support that belief, coming off the Marlins' remarkable World Series victory over the Yankees.
"That's the definition of sports," Samson said. "One or two teams are made out to be the probable winners. That's what we love. The Yankees are no different than they were 10 years ago. They are looked at as the prohibitive favorite, and they are. Then you wait to see if they can win the World Series.
"I don't think the Marlins are going to be scared to play them in the World Series, if we are fortunate enough to get there. We would suit up our best nine and they would suit up theirs, and we'd see what happens."
Of course, that nine in Yankees pinstripes has reached a different level of greatness now that A-Rod's in the mix.
"When they were talking about A-Rod to Boston, that was almost tolerable because it was like a swap -- Manny Ramirez for Alex Rodriguez," said Expos pitcher Dan Smith. "In this scenario, you look at the Yankee lineup, it's like an All-Star team."
John Schlegel is a reporter for MLB.com. Several MLB.com reporters contributed to this story, which was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
|Alex Rodriguez will move from shortstop to third base as a result of his trade to the Yankees. (AP)