Alex Rodriguez made a few mistakes along the way. He should never have said he wanted to play for the team with the best chance to win; that it wasn't about the money. It's always about the money.
Top secret, this is not.
Entering this week, Rodriguez's new team trailed his old team by 11 games in the standings.
A-Rod left Seattle for the money. That places him in the same boat with the other 99.99 percent of the population.
If he really cared about playing for a winner, Rodriguez could have taken a little less (little, in Rodriguez's case, being the equivalent of several million dollars), while insisting that agent Scott Boras encourage another one of his clients, pitcher Darren Dreifort, for example, to also sign with the Texas Rangers.
Whether he likes it or not - and, no, he doesn't like the criticism in the least - Rodriguez has drawn the public's ire in becoming the highest paid athlete in the history of team sports: $252 million over 10 years.
It's a phenomenal deal for Rodriguez, the Quarter-Billion Dollar Man. Perhaps not so wonderful for major league baseball, or the Rangers' talent-poor pitching staff. But great for A-Rod.
This is the state of baseball. Nothing there to excite the public, unless you count watching A-Rod reinvent the shortstop position while his team gets hammered because they can't get anybody out as qualifying as excitement.
For a prolific talent like Rodriguez to return baseball to the public interest, it's going to take more than him hitting .305 with 10 home runs in his first 31 games.
Individually, Rodriguez will always be great. Only 25, he has compiled three consecutive seasons with at least 40 homers and 110 RBIs.
Because of his contract, Rodriguez will be judged on his ability to win. He must emerge as a bona fide leader, capable of leaping tall buildings in a single bound and carrying the Rangers to the World Series - once, twice, a half-dozen times.
Rodriguez has his work cut out for him.
Texas entered last night's game against Detroit in Comerica Park with the same number of wins as the spendthrift Tigers (12). At least no one can accuse Rangers owner Tom Hicks of being cheap.
Nobody outspends Hicks. But look at the cost already.
Johnny Oates resigned as manager a few days ago because of the Rangers' record. Oates' famous last words: “It will be a lot easier to get a new voice in the clubhouse than new players.”
Oates' biggest failing was that he didn't sign the payroll checks, or at least have a bigger say in how Hicks spent his money on players.
I'll wager Rodriguez couldn't look Oates in the eye when the manager said good-bye. The Rangers could have used some of A-Rod's $22-million salary this year to buy a better pitching staff.
Texas has the worst team ERA in baseball.
Rodriguez has the potential to be one of the best and most marketable players in a sport where the average salary is $2 million and most players do everything slightly above average but nothing particularly well, except for continuing to show up and get paid.
Rodriguez could revolutionize baseball. He's among the rarest of athletes who has the capability of transcending the boundaries of their sports.
I'm happy for Rodriguez, his family, his representatives, everyone, that is, except for the fans who pay his salary. Rightly or wrongly, they will be A-Rod's judge and jury.
John Harris is a Blade sports columnist. E-mail him at email@example.com.
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