Now we just have to convince A-Rod to stay

  • Larry Henry / Sports Columnist
  • Tuesday, October 31, 2000 9:00pm
  • Sports

Were you listening, Alex Rodriguez?

Were you listening to what your manager said?

Lou Piniella followed his heart. And it led him back to Seattle.

It led him back to the team he loves, to the fans he respects, to the city he enjoys.

You have to do that sometimes. You have to follow your heart rather than your head.

Where’s your head and where’s your heart right now, Alex?

Is your head saying, “New York, New York?” And is your heart whispering, “Seattle, Seattle?”

Don’t disregard your heart, Alex. Don’t shrug off the emotional pull.

Your manager didn’t.

The emotional ties were too strong.

And so, Lou Piniella has cast his lot with his old ballclub for three more years.

How about you, Alex?

You want to re-up like Lou did?

He’d love to have you on his Mariner ballclub.

Clubs are going to come courting you, throwing all kinds of money your way, promising you this, that and the other thing. Materially, they’ll give you whatever you want. But is that going to make you happy? Are you going to feel as comfortable in a new clubhouse as you do in the Mariners’?

Are the fans in another city going to be as worshipful of you as Mariner fans are? Are the media going to be as easy on you as the Puget Sound media are? Are they going to rip you when you go into a slump at a critical time during the season or are they going to say, “Give him time, he’ll come out of it?” If you seriously consider the Mets, are you sure you’d want to play for Bobby Valentine?

There are reasons to come back here, Alex. Good reasons. For starters, there’s the manager. They don’t get much better than Lou Piniella. He really likes you, you really like him. There’s the organization. You’ve got owners who are committed to winning, to putting the best team they can on the field. You’ve got a general manager who knows talent and can go out and get it. You’ve got a fine pitching staff and that’s where it all begins. Sure, the Mariners need some help offensively, but that can start with you if you decide to stay. Whether you return or not, the M’s know they need more offense and you can bet General Manager Pat Gillick will do everything he can to get it. And you know what he did to improve the 2000 team.

All things considered, Alex, this isn’t a bad place to play baseball. You’ve got a ballpark second to none, you’ve got a solid fan base, you’ve got exquisite summers, you’ve got a quality of life that people from all over are moving here to experience.

And, the topper, this is your ballclub, Alex. Your ballclub. You are the leader.

We have seen you sit and talk quietly with older players in the clubhouse. They respect you. The young guys respect you. Everyone respects you.

Your ballclub, Alex, just like the Yankees are your buddy Derek Jeter’s. And the Orioles are your idol Cal Ripken’s.

That means a lot, Alex, when a team is mentioned and people think, “Mariners, Alex Rodriguez.”

They used to think, “Mariners, Ken Griffey Jr.” But you know about that.

He made a choice. And from what we hear, he wishes he was back here.

Don’t make that same mistake. Don’t leave and then wish a few months later that you were back in Seattle.

Listen to your heart as well as your head.

Piniella’s heart started sending messages to his head late in the season.

It was before the last regular-season home game against the Texas Rangers that his emotions got to him.

“Right before the ballgame, I went in the bathroom and cried,” he said Tuesday, after signing his new contract with the Mariners. He cried because he realized it might be the last home game he managed in a Mariner uniform. “It was very emotional for me,” he said.

Just as there were some heavy tears shed in the visitors’ clubhouse in Yankee Stadium after the Mariners lost Game 6 of the ALCS.

The Mariners cried because they lost. They cried because they had worked so hard to get where they were. They cried because they knew that some of them would never play for this team again. They cried because they thought they might not play for this manager again.

But now they will. Because Lou Piniella followed his heart.

Cincinnati, with which he won a World Series, was said to be interested in him. But the Reds apparently hadn’t made an offer. Even if they had, Piniella made it sound as if it wouldn’t have made any difference.

“When you really have to make a decision, your heart starts talking to you,” he said. “This was not a financial decision,” though he conceded the Mariners will pay him well.

Piniella said when he came to Seattle in 1993, some of his friends thought he was making a mistake. Maybe deep in his heart he had some uneasiness, too. What he does know is that when he signed on with the M’s, he still had emotional ties to his old ballclub, the team he played for and managed.

“I was a New York Yankee,” he admitted. Now, after eight years here, he said, “I’m no longer a New York Yankee. I’m a Seattle Mariner.”

Now he says the decision to take the M’s job was, professionally, “probably the best thing I’ve ever done in my life.”

Lou Piniella knows when he has it good.

Do you, Alex? Do you know when you have it good?

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