The inside story

  • LARRY LaRUE / The News Tribune
  • Tuesday, December 12, 2000 9:00pm
  • Sports

By LARRY LaRUE

The News Tribune

DALLAS – They had tried to take the high road, wishing Alex Rodriguez well and playing the role of magnanimous loser in the Buy-An-A-Rod Derby that ended with a 10-year, $252 million contract.

But when the 25-year-old shortstop started talking Tuesday, what he said about the Seattle Mariners carried all the way from Texas to Hawaii – where Howard Lincoln listened and took issue with most everything Rodriguez said.

“He went for the money,” Mariners CEO Lincoln said. “The fans are smart enough to percieve that and so is the media. Alex is trying to deflect that, make them think it was something else.

“The Texas offer was too attractive to refuse. We’re big boys. We understand that. But the idea that we didn’t try to keep him – both with our financial offer and everything else we did over the last year – is absurd.”

What was particularly offensive to Lincoln was the argument that the Mariners went cheap at the end, that somehow his Hawaiin vacation had played a role in A-Rod’s decision to leave and the notion that Seattle hadn’t made an effort to lure Rodriguez back.

First, about that Mariners offer.

“It was not three years, it was five and we were willing to go to six years,” Lincoln said. “It wasn’t $15-$16 million, it was closer to $20 million and it would have made him the highest paid player in major league history.

“The option after three years was his, and it was structured that way because (agent) Scott Boras thought it made sense to do a series of three-year deals. If we’d wanted out after three years, we’d have had to pay more and his average over the first three years would have gone up.

“I’m not sure Alex was ever given the proposal we made or saw the language in it which explained why we did it the way we did. If he had, he wouldn’t have said what he’s said.”

And the fact that A-Rod said he was hurt by Lincoln’s absence when the Mariners met with him in Miami last week?

“If I thought it would have made a bit of difference in bringing Alex Rodriguez back, I’d have cancelled it,” Lincoln said of his Hawaiian vacation, planned more than a year ago.

“It’s disappointing for me to hear that comment because I’ve invested a significant amount of personal time with Alex. I’ve done a lot of things and so have a lot of other peole in the Seattle Mariner organization.

“I reached the conclusion about two or three weeks ago that we were being used and it didn’t matter what our offer was. We were being used to drive the Texas offer higher.”

Lincoln sounded more frustrated than angry, more disappointed than offended by what Rodriguez said.

“This offer we made contained language trying to explain why we were doing what we were doing, how hard we’d work to build the franchise, how imortant it was to put our money into winning – and we thought that was his objective, too,” Lincoln said.

“It turns out his objective was to make as much money as he could. That’s incompatible with our objective.”

A-Rod’s feeling that the Mariners simply didn’t try to keep him, Lincoln said, ignored what the team has done over the past year.

“Everyone in the organization went to extraordinary lengths to accomodate his demands,” Lincoln said. “He wanted to play out the last year of contract, we did that. He didn’t want to negotiate during the course of the season and we honored that. He wanted two parking spaces, he got one.

“He wanted to play golf with Bill Gates, we set that up. He wanted to tour Boeing Field, we set that up. We all went out of our way to keep him, so did so many people in the Northwest.”

In the end, over this past weekend in Dallas, team president Chuck Armstrong called Boras and offered to leave Hawaii and fly to Texas.

“He said it wasn’t necessary,” Armstrong said. “I gave him my cell phone number, he had Howard’s. He could have reached out to us any time. He didn’t.”

From the Mariners perspective, Rodriguez’s decision had nothing to do with where Lincoln was and everything to do with money.

“Our offer was a huge offer,” Lincoln said. “We would never offer the kind of money Texas did – it would be impossible to field a winning team. But I want all our fans to know we did everything humanly possible.

“Alex went for the money. The comments he made about me say more about him than about me. We are now going to turn our attention to our No. 1 focus, winning.”

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