Vote for A-Rod? Too close to call

  • Larry Henry / Sports Columnist
  • Tuesday, November 7, 2000 9:00pm
  • Sports

I don’t know how Alex Rodriguez does it.

Days after the Mariners were eliminated from the playoffs, he was back in New York, watching the World Series.

I figured he’d be flat on his back at his winter home in Florida, utterly exhausted.

He’d just finished a season in which he had played 148 games, batted .316, hit 41 home runs and driven in 132 runs. Then, almost by himself (some might try to convince you), he took the Mariners to the sixth game of the ALCS.

That’s not to mention everything he did on and off the field the previous four years.

Let’s see, let me count his good works: He put a new face on Mariners baseball, he built them a new ballpark, he secured for them a lucrative broadcasting/TV contract, all this while whaling the stuffings out of the baseball and turning in sterling play at shortstop.

I could be mistaken, but didn’t he come in out of the bullpen to save a couple of games down the stretch this season? Wasn’t it he who was whispering strategy into manager Lou Piniella’s ear during the playoffs? And surely it was Rodriguez who influenced the skipper into re-signing with the Mariners, as well as getting him a substantial raise.

If the truth be known, I suspect that the yummy teriyaki they sell at the new ballpark is from a Rodriguez recipe. I know I’m beholden to him for the spacious pressbox where I work, the cushy chair I sit in, and the big, plump, tantalizing hotdogs I now and then gaze at, but seldom partake of.

Those courteous and efficient ushers we have working at Safeco? Rodriguez interviewed and trained each and every one.

If you have a complaint about the Mariners – and surely you don’t – take it to Rodriguez.

He’s the man who, more or less, is responsible for our many baseball blessings in the Northwest.

Piniella might have had a tad something to do with it. That fellow in Cincinnati – what’s his name, Griffey? – might have helped out a bit. By and large, though, it is Rodriguez to whom we should be grateful.

So let’s hear it for A-Rod. Hip-hip hooray! Hip-hip hooray. Hip-hip hooray!

Now excuse me for a moment. I feel a flood of nausea coming on.

What roils my stomach are the comments made by Rodriguez’s agent, Scott Boras, at the major league general managers’ meetings this week in Florida.

Maybe you read them in this newspaper – about whether it would be bad for baseball if his free agent shortstop signs with another team.

Said Boras: “Alex did not have a choice in the draft, but that’s the structure of the game. The Mariners got the use of a player for six years at very little cost and he changed the face of baseball in Seattle. They have a brand new stadium, a radio-TV contract that’s four or five times what it was when he came to Seattle. He’s provided that franchise a lot of benefits.”

That he has.

But let’s not forget something. It was players such as Griffey, Edgar Martinez, Randy Johnson, Tino Martinez and Jay Buhner who formed the foundation upon which the division-winning ‘95 club was built. That team attracted thousands of new fans and created a whole lot of momentum for a new ballpark.

And that team, more than anything, changed the face of baseball in Seattle. Until then, the Mariners were baseball’s clowns. After that, they became serious players.

Rodriguez was not a serious player on that particular team. He split the season between Tacoma and Seattle, then moved into the M’s starting lineup the next year and quickly began to establish himself as one of the finest players in the game, winning the American League batting championship.

As a four-time All-Star, he’s about to become the highest paid player in the game.

By now you know the numbers – $20 million.

That’s the figure – per year – some baseball team will likely have to pay if it wants to have Rodriguez batting No. 3 in its lineup next year.

That’s just the salary side of it. There are bound to be incentive clauses (where’s the incentive when you’re already making 20 mil for merely showing up at the ballpark every day?). Maybe he’ll get airline tickets to fly his family into wherever he calls home. I don’t know, what else can you demand when you’re sitting in Rodriguez’s throne? A chauffeur-driven limo to the ballpark every day? A higher class hotel than the one where the team stays? A team representative to step and fetch whatever it is he needs? It can get pretty crazy and it undoubtedly will before Rodriguez is signed.

I don’t begrudge a player his money – I’d rather see it go into his pocket than into a fatcat owner’s pocket. I do think $20 million for playing a boy’s game is absurd. I can remember when I first heard that players would someday be making $1 million a year. I thought that was outrageous.

Something tells me we haven’t begun to see what outrageous really is.

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