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Thread: Alex Rodriguez (The A-Rod thread)

  1. #31

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stern
    Last year's pitching wasn't great
    And that was with Pettite and Clemens. No argument about the offense, the Yankees are stacked!

    There's a wise old saying; Good pitching stops good hitting. Let us also not forget that Boston acquired Shilling in the off season.
    Not forgotten, but he hasn't pitched a game yet. That Pedro Martinez isn't exactly a bad pitcher either.

    Great teams find a way to beat the great pitchers. That being said, the best teams don't always win. That's the good thing about baseball, any team can be beaten. You never know what kind of game a pitcher is going to have, that's been proven over and over again. Likewise, you never know when a hitter is going to have a good game, but at least hitters are every day players, and can rebound the next day...

    Daily News

    Red Sox owner, Steinbrenner clash over A-Rod deal

    THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

    BOSTON - Red Sox owner John Henry thinks a salary cap could be good for baseball after watching the rival Yankees trade for Alex Rodriguez - a deal his own franchise could not complete.

    Henry, whose team failed to obtain Rodriguez from Texas in December, said in an e-mail response to reporters Wednesday that he is changing his mind on whether the sport needs a salary cap "to deal with a team that has gone so insanely far beyond the resources of all the other teams."

    Yankees owner George Steinbrenner quickly responded, saying: "We understand that John Henry must be embarrassed, frustrated and disappointed by his failure in this transaction."


    The Yankees' payroll is about $184.8 million for 25 signed players after they acquired Rodriguez from the Texas Rangers earlier this week in exchange for Alfonso Soriano and a minor leaguer to be named.

    But the number would come down by about $4.8 million if third baseman Aaron Boone is released. Boston is expected to be second at about $125 million.

    "One thing is certain the status quo will not be preserved," Henry wrote.

    "There must be a way to cap what a team can spend without hurting player compensation ... without taking away from the players what they have rightfully earned in the past through negotiation and in creating tremendous value. There is a simple mechanism that could right a system woefully out of whack."

    Henry's comments come after his team failed in its bid to land the reigning American League MVP.

    The Red Sox tried to trade Manny Ramirez, who has the second-highest average salary in baseball, for Rodriguez. But talks fell apart because the team could not agree on how to divide the remaining $179 million on Rodriguez's contract. Boston and Texas were apart by about $15 million, and the Red Sox wanted Rodriguez to lower the present-day value of his contract by $20 million more than the players' association would allow.

    "Unlike the Yankees, he chose not to go the extra distance for his fans in Boston," Steinbrenner said of Henry. "It is understandable, but wrong that he would try to deflect the accountability for his mistakes on to others and to a system for which he voted in favor. It is time to get on with life and forget the sour grapes."

    The Yankees were able to absorb Rodriguez's salary in exchange for second baseman Alfonso Soriano. Texas is assuming $67 million of the rest of Rodriguez's salary.

    "Baseball doesn't have an answer for the Yankees," Henry said. "Revenue sharing can only accomplish so much. At some point it becomes confiscation. It has not and it will not solve what is a very obvious problem."

  2. #32

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    "Unlike the Yankees, he chose not to go the extra distance for his fans in Boston," Steinbrenner said of Henry. "It is understandable, but wrong that he would try to deflect the accountability for his mistakes on to others and to a system for which he voted in favor. It is time to get on with life and forget the sour grapes."
    Amen George, amen...

  3. #33

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    February 19, 2004

    Red Sox Draw Line, and Yankees Cross It

    By JACK CURRY

    TAMPA, Fla., Feb. 18 — George Steinbrenner snapped at a stadium official on Wednesday to help him figure out how to get the elevator to travel to the fourth floor at Legends Field. He berated a Yankees official for failing to get him the Top 10 list for "Late Show With David Letterman" earlier so he could study it, and he was blustery in staff meetings.

    But Steinbrenner saved his most ferocious verbal darts for the Boston Red Sox and John Henry, their principal owner. Anyone who thinks that the angry rivalry between the Yankees and the Red Sox cannot be spicier has been sleeping for the last few days, and especially Wednesday.

    Shortly after Henry sent an e-mail message to reporters stating that the Yankees' stunning acquisition of Alex Rodriguez proved that baseball's economic system is "woefully out of whack" and that the Yankees have "gone so insanely far beyond" the financial capabilities of other teams, Steinbrenner treated Henry as if he were managing the Yankees and had lost four straight to the Red Sox.

    In a statement that public relations officials gave to reporters, Steinbrenner accomplished a lot in four sentences. He ridiculed Henry for failing to complete a trade with the Texas Rangers for Rodriguez, he criticized Henry for not working harder to satisfy the Red Sox fans, he berated Henry for blaming the Yankees for Boston's problems, and he advised Henry to stop being a sore loser.

    Steinbrenner was basking in the glow of the Rodriguez trade during the day, but as far as the Henry comment went, "George was hot about this one," said one Yankees official who had spent time with him.

    The Red Sox spent several weeks trying to get Rodriguez from Texas, then let the trade die over about $15 million in deferred payments that they had sought.

    The Red Sox had voted in favor of the current revenue-sharing system in Major League Baseball; the Yankees were the only team that voted against it. The Red Sox were sensitive when the Oakland Athletics mentioned the sizable difference between their clubs' payrolls during the postseason. But now the Red Sox are grousing about the Yankees.

    Henry is irked that the Yankees got Rodriguez at a reasonable price, about $16 million a year, after the Rangers paid $67 million of the $179 million left on his contract. The Yankees wound up pursuing Rodriguez after third baseman Aaron Boone seriously injured his knee, and they consummated the trade in less than a week. The Yankees got the premier player in baseball to agree to switch to third from shortstop.

    "Baseball doesn't have an answer for the Yankees," Henry wrote in his e-mail message, The Associated Press reported. "Revenue sharing can only accomplish so much. At some point, it becomes confiscation. It has not and will not solve what is a very obvious problem."

    Steinbrenner, who has never been faced with a debate he did not relish, was irritated that an owner would complain about his financial approach.

    The Yankees will have a payroll of about $180 million in 2004, easily the highest in baseball. But the Red Sox payroll will probably be about $125 million, which is second. (The New York Times Company is a minority partner of the Red Sox ownership group.)

    Steinbrenner could not resist offering a statement critical of Henry, who was once a limited partner of the Yankees.

    "We understand that John Henry must be embarrassed, frustrated and disappointed by his failure in this transaction," Steinbrenner said. "Unlike the Yankees, he chose not to go the extra distance for his fans in Boston. It is understandable, but wrong that he would try to deflect the accountability for his mistakes on to others and to a system for which he voted in favor. It is time to get on with life and forget the sour grapes."

    Yankees Manager Joe Torre listened to a reporter read Steinbrenner's statement, bit his lower lip as he suppressed a laugh and said, "Guess he said it pretty good."

    The sniping did not amuse Commissioner Bud Selig. Selig spoke with both owners and warned them that any further public bickering could result in repercussions, a baseball official said.

    Henry said in an e-mail message that Selig had asked the Red Sox not to comment publicly about Steinbrenner's statement. "So let's shift our sights to the field," Henry added.

    Yankees-Red Sox may be the best rivalry in sports. Thrusting Rodriguez into the equation will make games that are must-see baseball even more compelling.

    Steinbrenner declined to discuss his statement when he appeared on the field here Wednesday, but he was presumably in a better mood when he stood along the left-field line and polished off Letterman's list. The category was "Top 10 Good Things About Being a New York Yankee." No. 1, of course, dealt with Rodriguez.

    "You think this A-Rod deal is good?" Steinbrenner said. "I'm about to sign Ty Cobb."


    On First Day, There's Spring in Torre's Step

    By TYLER KEPNER


    Joe Torre, left, with Mariano Rivera, talked with George Steinbrenner, and he seemed to lean toward managing the Yankees past this season.

    TAMPA, Fla., Feb. 18 — Maybe it was the onset of spring training, his favorite part of the baseball season. Maybe it was the trade for Alex Rodriguez, another budding legend at Legends Field. Maybe it was the sudden warmth from his boss, George Steinbrenner.

    Joe Torre was in such a buoyant mood on Wednesday that he seemed to be leaning toward returning as Yankees manager past this season. Steinbrenner, the team's principal owner, seemed interested in asking him.

    In a move that could signify a thaw in their relationship, Steinbrenner approached Torre on Wednesday about whether he wanted to keep managing beyond this season. Torre mentioned that possibility after Rodriguez's news conference at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday, and Steinbrenner had noticed.

    "He was just curious about what I wanted to do, and I told him I don't know," Torre said. "There's been nothing more than that as far as talking about a contract. We talked about other things; that wasn't the main reason he came in. We talked today, probably, because we've been comfortable the last few days we've been in each other's company."

    Torre spoke with Steinbrenner at a meeting to assemble his 2004 coaching staff a few days after the World Series. The two did not speak again until Monday, at the Yankees' minor league complex, and they talked again on Tuesday, when Steinbrenner met Torre at the airport after Torre returned from New York.

    Steinbrenner spoke to Torre at least twice Wednesday in offices at Legends Field. As they left the administrative offices together in the late afternoon, Steinbrenner gave the thumbs-up sign and said, "It's a great relationship."

    It did not seem that way last season, when Steinbrenner irritated Torre by criticizing his coaches and overriding Torre's decision to send pitcher José Contreras to Class AAA Columbus. Late in the season, and early in the winter, Torre barely disguised his weariness with working for Steinbrenner.

    But Torre has wavered from his stance that he would not decide on his future until after the season. When he considers his future now, Torre, 63, does not picture retirement.

    "Right now, I still feel I can do this," Torre said. "The way I feel, right now, I'm not thinking of retiring. But I'm not sure it's fair to make that decision on the first day of spring training."

    As Torre spoke to reporters gathered in his office, he admitted he was thinking out loud. The more he talked, the more he sounded as if he was still having fun on the job. That, Torre said, is the most important factor in deciding whether to return.

    The fact that Torre has that authority — or at least thinks he does — represents a reversal from decades of Steinbrenner-manager relationships. Torre is entering his ninth season with the Yankees, a far longer tenure than he said he expected to serve. With Steinbrenner hinting that Torre would decide his own future, Torre was asked if he had turned the tables on his boss.

    "Not purposefully, for sure," Torre said. "That's just the way things worked out."

    Torre earned enormous credibility with Steinbrenner for winning the World Series in four of his first five seasons as manager. After three seasons without a title, Steinbrenner has equipped Torre with more high-profile talent than ever. The Yankees change every winter, Torre said, but this year is different.

    "It's extreme because there are so many marquee players that have come over," Torre said. "This is very unique."

    Kevin Brown was one of those marquee players who showed up Wednesday at Legends Field for a physical, carrying a Los Angeles Dodgers equipment bag. Brown, the starting pitcher acquired for Jeff Weaver in December, is one of many accomplished players Torre must bring together quickly.

    "We have a lot of strong personalities here this year," Torre said. "It's always fun to see it develop, it really is. But right now, my concern, or curiosity, is my five starters. Ability-wise, I have no questions about them."

    But, Torre said, Contreras is only in his second major league season. Javier Vazquez, acquired in a trade with Montreal, is switching leagues and teams. Jon Lieber has not pitched since having elbow surgery in August 2002. Brown has unquestioned talent but has frequently been injured.

    Pitchers and catchers have their first formal workout on Thursday, giving Torre his first look at the revamped staff.

    His emphasis on pitching extended to his assessment of the Boston Red Sox. Torre would not acknowledge that the Yankees trumped the Red Sox in the off-season by acquiring Rodriguez. By trading for the ace Curt Schilling and signing closer Keith Foulke, Torre said, the Red Sox improved markedly.

    "I think they really helped themselves," Torre said. "The pitching they got, in my opinion, that's what bothered me more than the fact that they were going to get A-Rod. Taking nothing away from A-Rod, those guys score a lot of runs."

    The Yankees' restocked lineup will be on display soon, with position players reporting here Sunday for their first workout on Tuesday. Some are working out at the minor league complex, including Bernie Williams, who is trying to hold on to his center-field job after Steinbrenner ordered the signing of Kenny Lofton.

    Torre has not spoken with Lofton, but he has assured Williams that it will be a fair competition. "I just told Bernie that when we leave here, I'll have a meeting with my coaches and I'll see what I see, and we'll leave here with what I consider the best team," Torre said.

    It is a team headlined by Rodriguez, whose arrival has momentarily made Torre and Steinbrenner happy together again.

    "All these meetings I've had with him have been since Alex," Torre said. "So I don't know, maybe it's helped both our moods."

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  4. #34

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    BOSS TELLS SOX: CORK RED WHINE

    By GEORGE KING and MICHAEL MORRISSEY

    February 19, 2004 -- TAMPA - Before the first pitcher popped a catcher's leather, the Red Sox and Yankees have their hands exactly where they belong: around each other's throats.

    With Aaron Boone's ALCS-winning extra-inning home run in October still fresh in the Red Sox Nation's memory, Boston owner John Henry yesterday started a verbal brawl and George Steinbrenner buried his former partner with a pair of vicious rebuttals in which he called Henry a "failure" and accused him of having a belly full of "sour grapes."

    Instantly, the hottest rivalry in sports went nuclear and made the 19 Red Sox-Yankee games this season must-see-theatre prior to the first spring training workout. Instead of sitting back and seeing if getting Curt Schilling, Keith Foulke and retaining Manny Ramirez and Nomar Garciaparra improved the Red Sox, who came within five outs of beating the Yankees and going to the World Series, Henry vented in an e-mail message.

    Responding to the Yankees' acquisition of Alex Rodriguez, Henry called for a salary cap even though the Red Sox came very close to dealing for the reigning AL MVP themselves in December. The trade crumbled over $12 million when the Red Sox and Rangers couldn't decide how to split the remaining $179 million on A-Rod's contract.

    Henry, who used to own one percent of the Yankees, said baseball needs a salary cap "to deal with a team that has gone so insanely far beyond the resources of all the other teams. One thing is certain, the status quo will not be preserved."

    By adding A-Rod, whom the Yankees will pay $112 million across seven years, the Yankees' payroll jumped to $187 million. That is $62 million higher than Boston's.

    "There must be a way to cap what a team can spend without hurting player compensation ... without taking away from the players what they have rightfully earned in the past through negotiation and in creating tremendous value. There is a simple mechanism that could right a system woefully out of whack," Henry said.

    "Baseball doesn't have an answer for the Yankees. Revenue sharing can only accomplish so much. At some point it becomes confiscation," the Bosox owner added. "It has not and it will not solve what is a very obvious problem."

    Steinbrenner fired back at Henry twice. First in a statement and then to The Post on a Legends Field elevator.

    "We understand that John Henry must be embarrassed, frustrated and disappointed by his failure in this transaction," The Boss said in the statement. "Unlike the Yankees, he chose not to go the extra distance for his fans in Boston. It is understandable, but wrong that he would try to deflect the accountability for his mistakes on to others and to a system for which he voted in favor. It is time to get on with life and forget the sour grapes."

    Later in the elevator, Steinbrenner told The Post, "He should move on. Baseball should move on. I think our organization had their eye on the ball since we started to go after [Rodriguez]. Randy Levine, Lonn Trost and certainly [Brian] Cashman did a helluva job."

    Hoping to squash the latest Boston-Bronx feud, commissioner Bud Selig told Henry and Steinbrenner to zip it.

    "I have been asked by the commissioner to not respond to the New York comments today," Henry said in a statement. "He is right and I will abide by the request."

    The Yankees acknowledged that they had heard from the commissioner and were preparing a statement early last night.



    FIRED UP: George Steinbrenner was in full attack mode yesterday in Tampa after Red Sox owner John Henry said league needs to find way of curbing Yanks' out-of-control spending.

  5. #35
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    Bwaaaa-ha-haaaaa-haaaa!!!!

    This is GREAT. The Red Sox make the best punching bag.

  6. #36

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    Quote Originally Posted by NYatKNIGHT
    Bwaaaa-ha-haaaaa-haaaa!!!!
    This is GREAT. The Red Sox make the best punching bag.

    I know, Steinbrenner was made for this. He never fails to amuse...

  7. #37
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    Big Steiny is playing fantasy baseball for real now...

  8. #38

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    New York Daily News - http://www.nydailynews.com

    Dominicans extra proud about A-Rod

    Wednesday, February 18th, 2004

    He was born in New York City and moved to Miami when he was a small child. But forget Miami. Alex Rodríguez, the latest addition to the Yankees' powerful roster of superstars, is the pride and joy of the city's Dominicans.

    And after looking around and realizing that his was the biggest story in town, I decided I also wanted to put in my two cents with regard to A-Rod. Let me tell my readers from the start that I think we are in the presence of the real deal, an extraordinary athletic and personality phenomenon. And I am not the only one.

    "The only other Dominican so widely loved by everybody is Amelia Vega, the 2003 Miss Universe," said Félix Sención, 35, a Washington Heights-born Dominican advertising executive.

    Now, if only she could play baseball. ...

    Dominicans, who are used to the fact that their people - here and on the island - have produced an unmatched constellation of baseball stars, will tell you that Rodríguez is different.

    "This is a New Yorker coming back home. Even since his days in Seattle he has always said he would love to come to New York to play," Sención said. "And now everybody is waiting to see how he takes to the city."

    And, he added with pride in his voice: "I'm sure he will have no problems. This is the best baseball player alive and an all-around great guy."

    Because even if New York baseball fans loved Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens (remember his much-ballyhooed retirement?) while they played for the Yankees, they are not, and never were, New Yorkers. Both went home and signed with the Houston Astros.

    "They played here, they did well, but they returned home with no regrets. And that was that," Sención added. "With A-Rod, it is different. He came home to New York to play. And with the greatest baseball team in the world."

    Rodríguez is different, all right. He was born in 1975 in Washington Heights, not far from Yankee Stadium, and in 1979 his father, Víctor, moved the family to the Dominican Republic after closing his shoe store here.

    Yet A-Rod's love for New York always remained strong. In 1983, the family moved again, this time to Miami, where the young athlete would grow up. Today he is baseball's highest-paid player, and widely recognized as its most talented. Yet the proverbial fame and fortune that have spoiled so many lesser players have not affected this modest guy's behavior and demeanor. He is still the kid who works harder than anybody else to keep in shape, give his best in every game and make his dream come true. Yes, Rodríguez is different.

    "And his dream came true in the biggest possible way," Sención said, speaking like a true New Yorker himself. "One has the feeling that never before had he had the chance to be all he can be. Besides being this great baseball player, this is a stylish, smart, articulate, cool young man. Definitely a New Yorker."

    As a Dominican and a New Yorker, Sención is doubly proud. There have been many great Dominican players in New York, he said, but never before a superstar of A-Rod's magnitude and charisma.

    "Dominicans, but not only Dominicans, will rally behind him," Sención said.

    And he is right, it will happen. But our advice to the newest Yankee is to be ready for when the honeymoon is over. Prepare yourself for unflattering reports, the playing up of any minor disagreements with your friend and fellow Yankee superstar Derek Jeter, and intensely close scrutiny of your personal life.

    To face it all with grace, coolness and self-confidence will be A-Rod's greatest challenge.

    Welcome home, Alex Rodríguez!

  9. #39

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    ON BASEBALL

    Class in session

    Fresh faces will provide shots in arms

    By Gordon Edes, Globe Staff, 2/20/2004

    FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Now, if everyone would just lower their voices a little . . . Here is why the Red Sox, A-Rod or no A-Rod, should still be favored to win the American League East.

    Top to bottom, from Pedro Martinez to Bronson Arroyo, the Red Sox have better pitching than any team in the division, including the Yankees. By adding Curt Schilling and Keith Foulke, spectacularly filling the holes the Sox had at the front and back ends of the staff, while sacrificing just a modicum of offense (Todd Walker out, Ellis Burks in) and upgrading the defense (Pokey Reese), Sox general manager Theo Epstein has given the Sox a competitive edge over the Bombers for the first time in years.

    It may be a slight one, but it's there, nonetheless.

    "I like our pitching staff a lot," Epstein said here yesterday morning, wearing the cap of a Super Bowl winner (the Patriots) and the look of a man unruffled by the furor of the last few days.

    "It's a good feeling to sit here and know we have quality and depth. We can throw Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling out there, who can match up with any 1-2 in all of baseball. Derek Lowe as your third guy has the potential to dominate like the top-of-rotation starter he really is. Tim Wakefield, our No. 4, we have no doubts about Tim Wakefield. We know what he can do.

    "And our fifth spot has a tremendous upside. Byung Hyun Kim has a chance to take that job out of spring training. His ceiling is still exceptionally high. And we have excellent protection in Bronson Arroyo."

    That's just for starters. The pen has an anchor in Foulke, who led the American League in saves last season, but it is the depth of the pen that is truly impressive. Mike Timlin and Scott Williamson, who have both closed, are the righthanded setup men, Alan Embree is the lefty, and either Arroyo or reclamation project Ramiro Mendoza will be the long man. There are seven other pitchers in camp who will be competing to win a spot as the second lefty out of the pen.

    No Sox team in recent memory has ever been this loaded.

    Questions? Sure. Martinez's health, first and foremost, and his state of mind in his walk year. Schilling, making the adjustment to the American League, only because you don't want to get too excited about the possibilities. Lowe, coming off as soft a 17-win season as a pitcher can have, proving that he can indeed dominate the way he did two seasons ago. Wakefield, bearing no scars from Aaron Boone. Kim, showing that the club is best served with him as a starter and not a reliever, and that Yankee phobia is a media invention. Foulke, his changeup as effective in cozy Fenway as it was in the wide-open spaces of Oakland.

    But any uncertainty surrounding the Sox' pitching staff is of small consequence compared with the questions revolving around a Yankee staff that over the winter lost Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens, and David Wells, who combined for 53 wins last season and possess a total of eight World Series rings among them.

    The Yankee rotation in 2003: Pettitte, Clemens, Mike Mussina, Wells, Jeff Weaver.

    The Yankee rotation in 2004: Mussina, Kevin Brown, Javier Vazquez, Jose Contreras, Jon Lieber.

    Mussina is a rock, but for what it's worth he has never won 20 games in a season. Brown, 39 next month, can be as nasty as anyone in the game, but he has been on the disabled list seven times since the start of the 2000 season and missed most of two seasons with elbow and back problems. "Brown could blow any day," said one industry insider. "The over-under on him for starts this season is 20, and I'd probably take the under."

    Vazquez, only 27, could turn into the ace of the staff. He averaged 33 starts over the last four seasons in Montreal, had a career-best ERA of 3.24 last season while striking out a career-high 241 batters. But it's different pitching in the vast empty spaces of Olympic Stadium in Montreal and the packed houses he'll face in the Bronx and in the Fens. There is no reason to believe he will falter, a la Weaver, but until he performs, no one -- even George Steinbrenner -- can be certain.

    Contreras is still separated from the family he left behind in Cuba; how that weighs on a man's heart, who can say? Last season, he only showed flashes of the talent that caused last winter's bidding war between the Yankees and Sox.

    Lieber hasn't pitched in a big-league game since 2002, having undergone Tommy John tendon transfer surgery on his right elbow. He was a 20-game winner for the Cubs in 2001, but at 34 (his birthday is April 2), how close he will be to his former self remains to be seen.

    And while the Yankees can put out an everyday lineup of eight All-Stars, they don't have eight starting pitchers like they did in spring training a year ago. There's not much in the way of a safety net behind these five, which is one reason GM Brian Cashman issued a minor league invite to former Sox pitcher John Burkett, who elected to retire instead.

    The bullpen? On paper, it's terrific, especially compared with last season, when Joe Torre ran through 19 relievers. Cashman added quality righthanded setup men in Paul Quantrill (89 appearances last season) and Tom Gordon, Steve Karsay should be back from injury, and Gabe White and Felix Heredia are the lefties. But Gordon is 36 with a long history of elbow woes and Quantrill is 35, and while Timlin is living proof that it doesn't have to happen, slippage is possible. And Mariano Rivera, the peerless closer, is 34, and the Sox had their moments against him, too.

    "The Yankee pitching is fantastic," the insider said, "but there's a high collapse factor there, too."

    The number crunchers over at Baseball Prospectus, employing a set of formulas that only true seamheads can love, are saying that the Sox' pitching staff is not only the best in the league, but by a wide margin. They're predicting big things for Kim, saying he could make a greater impact than Mark Mulder, Roy Oswalt, Pettitte, or Clemens.

    Sox pitchers and catchers report today. First workout is tomorrow. If Terry Francona had this kind of pitching staff in Philadelphia, he'd still be a Phillie. And until A-Rod shows he really is the Babe and can pitch, too, the Sox are the team to beat.

    © Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company

  10. #40

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    February 22, 2004

    Closer to Postseason Excitement, Rodriguez Gets to Work

    By TYLER KEPNER


    Alex Rodriguez, the Yankees' new third baseman, took grounders and seven rounds of batting practice Saturday at the team's minor league complex in Tampa, Fla.

    TAMPA, Fla., Feb. 21 — When World Series games came on television during Joe Torre's playing days, that was his cue to leave the house and go shopping. If Torre, now the Yankees' manager, could not play in the postseason, he did not want to watch.

    Alex Rodriguez is different. After playing out last season with the hapless Texas Rangers, Rodriguez eagerly watched the epic American League Championship Series between the Yankees and the Red Sox last fall.

    "I can remember jumping out of my couch three or four times in that series," Rodriguez said Saturday at Legends Field, after reporting to spring training for the Yankees. "Game 4, Game 5, Game 6 and 7; it was just awesome to watch. As a baseball fan first, it wasn't one bit frustrating. I wished and dreamed about someday being able to play in games that meant so much. That dream is here a lot sooner than I thought."

    Rodriguez demurred when asked which team he had rooted for, but there is no doubting his allegiance now. The Red Sox failed in their effort to trade for him, Aaron Boone wrecked his knee, and Rodriguez wound up here, as the splashiest addition to a team full of marquee stars.

    To do it, Rodriguez agreed to play third base, and he showed up ready. After landing at Tampa International Airport, Rodriguez left a private plane carrying a bat and a glove, and he took grounders and batting practice at the Yankees' minor league complex.

    "I'm still not aware of where I am right now," he said after working out for 70 minutes in warm-up pants and a Yankees T-shirt. "I'm trying to take it all in. I look around and I see the Yankee uniform. It's awesome."

    Rodriguez took seven rounds of batting practice, swatting 10 homers in 65 swings, including one blast that dented a parked truck. He also broke the bat of third baseman Eric Duncan, the Yanks' top draft pick last season, whose future is probably elsewhere now.

    "Eric, there's your wood," Rodriguez said after breaking the bat. "There's that minor league wood."

    Duncan, who was in high school a year ago, saved the bat fragment for Rodriguez to autograph.

    "That was the best experience of my baseball career," Duncan said.

    Rodriguez's first formal workout will come on Tuesday with the rest of the position players. The Yankees have scheduled another news conference with him after that; it will be his third in eight days since the trade for Alfonso Soriano became official.

    "He's not going to have a problem dealing with whatever pressure there is, because he's an intelligent young guy," Torre said of Rodriguez. "I think he knows what values are."

    Rodriguez expects to have a close relationship with Torre, who plans to make him one of the players he seeks out to gauge the mood of the locker room. Rodriguez clashed with his previous manager, Buck Showalter, who never played in the majors and seemingly never had Rodriguez's trust. In praising Torre, Rodriguez compared him to Lou Piniella, who managed him for seven years with the Seattle Mariners.

    "Joe played the game," Rodriguez said. "He reminds me a lot of Lou Piniella, in different ways, obviously. But both are people you can trust, people who played the game, people who kind of know what you go through. That part of it is fun for a major league player. To have a manager you can trust is cool."

    Rodriguez has played on four All-Star teams under Torre, and he was teammates on the Mariners with Luis Sojo, now the Yankees' third-base coach. Rodriguez's eyes sparkled as he met Sojo at the door to the locker room, hugging Sojo and joking in Spanish. The two talked for several minutes and will be working closely this spring.

    Sojo, the bench coach Willie Randolph and the spring instructor Graig Nettles will help Rodriguez learn a new position. Since the trade, Rodriguez has taken grounders at third base at the University of Miami and has an idea of how to position himself.

    "I like to play deep, because I feel like I have a strong arm," Rodriguez said. "That's one of the benefits as a shortstop. Hopefully, I can take it over to third base."

    Torre, who started out as a catcher and converted to third, said the biggest adjustment for him was reading the way the ball hooks down the line. Rodriguez said he must get used to fielding slow rollers and bunts. He will call on shortstop Derek Jeter to take anything in the air.

    "I already told Jeter that he's getting every fly ball," Rodriguez said.

    With the rebuilding Rangers, Rodriguez has said, he spent much of his time off the field mentoring young players. With the Yankees, Rodriguez will be the youngest one in the starting lineup. He said again Saturday that he simply wants to be one of the guys, and catcher Jorge Posada said he would.

    "Everybody's got their job," Posada said. "Derek's got his job, he's got his own job. Everybody's a leader in this clubhouse. I think that helps."

    Like Jason Giambi before him, Rodriguez spoke about his eagerness to jump into the East Coast baseball fray. He grew up in Miami rooting for the Mets, but spent his first 10 seasons in the American League West. Now Rodriguez is off the couch and in the thick of the hottest rivalry in sports.

    "I'm a fan first — I love baseball, and I love watching baseball," he said. "Just catching some of the fever. You get energized. You feed off the energy of East Coast baseball."

    Since Rodriguez became a part of it, John Henry, the Red Sox' principal owner, and his Yankees counterpart, George Steinbrenner, have bashed each other with harsh public statements. In the rivalry, A-Rod is Lighting Rod, and he is ready to move on to the really fun part.

    "We've all done a lot of talking," Rodriguez said. "Now it's time to go play."


    SPORTS OF THE TIMES

    After Rodriguez Signs, Fear and Trembling

    By GEORGE VECSEY


    Alex Rodriguez posing for photographers in Tampa, Fla. He worked out for 70 minutes Saturday.

    THIS should be a great time to be a Yankee fan. The Yanks have signed A-Rod and the Boss has reduced the Red Sox' chief owner into a blithering fit — Elmer Fudd vowing wevenge on that Wascally Wabbit.

    However, now is basically a great time not to be a Yankee fan. It is delightful to sit back and listen to Yankee fans come off the laughing gas and resume their normal anxiety that they will not tromp all over baseball the way they are supposed to do.

    Already, there are Yankee fans out there obsessing about the flaws in the team that could make this the fourth consecutive season in which the Yankees do not win the World Series.

    It is the sacred duty of all who are not Yankee fans to nod morbidly and agree with every brooding scenario. This only makes it worse for them.

    This is what I hear from friends of mine who are of the Yankee persuasion. They are good people, politically and morally and socially. They love the Yankees with all their hearts. And this is what they currently fear, in descending order.

    ¶The Yankees will miss Andy Pettitte every fifth day.

    ¶Whether he tries to or not, A-Rod will bring attention to Derek Jeter's remaining at shortstop.

    ¶Omigosh, what if Mariano Rivera can no longer blow everybody away?

    ¶If there is pressure on Joe Torre to play Kenny Lofton in the field, he will be the worst Yankee center fielder in decades.

    ¶Torre's lame-duck status, even if by his own volition, will have an impact if the Yankees start slowly.

    ¶Who's going to play second base and bat ninth? Could this be the Achilles' heel of the 2004 Yankees?

    ¶Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield will be distracted by the Balco investigation.

    These are modest things to worry about when the payroll is soaring toward $200 million, and many of the best players in the world are earning their paychecks in the Bronx.

    It could be worse. Every day, Yankee fans wake up and say a prayer of thanksgiving that they are not Mets fans.

    Mets fans bumble along, making self-deprecating jokes about right field being the Bermuda Triangle, and whether Steve Trachsel is going to win 9 games or 10. They know that sometime later in the decade there might be a one-year goofy little miracle in Queens. This is far different from being a Yankee fan, with such miserably high expectations.

    Much Yankee angst is based on the purchase of Alex Rodriguez. Having written a month ago that the Boss should do his thing and pay for A-Rod, who would surely be thrilled to move to third base, I view the last week as psychic déjà vu.

    New Yorkers have been laboring under the belief that A-Rod was a 24-and-1 player, as somebody within the Mets' organization implied after the 2000 season, when the Mets did their dead-level best to avoid signing him. There is no doubt he takes care of himself, but in a world of tramp athletes he appears to be a class act.

    Rodriguez has been that way all along. A decade ago, my son had a summer job as a clubhouse attendant for the Class A team in Peoria, Ill. One day the Mariners' Appleton (Wis.) team bus chugged in, a few hours before game time. The order went out for a bunch of pizzas to give the boys enough energy to play a night game. Who was buying? Appleton's bonus baby, Alex Rodriguez, was taking care of his buds.

    As a rookie, A-Rod became friendly with Derek Jeter. They knew they could both make a lot of money and have a lot of fun without letting the game make them sour, as they saw happening around them. Their respective teams failed to reach the World Series in 1995 because neither management had enough instinct to stick them at shortstop in October. A-Rod has never made it to the World Series, but this could be his year.

    A-Rod will be the lightning rod in the clubhouse. The first time Jeter misplays something at short, a posse of news media will go running to A-Rod, trying to get him to say he would have had it. The problem is not going to be A-Rod or Jeter or Torre or maybe even Steinbrenner. The problem is going to be us. It is what we do.

    Despite the usual Yankee-fan paranoia, the odds are extremely in favor of A-Rod and Jeter winning a World Series together. Torre will have to resist using Rivera for more than an inning at a time. He will have to fight off the factions in his organization that think Lofton can play center field. He may even have to pinch-hit for his second baseman sometimes. He will have to get over Steinbrenner's discarding Pettitte. Some Yankee fans discredit Torre, who has merely won four World Series in eight years.

    The Red Sox, of course, have not even played in a World Series since 1986. As a stockholder in The New York Times Company, which owns a piece of the Red Sox, I applaud their financial prudence in not matching A-Rod's ludicrous salary. However, as a sports fan, I guffaw at the turnaround. The Yankees are not only on a roll but their owner has also demolished the petulant Red Sox owner.

    It should be sheer, exhilarating joy to be a Yankee fan. Of course, it is not.

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  11. #41

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    (Daily News)

    Alex already having a ball
    Rodriguez lands in Tampa with visions of playoffs in mind


    By ANTHONY McCARRON

    TAMPA - Alex Rodriguez was watching TV in his living room in October when the Yankees and the Red Sox played seven stirring games in the AL Championship Series.

    "Three, four, five times, I can remember that series made me jump out of my couch," A-Rod said. "If you didn't like Yankees-Boston last year, there's something wrong with you."

    For Rodriguez, games like that were just a mirage. "I wished and dreamed to play in games like that," he said. "The dream is here a lot quicker than I thought . . . I haven't played in a lot of meaningful games in the past three years. I may be a little nervous."

    After a week of interviews and excitement, A-Rod actually did some baseball work as a Yankee for the first time yesterday. First, of course, came another big press conference, his second in five days. Rodriguez flew to Tampa yesterday morning, arrived at Legends Field for an 11 a.m. media session and then worked out at the team's minor-league complex.

    After just a few swings in the batting cage, he crushed two balls over a 30-foot tall batter's eye in center field. The black fence is 400 feet from home plate. A scattering of fans watched from beyond the fence, chasing down the home run balls.

    In all, he took 65 swings and slugged 10 over the fence. Then he took ground balls at third.

    Over the past two days, Rodriguez has worked out at the University of Miami near his home, working on his conditioning and taking 50 or so grounders at third. "I wanted to keep it real simple so I came in here with a clean slate, a humble approach," he said.

    About 125 reporters jammed a picnic area beyond the third-base stands and A-Rod again showed that he is as smooth handling interviews as he is hitting a plunging curveball. He referenced the Yankee-Red Sox rivalry, saying, "We've all done a lot of talking, it's time to go play, right?"

    Once again, he conceded team leadership to Derek Jeter, talked about how much the "passion of East Coast baseball" thrilled him and reiterated his desire to be just "one of the guys" after serving time as a shortstop/bull's-eye in Texas.

    Of course, the Yankees don't set up separate press conferences for "one of the guys" when they show up at spring training, especially after there was just a huge one four days earlier. They also don't schedule another presser three days after the second one - A-Rod will meet the media again after the spring's first full-squad workout Tuesday.

    And Rodriguez admitted he isn't sure how his role in New York will evolve. "I can only control what I do," he said. "If you look at Yankee history, it's not something one player can transcend. I don't want that to happen and I don't think it will."

    He mentioned, sounding hopeful, that "in New York, everyone brings something to the party."

    Despite the overwhelming attention, he says he is thrilled about the opportunities he now has. He noted that the last time he was in a lineup so star-studded, it was the All-Star Game. He hasn't started doodling lineups, like Joe Torre, or imagining where he'll bat, but he's thought of the "potential and the excitement - you start thinking of scoring 1,000 runs - and what could happen.

    "But pitching and defense win championships," he said. "Defense, that's what I need to bring to the table. Offense is not going to get us to the promised land."

    Rodriguez will have to provide plenty. He'll be forgiven if he boots a few May grounders at third, but if he doesn't hit, he'll be a target of someone other than those who thought his $252 million contract was absurd - George Steinbrenner.

    But A-Rod said being on a last-place team, especially with his huge contract, was "more pressure. This is different and I enjoy this pressure."

    Said Torre: "When you're on a last-place club, you've really got to do a psyche job on yourself. I don't think he's going to have a problem with different pressures. Not only did he perform in Texas, you saw him talking to other players. He realized his responsibilities went beyond playing."

    Torre may help Rodriguez's conversion to third, especially since A-Rod already has a level of respect for Torre that he apparently didn't have for former manager Buck Showalter.

    "Joe played the game," A-Rod said. "He reminds me a lot of Lou Piniella, in different ways, obviously. Both are guys you can trust. That's big for a major league baseball player. It's cool."

    Torre said he believed that Rodriguez would have an easy transition. "I played third base, so I like to think anybody can," Torre said. "The attention is where it might get difficult, explaining the daily routine, which he didn't have to do as a shortstop."

    Asked what he thought would be the most difficult parts of his position change, A-Rod said the trouble areas might be "slow rollers, bunts and balls that are rockets. I already told Jeets he's got every fly ball because I'm not good at those."

    So there is much to be done. A-Rod said he plans to lean heavily on Luis Sojo, an old mentor when the two were teammates in Seattle, and Willie Randolph and Graig Nettles, who will all instruct him during spring training. Also, A-Rod said he'll talk to his friend Cal Ripken, who once made a similar position switch.

    "I'm proud of my dedication and hard work," Rodriguez said. "Now I have a new challenge in front of me."



  12. #42

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    (NY Post)

    A-ROD MAKES DENT IN DEBUT

    By GEORGE KING

    February 22, 2004 -- TAMPA — If Alex Rodriguez handles the moves from shortstop to third base and Texas to The Bronx with the same ease he displayed yesterday when he held his second high-profile press conference in five days, there won't be one hiccup.

    A-Rod fielded every question as if he wrote them and made sure to say all the right things. He will defer to captain Derek Jeter, and said it's an honor to play next to a player with four World Series rings. He talked up Joe Torre and said he was humbled by being a Yankee. While he admitted to jumping out of his seat during the Red Sox-Yankees ALCS last October, A-Rod wouldn't say which team he was rooting for. Even as he sat outfitted from head to toe in Yankee garb.

    It was A-Rod's second slick outing as a Yankee and it's going to be quite a while — if ever — before baseball's best player has to remove his cleats from between his gums.

    He wasn't as overwhelmed yesterday as he was at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday when the team announced he was a Bomber. This press conference, which was held in a tent, was just part of A-Rod's first day in camp.

    After his private jet landed at nearby Raytheon Airport, A-Rod arrived at Legends Field, pumped iron, met the press and worked out at the minor-league complex.

    After toiling for the attention-starved Rangers for three years, A-Rod had every move he made looked at. His day included a mammoth batting practice home run that dented a car beyond the center-field fence.

    "It's been a dream come true, to be with a team that has the opportunity to win day in and day out and in the mix of East Coast baseball," A-Rod said. "Being born in New York it's something I take very special. Playing for the New York Yankees is the ultimate dream for everyone."

    Can the enormous pressure on the 28-year-old crack him? He never has been part of the on-field rivalry between the Red Sox and Yankees, though he found himself in the middle of the off-season skirmishes. How will A-Rod react to facing Pedro Martinez in the seventh inning of a 1-1 game and runners on second and third? What will happen to his psyche if he boots a key ground ball to give a Red Sox game away in front of 50,000 at Yankee Stadium? What happens when he goes into a funk at the plate?

    The answers are in the wind, but A-Rod said he is no stranger to pressure. Living up to being the first player taken in the 1993 draft put immediate pressure on him. Signing a 10-year, $252 million contract delivered more pressure. Having to find something to play for when the Rangers were eliminated in May provided a different type of pressure.

    "He was the one who was going to be and who was and is," Joe Torre said of A-Rod fulfilling the greatness predicted of him coming out of high school.

    "I felt enormous pressure in 2001 after signing," said A-Rod, whose contract is the largest ever in sports. "That was the most pressure I have ever felt on a field. But when you have an All-Star-type lineup it decreases the amount of pressure on the individual."

    When A-Rod joins the Yankees for the first full-squad workout Tuesday, he won't be just another name with an impressive resume. Unlike in Texas, A-Rod will be surrounded by some of the best talent in the game and four players (Jeter, Bernie Williams, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada) who have four rings.

    It's something that A-Rod is looking forward to.

    "We all feel pressure, but I have to admit being on a last-place team and being the one guy that it's your fault that you are a last-place team, that kind of pressure is a lot more tough than this pressure of winning a World Series or being one of nine guys," A-Rod said. "I enjoy this kind of pressure a lot more than being a last-place [team]. I had enormous pressure in Texas."

    He hasn't fanned with the bases drunk or booted an easy double play — and both will happen. But five whirlwind days as a Yankee haven't ruffled A-Rod one bit.



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    February 23, 2004

    SPORTS OF THE TIMES

    When Sold, Babe Wasn't the Babe Yet

    By DAVE ANDERSON


    Alex Rodriguez stretching before Sunday's batting practice at the Yankees' minor league complex in Tampa, Fla.

    AS television lights and flashbulbs illuminated Alex Rodriguez's coming-out party at Yankee Stadium last Tuesday and his arrival at spring training on Saturday, somebody would occasionally be heard saying, "I think this is bigger than Babe Ruth, I really do." Or that "this" was the Yankees' biggest moment since the Babe was acquired from the Red Sox in 1920.

    Nothing could be further from the hype.

    The Babe's arrival didn't provoke anything like A-Rod's introductory news conference at Yankee Stadium, for three reasons. One, the House that Ruth Built was three years from being built. Two, no television cameras, no Internet, no radio to speak of. And three, the Babe was not yet the Babe we think of now.

    Adulation for the Babe has always involved his home runs and World Series moments in the 15 seasons after he joined the Yankees, not what he meant on the day he joined them.

    Actually, the Babe didn't arrive in New York until nearly two months after the deal. The day it was announced, Jan. 5, 1920, he was in California playing golf and negotiating his role in a motion picture that would be shot in Haverstraw, N.Y., later that year on August mornings before he hurried back for 3 o'clock games at the Polo Grounds.

    The only semblance of a news conference occurred in Boston, where the Red Sox owner, Harry Frazee, announced to baseball reporters the deal that dispatched George Herman Ruth, a 24-year-old slugger and left-handed pitcher, to the Yankees for what in that era was an exorbitant sum: $125,000, and a $300,000 loan for the mortgage on Fenway Park.

    For Frazee, a New York theatrical producer who was friendly with the Yankee co-owners Jacob Ruppert and Tillinghast L'Hommedieu Huston, the Babe's departure represented good riddance.

    "The price was something enormous," Frazee acknowledged that day, according to Dan Shaughnessy's book "The Curse of the Bambino" (Dutton, 1990), "but I do not care to name the figures. It was an amount the club could not afford to refuse. No other club could afford to give the amount the Yankees have paid for him, and I do not mind saying I think they are taking a gamble."

    Some gamble. That word would haunt Frazee.

    "I do not wish to detract one iota from Ruth's ability as a ballplayer nor from his value as an attraction," Frazee continued, "but there is no getting away from the fact that despite his 29 home runs, the Red Sox finished sixth in the race last year. What the Boston fans want, I take it, and what I want because they want it, is a winning team, rather than a one-man team that finishes in sixth place."

    But without the Babe and other players Frazee gift-wrapped to the Yankees — notably the Hall of Fame pitchers Waite Hoyt, Herb Pennock and Red Ruffing, along with third baseman Joe Dugan — the Red Sox would remain in the lower half of the eight-team American League for the next 14 seasons, including nine last-place finishes.

    "The other players," Frazee added, "have little incentive for great effort when the spectators can see only one man in the game, and so the one man has an upsetting influence on the others. Then again, Ruth has shown neither the Boston club nor myself, nor the Boston fans for that matter, much consideration. He has been rather selfish."

    Frazee recalled that in 1919, the Babe dictated his contract, three years at $10,000 a year. And now the Babe was daring to demand $20,000 for the 1920 season.

    "Ruth has been insubordinate on occasions," Frazee said, "and has insisted upon having his own way to such an extent that he endangered the discipline of the whole squad."

    When the Babe was tracked down in California, he growled to reporters that Frazee was "not good enough" to own a ball club, much less the Red Sox. They had won a record 5 of the first 15 World Series, including 1916 and 1918 with Ruth as their ace pitcher and sometimes slugger. In 1919, his first season as a full-time outfielder, he batted .322 with 114 runs batted in and those 29 homers; as a part-time pitcher that season, he had a 9-5 record with a 2.97 earned run average.

    "He has done more," the Babe said of Frazee, "to hurt baseball in Boston than anyone who was ever connected with the game in that city."

    Quite an accurate prophecy, considering that more than eight decades later the Red Sox have yet to win another World Series. But the Babe was in no hurry to get to New York. In late February, he first returned to Boston, where he hoped to wangle from Frazee a percentage of his purchase price.

    "He wouldn't even see me," the Babe said.

    Eventually, on Feb. 28, the Babe arrived in New York by train at Penn Station, minutes before boarding another train taking the Yankee contingent to Jacksonville, Fla., for the start of spring training. His anticipated appearance at Penn Station prompted a few dozen fans to greet him, but soon he was on the Yankees' train, shuffling a deck of cards.

    With a record 54 homers that season, he was about to get the Yankees going toward their 26 World Series championships. But the day in 1920 when the Babe finally arrived in New York on one train and boarded another for spring training, not much of a fuss was made. That's understandable. At the time, the Babe was not yet the Babe.

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  14. #44

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    February 25, 2004

    Everyone's in Gear, Including Steinbrenner

    By JACK CURRY

    TAMPA, Fla., Feb. 24 — George Steinbrenner navigated his personalized GMS golf cart along a green carpet at Legends Field, creeping forward only a few feet a minute as he rambled on about everything from why reporters should stop asking Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter about their changed friendship to why the Boston Red Sox are the favorites in the American League East to why he does not think the Yankees have a steroid problem.

    On the first full workout day for the Yankees, Steinbrenner, the team's principal owner, never appeared on the field. But he made enough noise to last for the rest of spring training while maneuvering his cart outside the clubhouse for 10 minutes before he stopped driving and chatted amiably for another 15.

    Steinbrenner compared John Henry, the owner of the Red Sox, to the Scarecrow from "The Wizard of Oz," which was clearly a response to Henry's comparing him over the weekend to the comedian Don Rickles. And Steinbrenner, 73, who was hospitalized after fainting and hitting his head two months ago, said that other than knee pain and normal fatigue, his health is fine.

    "Everybody's coming up to me, `Sign this baseball,' " Steinbrenner said. "You all think I'm going to die. You want one of the last autographs."

    About 200 reporters covered Rodriguez's first official workout with the Yankees, a $180 million All-Star team of sorts, yet Steinbrenner was again a notable behind-the-scenes presence. As always. Steinbrenner spoke optimistically about the possibility of signing Manager Joe Torre to a contract extension, added that he would accept part of the blame for Torre's unhappiness last season and said that he would favor a replacement for Yankee Stadium.

    "I'd love a new stadium for the fans of New York," he said. "It should be high on the mayor's wish list. We're slowly but surely getting him on our side. He's a great mayor. I know some of the polls don't say that. He's made a billion dollars. He might be the smartest man I know."

    For all of the subjects Steinbrenner covered, he was most adamant when he discussed his desire to have reporters cease quizzing Rodriguez and Jeter about the tension that has existed between them. They have been peppered with questions regarding Rodriguez's critical comments about Jeter in an Esquire magazine article three years ago.

    "They get tired of answering those questions," Steinbrenner said. "That's it, fellas. No more. I don't want to say, `Get out of here.' They're playing a game. Let them play baseball." He added: "I don't think it's a nonissue. I know it's a nonissue."

    Perhaps Steinbrenner's mandate about a topic that he said reporters were using to try to divide the Yankees had become an organization-wide edict. "The questions about our relationship, I'm not going to answer them anymore," Jeter said Tuesday.

    Steinbrenner has not yet made the same request of reporters questioning Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield about steroids. They testified before a grand jury investigating the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, a nutritional supplements company whose founder has been charged with distributing steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs to professional athletes.

    "It hovers because I have distinct feelings about steroids," Steinbrenner said. "I was the vice president of the Olympic Committee when we put in strict things in the Olympic movement. I worry about anybody that's using them because of the aftereffects."

    When Steinbrenner was asked if he thought Giambi or Sheffield was a steroid user, he said he did not think so. "They know how I feel about it, and I think they feel the same way," he said.

    And though Steinbrenner tweaked Henry, he lauded the Red Sox and Theo Epstein, their general manager. Steinbrenner referred to Epstein as Esposito, the second time in less than a year that he has erred on Epstein's last name, as he was explaining why he thought the Red Sox were the favorites in the division.

    "I think they've got a great lineup," he said. "I think Esposito has done a great job for them, like Cashman has done a great job for us. I think they have more stability in their pitching staff. I think we have a few question marks."

    Steinbrenner admitted the Red Sox got a pitcher he wanted when they obtained Curt Schilling from the Arizona Diamondbacks, but he immediately added, "But I got Kevin Brown, so we're O.K." Steinbrenner called Brown a good No. 1 man, seemingly indicating he considered Brown the ace. That would contrast with Torre's view, because Torre has practically anointed Mike Mussina as the opening day starter.

    Steinbrenner said he and Torre had an understanding about Torre's future and called him "very important to this team." Torre probably felt as recently as a month ago that he might be managing his final year with the Yankees in 2004, but it now seems inevitable that Steinbrenner will offer him an extension.

    "He's got to enjoy it," Steinbrenner said. "I don't think a lot of it was enjoyable for him last year. I'll take some of the blame, but not all of it. We had other things that weren't going right in the locker room." Then, in what was surely a reference to the former bench coach Don Zimmer, Steinbrenner mentioned the current coaches and said, "You notice how happy everybody is?"

    As Steinbrenner discussed how Rodriguez and Barry Bonds are probably the two best players in baseball, he referred to Bonds as Bobby Bonds, his father, three times. Since Barry Bonds and Ken Griffey Jr. are sons of former Yankees, Steinbrenner said he should have been smart enough to lock them in the Stadium until they became professional players.

    Steinbrenner also called Sheffield as good an offensive player as there is in the major leagues, explained how he told his executives to sign reliever Tom Gordon because Gordon often silenced the Yankees, and said he was flattered by Henry's comparing him to Rickles because Rickles is a great talent.

    When a reporter wondered if Steinbrenner planned to take Rodriguez to dinner, Steinbrenner said Rodriguez was married to a "very beautiful and brilliant girl" who should accompany him. Then Steinbrenner suggested Jeter should do it.

    The usually blustery Steinbrenner seemed happy and relaxed from behind the wheel of the golf cart Tuesday. Steinbrenner said he needed the cart "to get around because I'm slowing down," but the words were coming out as fast as ever.


    SPORTS OF THE TIMES

    Boston Again Takes the Bumpy Road

    By HARVEY ARATON


    Shortstop Nomar Garciaparra said he was hurt by Boston's attempt to replace him with Alex Rodriguez.

    FORT MYERS, Fla.

    THE star shortstop, who was traded and then not traded, worked out a day early and admitted he was insulted and hurt. The pitching ace, who doesn't have a contract for next season and may not get one, showed up several days late, with permission, and said if his team doesn't want him, fine, he'll go elsewhere.

    And the slugger, who is everyone's favorite flake and, like the shortstop, wasn't even supposed to be here, according to the grand administrative plan, remained out of sight, out of left field.

    Where was Manny Ramirez? Pedro Martínez said, "Manny's in la-la land."

    Home, sweet, home.

    Ladies and gentlemen of New England, your Boston Red Sox class officers, unchanged, unrepentant and unsure of most things with the notable exception of their continuing mission: build a bridge past the Yankees, ease Red Sox Nation's pain.

    "I don't want to say it, I want to do it," said Martínez, sounding a new Red Sox war cry for 2004: Cowboy Shut Up.

    So you think the Yankees have issues? You think it will be much too crowded on the left side of their infield? You think the Red Sox had the superior off-season by landing Curt Schilling and closer Keith Foulke, giving them the deeper and more reliable pitching staff?

    You may be right on all counts, but do not for a moment discount the instability of the Boston star set as the potential dynamic of self-destruction, as it was in the American League Championship Series last fall. Do not forget how valiantly the scruffy Fenway ranch hands performed against the Yankees only to be thrown by the horses they were riding to glory. Do not be misled by the smiley, chatty personas of Martínez and Nomar Garciaparra here yesterday as they met the news media for the first time this spring.

    Because, as Martínez warned: "Today I'm talking. Tomorrow, I'll guarantee you I won't be talking."

    Granted, no pennant has ever been won by way of the press box, but beginning today, when all position players, including Ramirez, will presumably join pitchers and catchers, it will be business as usual. The Red Sox will charge out of the spring-training gate behind their new manager, Terry Francona, but also, Schilling notwithstanding, with the same old surly star leadership that has been given even more reason to be chronically cranky over the summer when the clubhouse gets hot.

    Start with Garciaparra, who hid his eyes behind a pair of dark shades but could not hide his dismay over the Red Sox' conditional deal with Texas, Ramirez for Alex Rodriguez, with Garciaparra supposedly rerouted to Chicago for Magglio Ordóñez.

    "I was definitely hurt by a lot of it," Garciaparra said. "I felt like anyone else would feel after spending a whole career in one organization, and you find out you've been traded and are pretty much gone over the television. That's how I found out."

    Of course, the trade was struck down by the players union, leaving Ramirez and Garciaparra as the unwanted still on board, with Martínez lugging around the baggage from Game 7 of the A.L.C.S., when Grady Little surrendered the ball and his managerial career to the conceit of his arm-weary ace.

    It's all become so untidy for this talented threesome, a struggle not to look back or dwell on the future. Logic tells us that the Red Sox will offer Garciaparra a long-term extension to avoid losing him to free agency after this season. He acknowledged preliminary discussions and said he would like to remain, but who would be surprised if Garciaparra played out the season and gave the Red Sox a swift kick that would make his new bride, Mia Hamm, proud?

    As for Martínez, the miles on his fragile right arm may well be the Red Sox' excuse to offer a cold shoulder. They have six frontline players in the final year of their contracts, and General Manager Theo Epstein admitted yesterday that not all would return.

    "Forget about what's going to happen to me," Martínez said. "I'm pretty sure I'll get another job with someone else."

    Players say all the time that it's about business, but sooner or later they wear emotions, not cuff links, on their sleeves. Martínez and Garciaparra spoke enthusiastically about the new season, the pitching upgrades, but they will play for a new manager, whose closest ties are to Schilling. They will return to Boston, where the pain runs deep from the recent defeats at the hands of the Yankees, on field and off.

    How soon will Martínez be allowed to forget Game 7? How many more of Ramirez's half-hearted efforts in the outfield and on the bases will be tolerated? How many times will Garciaparra be reminded of his 2003 fall slump and that he is not A-Rod?

    "One bad month in eight years is better than having eight bad months in one year," he said.

    Do the Red Sox appreciate that? "Everyone saw their actions," Garciaparra said. "You knew what their priorities were."

    Epstein didn't want to talk about the deals that weren't, and the potential fallout. "That's not something for public discussion," he said. "I have a lot of faith in Terry Francona's ability to work with this group. By the time we leave camp, if not already, we will have a common goal of winning."

    Up in Tampa, Joe Torre has already had a head start. Say what you will about the Yankees, most of their big names — Jeter, Williams, Sheffield, Matsui — have been working out, fitting in. A-Rod has given up shortstop to join them.

    Manny Ramirez's la-la land it isn't, but no one ever doubts the Yankees' horses, and whether they will be in the mood to run.

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

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