Last Friday night, Alex Rodriguez was greeted with a chorus of
boos and a sea of insulting signs (a-rat, read posters
distributed by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram). But in his first
game in Texas since being traded to the Yankees in February,
Rodriguez was expecting far worse from Rangers fans who packed
Ameriquest Field. "I was surprised," said Rodriguez, who had been
through this in 2001 after he had left the Mariners for the
Rangers as a free agent. "Seattle was a lot worse."
The shortage of invective from Texas fans can be attributed in
part to their delight over how things have turned out for their
team since the departure of the $252 million infielder. After
taking two out of three from the Yankees last weekend, the
Rangers were not only A-OK, getting off to their best start
(25-18) since 1998, but also one of baseball's biggest surprises
In fact, three months after Rodriguez was swapped for second
baseman Alfonso Soriano, the two clubs and the two players are
all happy with the deal. "It's been a win-win-win situation,"
says Texas owner Tom Hicks. "The Yankees have the best player in
baseball. Alex is enjoying the limelight. And we've got a great
The Rangers started fast because young hitters like third baseman
Hank Blalock (.287, 12 home runs) and shortstop Michael Young
(.349, eight) have stepped up in Rodriguez's absence. Even with
the loss of A-Rod's production, Texas still led the American
League in runs per game (5.6), homers (60) and hitting (.287).
"There are no egos in this clubhouse," says 37-year-old
utilityman Eric Young. "The personalities of these young players
have come out more, and they've grown because they realize this
is their team now."
The trade has also been a blessing for Soriano (.298, six
homers), who says he needed a month to get over the
disappointment of going from a perennial World Series team to a
club coming off four straight losing seasons. He has developed a
strong bond with hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo, who told Soriano
to narrow his stance to improve his balance. That adjustment has
helped the two-time All-Star return to form after a dreadful 2003
postseason in which he struck out a record 26 times in 71 at
bats. "I'm very happy here," says Soriano. "There's not the same
big expectations, so everything is so relaxed compared to New
York. I've become more relaxed myself. I'm having fun."
After a slow start, during which he was concentrating more on
making a seamless transition from shortstop to third base than on
his hitting, Rodriguez was putting up his usual All-Star numbers.
At week's end he was hitting .292 and leading New York (also
25-18) with 10 home runs and 30 runs scored. A-Rod also says he's
more comfortable playing under Torre than for Texas manager Buck
Showalter, a hands-on disciplinarian. "[Showalter's] philosophies
were a little different from my philosophies," says Rodriguez.
"[Torre] lets the veteran players do their thing. To me, it just
That seems to be the bottom line on this trade.
TWO COLOR PHOTOS: BOB ROSATO (2) Rodriguez has found a home at third in New York, while Soriano (inset) has gotten into the swing in Texas.
Ratings for Fox Sports' regional broadcasts through May 20 were
up 20% from last season. ESPN2 had seen a 17% jump in its
Scott Podsednik, CF, Brewers
Coming off a breakout rookie year, he was 21 for 21 in steals and
on pace for a season total of 81.
Victor Martinez, C, Indians
Since manager Eric Wedge moved him to the cleanup position on May
3, he had hit .310 with 24 RBIs in 18 games.
Byung-Hyun Kim, RHP, Red Sox
Banished from the rotation after three starts, he was demoted to
Triple A Pawtucket to regain velocity on a fastball that had been
clocked in the low 80s.
A season after leading the NL in runs and homers, Atlanta was
12th in hitting (.251) and tied for 13th in homers (39).
Shawn Green, 1B, Dodgers
Batting .219 through May 21, including .157 this month, he was
dropped from the cleanup spot to fifth in the order.