It's still alive
Boston was A-Rod's most desirable destination after the 2003 season, and expect the lovefest between the two sides to finally land the next home run king in a Red Sox uniform in 2008
Not even Gene Orza can get in the way of this one.
The trade that would have sent Manny Ramirez to Texas and Alex Rodriguez to Boston in the winter of 2003 was officially killed when Yankees GM Brian Cashman jumped in last minute and took advantage of the Red Sox' dirty work.
New York and Texas agreed to an Alfonso Soriano-Rodriguez swap, and A-Rod immediately went from Boston's brand new prized possession to one of the city's most hated rivals.
For most of that winter, trade talks between the Red Sox and Rangers were on-again-off-again. One day the trade was alive, the next day it was dead.
Get ready for round two, or three . . . or is it four?
Rodriguez has 3 1/2 years left on his 10-year, $252 million deal, but can opt-out and become a free agent after this season. A-Rod said last week that he won't address the situation until the offseason.
Translation: Goodbye New York.
MLB Commissioner Bud Selig made the Rodriguez-to-New York trade official on Feb. 16, 2004. Since then, the 11-time All-Star has heard nothing but criticism in the Bronx. Before then, the only thing being criticized was his relentless escape out of Texas and into Boston.
A-Rod has spent the last 3 1/2 seasons with the Yankees. So far, it's been nothing short of a success, numbers-wise. Rodriguez has hit .301 with 150 home runs, 444 RBIs, and 431 runs scored in pinstripes. All the while, he's made four All-Star appearances and won his second American League MVP in 2005. Yet, he was booed by his own fans the very next season when he was said to be "struggling" in 2006. Sure, he had a league-leading 24 errors, and went 1-for-14 in the postseason, but if hitting .290 with 35 home runs and 121 RBIs is what you'd like to call "struggling" then I must have missed the few seasons prior in which players inflated their stats by hitting off tees instead of live pitchers.
And the bulls-eye didn't disappear this season, even after one of the most historic months of April a player has ever put together. A-Rod began the year hitting .355 with 34 RBIs and 14 home runs in 23 games in April, kickstarting the nickname "Mr. April" after he slumped in May with only a .235 average and five home runs.
That negative tone has since changed after he hit .406 in June with nine home runs and 34 RBIs, and is now hitting .312 on the year with 31 home runs and 87 RBIs. The Yankees find themselves nine games behind the Red Sox in the A.L. East heading into Monday, and the fans in New York can't possibly be blaming it on their All-Star third baseman. After 3 1/2 seasons in the Bronx, fans in New York seem to be at peace with Rodriguez.
But it may be too late.
Don't think for one second that A-Rod won't remember the many times he received a chorus of boos at Yankee Stadium come November, when he is officially allowed to opt-out and become a free agent 10 days after the conclusion of the World Series. After all, it was his choice to come to New York in the first place. He even offered to change positions.
So you mean to tell me the best shortstop in the game took a backseat to the captain, Derek Jeter, and decided to take up third base - like that's a walk in the park transition - so that he could get booed out of the city and followed in and out of night clubs on road trips? All the man wanted to do was win. It just so happens to have been in New York.
But he wanted it to be in Boston.
Don't be so short-minded, Red Sox Nation. For it was just 3 1/2 years ago that the players' union's Gene Orza was your biggest enemy, and Rodriguez was your favorite new toy. Orza played the role of Grinch on Christmas of 2003, rejecting the Red Sox' proposed reconstruction of A-Rod's contract.
Selig gave the Red Sox a 72-hour window to mak a proposal to Rodriguez, which he then took to the union. The proposal would have taken $4 million a year ($28 million) off his contract that had seven years and $179 million remaining. Orza and the union rejected the proposal and offered their own, leaving for a $16 million difference between the two sides. After Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino ripped Orza and the union, Rangers owner Tom Hicks refused to talk with Lucchino, killing the deal for the time being.
A-Rod's contract was the only obstacle in making the union and Selig approve the deal. Other than that, everything was agreed to in principle. Rodriguez would go to Boston. Ramirez would go to Texas. And Nomar Garciaparra (man it's been a long time since I've typed that name) would be sent to the Chicago White Sox with Scott Williamson in exchange for Magglio Ordonez. All of this sparked by one person: Alex Rodriguez.
Rodriguez so desperately wanted to play for the Boston Red Sox, that after the deal was pronounced dead several times, he took it upon himself to try and make it work. After Boston and the union couldn't agree on the money, A-Rod was willing to pay Hicks $15 million under the table if Hicks dropped his demand for $15 million from the Red Sox if they paid the full value of his contract, but Hicks refused.
Needless to say, it never happened, and by mid-February, the Yankees came calling, with most of the dirty work already finished.
In fact, even in the days that New York showed serious interest in a deal, Rodriguez asked Hicks once again to revisit the trade with Boston, but Hicks said during his press conference after finalizing the trade with New York that he "had no interest in talking to Boston any more at that time, given what had happened during the 90 days in the fall."
A-Rod had no choice. So he went to New York, but he wanted to go to Boston.
Come November, things will be different. There will no longer be just a 72-hour window to work out a deal. No third party can interfere with Rodriguez playing where he originally wanted: Shortstop at Fenway Park.
Think I'm losing my mind? No, of course I haven't forgotten the fact that Jason Varitek face smooshed him in 2004, or the infamous Bronson Arroyo slap in Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS, or the few plays this season that everyone here in Boston used as another example of A-Rod being "dirty."
I remember them just fine. I'm just not wearing my bloody socks, or my pink hat when analyzing those plays. Starting a bench-clearing brawl, knocking the ball out of the pitcher's glove in the playoffs, sliding hard into second to prevent a double play, or yelling "Mine" while rounding third when your team has taken a significant tumble down the standings in the A.L. East, all of these things done in a Red Sox uniform would be the definition of a "dirt dog." He'd be willing to do anything to win, and who in Boston wouldn't want a player like that?
In the days that Red Sox fans (ironically) watch the other half of the biggest-trade-that-never-happened, Manny Ramirez, sometimes act like he doesn't do everything it takes to win, it seems somewhat hypocritical to blame A-Rod for his tactics.
So when he opts-out this offseason and fills the void at shortstop, you'll forget about all that other "stuff." You won't be complaining about the amount of absurd dollars he'll be making because his chase for Barry Bonds' all-time home run record begins at Fenway in 2008, like it or not.
Forget about the past. Forget about where he came from or what he once was. And remember what he wanted to be so very badly not so long ago: Shortstop of the Boston Red Sox.
And this time, not even Gene Orza can get in the way.