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Spare A-Rod, Spoil the Yankees

By Yong-yi Zhu

SPORTS COLUMNIST

Boy, did the Red Sox muck up the Alex Rodriguez deal big time. Sure, they didn’t get him, and that was bad enough. But now, the Yankees have their hands on the game’s best player. Yes, Theo Epstein, you should be crying in a corner.

When the deal between the Red Sox and the Rangers for the Rodriguez-Manny Ramirez deal fell through, the Sox fans were crushed; I’m sure the management felt the same way. After all, Scrooge had come through and refused the biggest Christmas present any Red Sox fan would have loved. What we forgot was that the Grinch had not yet arrived until now; the Yankees have stolen what the Red Sox once thought they had. Several weeks ago, I almost wrote on the fact that I felt the A-Rod fiasco was not over. If you assume that Alex has nine lives, which he appears to, I wanted to figure out just exactly how many of those lives A-Rod had exhausted.

There was the report mid-season about A-Rod wanting out of Texas, which quickly had its flame extinguished. Then there were the initial talks between the Red Sox and the Rangers, which were brought to a halt by Bug Selig’s deadline as well as Larry Lucchino’s public statement. With three lives down, the deal was still in full force.

Next, came the second deadline set for the deal, and this time, Theo Epstein, Tom Hicks, Gene Orza, and Bug Selig all spoke of the end of the deal. Well, there went another four lives. But when Hicks named A-Rod the captain of the Rangers, I thought that everything was over. What I forgot was the ninth life which still kept everything going.

You must hand it to the Yankees to pick up on the fact that not all was lost in the A-Rod sweepstakes. They took full advantage by trading Alfonso Soriano to the Rangers for Rodriguez. This gives Texas more financial flexibility although Soriano is nowhere near the hitter that Manny Ramirez is. This also gives the Yankees the lineup that quite frankly is intimidating beyond belief. With Giambi, Jeter, Rodriguez, Sheffield and Posada doing damage every which direction, they now clearly have the upper hand on the Red Sox and the rest of the American League East. Perhaps, the curse is working again. First, it was Ruth, then it was Clemens, and now it might just be A-Rod.

In fact, the AL East race has become unbelievable, simply because of the intense competition in every facet of the game for the Red Sox and the Yankees. For every Curt Schilling, there is a Javier Vazquez. For every deal unmade, the other is there to scoop up the remains. Even with the Orioles trying to spice things up with Miguel Tejada and Javy Lopez, the Blue Jays going full throttle with Carlos Delgado and Roy Halladay, and the Red Sox doing their best to keep up, the Yankees are still expected to win the East. Now, they will win very easily.

Or is that only what we expect? A-Rod will bring with him a sense of pressure he has never understood. George Steinbrenner does not tolerate failure. (see Jeff Weaver, Juan Acevedo) Now that he is endorsing the largest payroll in the majors, and the largest single contract, Steinbrenner will no longer accept any form of losing. If the Yankees don’t sweep their way through the playoffs, the season will be a disappointment.

Sure, A-Rod is used to being the best player in the league. He has even been the captain of a team, albeit all so briefly. Now, he has to be the missing piece of the puzzle that was only three quarters complete. Just be aware of the bustling fans, the bright ballpark, and the big bad boss. But I guess if wants to win as he said he did and enjoys all the pressures that come with it, New York is the best place to be. After all, if he can make it there, he’s gonna make it anywhere.