Hot Rod splits

Alex Rodriguez is Texas Rangers' new designated whiner.

NOW THAT A-ROD has replaced Dub-ya as the most overpaid member of the Texas Rangers, the remaining question is whether Seattle can forget Alex Rodriguez as fast as it forgot Junior Whatshisname.

Well, why not? When A-Rod, as of Monday the ex-Mariner shortstop, replaced Ken Griffey Jr. as local folk hero this season, he also began filling Junior's shoes as the team's designated whiner. Pay me, stroke me, close the roof when I ask. Unlike Griffey, he didn't blubber about wanting to play close (Ohio?) to his Florida home, but he did suggest the M's move the fences or move him. Now, after shopping himself around in a road-show version of an eBay auction, he signed a record 10-year, $252 million free-agent contract Monday, effectively making him the lone star of the Lone Star State and the highest paid athlete in the free world.

While parts of Seattle caterwauled regrettably over Griffey's departure, the early reaction to the loss of A-Rod was encouraging: "Note to Seattle," said one KJR caller, "get over it!" In moments, some had. Who—catchers, infielders—can we get with the $54 million over three years we won't be paying A-Rod?

Remember how Griffey's former salary was masterfully doled out to create a pitching staff that took the M's to within two games of a World Series? As for A-Rod, he's signing with a building team whose future is weighted by his bloated salary. "He should have learned it here," said another KJR caller. "He'll learn it there: Without pitching, you're nothing."

The night of his last game for the M's, Rodriguez told his fans he had a hard time sleeping. "This could be it," he offered ruefully. Scott Boras, his agent, rhapsodized metaphysically, "He is intrigued by the idea of seeing the mystery of free agency from the inside."

Doug Melvin, Rangers general manager, boiled it all down this week. In the business of baseball, he said, spending a bundle on A-Rod "will send [fans] the message we're serious about winning." Thing is, will Texas fans—or baseball enthusiasts anywhere—warm up to this astonishing paycheck? ESPN figured out that if Rodriguez wanted to spend the whole $252 million in the next 10 years, he'd have to burn it at the rate of $2,877 an hour. Perhaps more telling, a worker toiling at minimum wage would have to labor 23,525 years to earn a similar salary. Just wait till the man who makes $129,629 per game strikes out looking.

For now, fans of the team once partly owned by George W. Bush are slamming cold ones and gleefully banging on the roofs of their pickups. One of the reputedly greatest ballplayers has come to town. But let the record show that A-Rod, 25, can wiggle out of his record Texas contract after seven years and turn free agent again. Feel his pain: another sleepless night.

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