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Chicago Tribune

Hit The Road, Pudge: Rangers Unlikely To Budge

Phil Rogers

December 1, 2002
Copyright © 2002 Chicago Tribune. All rights reserved. 

The Texas Rangers are about to pay a stiff price for their attempts to prop up a second-division pitching staff the last two seasons.

At least partially because Alex Rodriguez hasn't attracted enough fans to justify his salary, they seem willing to let another future Hall of Famer, catcher Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez, walk away. Those who have talked with owner Tom Hicks within the last week believe the Rangers won't even offer I-Rod salary arbitration by the Dec. 7 deadline.

That would allow a team like the Cubs or Baltimore Orioles to sign him without draft-choice compensation--a concept that was supposed to go away in the new labor deal but got a reprieve because of a misunderstanding between owners and the union.

Hicks acknowledged that it's going to take a few years to rebuild. He says it is time to go younger and cheaper.

"We rolled the dice, and it didn't work," Hicks said. "We've finished dead last three years in a row, so I'd say we're rebuilding."

In addition to Pudge Rodriguez, the Rangers face an arbitration decision with 38-year-old lefty Kenny Rogers, who was 13-8 with a 3.84 ERA last season and is Texas' all-time leader in games pitched.

"The arbitration process usually results in artificially high salaries," Hicks told Dallas-Ft. Worth reporters.

When agent Scott Boras was shopping the other Rodriguez two years ago, he said he could mean an extra 300,000 in attendance. But the Rangers have seen their per-game attendance slide by more than 5,000 since 2000. Now there's no money left to pay a 10-time All-Star who just turned 31.

In letting Pudge Rodriguez go, Texas will cite knee and back injuries that limited him to 206 games caught the last two years. But in 2002, Rodriguez played 96 of 104 games after coming off the disabled list June 7. He was one of three catchers who didn't miss back-to-back games in that period. In those 96 games, Rodriguez batted .325 with 19 homers and 55 runs batted in. Sound like a washed-up catcher?

"These people keep saying nobody is going to sign me for more than two or three years because it's risky," Rodriguez told the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram. "That's OK. They can say whatever. I don't care. I'm going to work so hard this off-season, and then next year I'm going to stick it to them and show them what I can do."

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