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FIRST-PERSON: Money doesn’t solve everything
by Tim Ellsworth
Date: Aug 6, 2003

MULKEYTOWN, Ill. (BP)--Alex Rodriguez is learning the hard way that there’s more to life -- and baseball -- than money.

The Texas Rangers shortstop is the beneficiary of the fattest contract in professional sports -- 10 years, $252 million. He puts up eye-popping numbers year after year and is arguably the best player in the game. He has what most people can only dream about.

But there’s something important missing in A-Rod’s life. Despite all the money, Rodriguez is frustrated by the Rangers’ inability to field a competitive team. He wants to win, and he’s getting tired of being a loser.

Since coming to Texas in 2001, the Rangers have finished in last place each year, and will probably do so again this season. Although owner Tom Hicks has assembled a potent offense and has the fifth-highest payroll in baseball, he hasn’t learned the importance of pitching. The Rangers’ pitching staff is atrocious, with a team earned run average of around 6.00.

So, Rodriguez recently made headlines by saying he’d be open to a trade if the Rangers wanted to unload him.

“If the Rangers found they could be better off without me, whether now or a year or two down the road, I’d be willing to sit down and talk,” Rodriguez said. “When I signed here, I thought we’d make a hard turn toward improvement. Obviously, we’re in a very tough division. I want what's best for Mr. Hicks, if it were down to the Rangers improving or me being happy.”

It was the first time that Rodriguez let it be known publicly that he’s not happy. He wasn’t demanding a trade outright, as many sports stars often do, and he did affirm his allegiance to the Rangers and Hicks. For the foreseeable future, Rodriguez will continue to do his best to turn the Rangers into a contender. But he let it be known that he’d be open to leaving if Hicks thought it to be in the Rangers’ best interests.

Of course, it’s hard for most sports fans to feel sorry for Rodriguez, especially with the money he makes. And, quite honestly, A-Rod should have known what he was getting himself into. I mean, if one player is making $25 million a season, it shouldn’t take a genius to figure out how that will hamper an owner’s ability to pay other decent players.

But at least Rodriguez is showing that he wants to win. He might be a millionaire several times over, but he’s not content with that. He realizes that in baseball history, the greatest players are often associated with winning teams. And no matter how impressive the statistics that he compiles, a failure to win will lower history’s regard for Rodriguez as a player.

Although the Yankees have demonstrated that money can buy championships, it’s still true that money can’t buy peace of mind or happiness. All too often people spend their efforts chasing wealth for what they think it will provide, only to become disillusioned when they discover they were mistaken.

Rodriguez knows all about that. While some people may sacrifice relationships with friends and family for the sake of money, Rodriguez sacrificed winning. I’m sure he was thrilled when he signed such a lucrative contract with the Rangers. But as Rodriguez has come to realize where his priorities are, all the money doesn’t seem so important now.
--30--
Tim Ellsworth writes this column from his home in Mulkeytown, Ill. Write to him at bpsports@sbc.net.

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