Gregory Bull  /  AP
New York Yankees skipper Joe Torre puts a New York Yankees cap on the newest member of the team, Alex Rodriguez, center, as teammate Derek Jeter looks on at a news conference at Yankee Stadium in New York Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2004. The Yankees introduced their newest highly paid All-Star a day after commissioner Bud Selig approved the trade moving Rodriguez from the Texas Rangers to the Bronx. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
updated 2/17/2004 4:13:13 PM ET 2004-02-17T21:13:13

Baseball ain’t what it used to be.  Once it was all of American sports that played football and basketball just to fill the times between seasons, but the old game still has a big punch.  While the nation‘s attention and the politician‘s envious eyes were supposed to be converging on the so-called “NASCAR dads” at the Daytona 500, a simple little baseball trade was enough to make the stock cars throw a rod—A.Rod. 

The man with the biggest contract in American sports history has been traded to the biggest franchise in American sports history.  Baseball commissioner Allen H.  “Bud” Selig, Monday afternoon approved the trade of American League most valuable player, Alex Rodriguez, by the Texas Rangers to the New York Yankees for infielder Alfonso Soriano and a proverbial player to be named later. 

Three winters ago, Texas had signed Rodriguez to an epic $252 million 10-year deal, overpaying wildly in the process.  They will still overpay: Of the $179 million still owed to Rodriguez, the Yankees will pay $112 million, Texas will pay $67 million. 

Rodriguez will move from his natural defensive position, shortstop, to third base, that‘s because the Yankees already have a $10 million a year shortstop named Derek Jeter. 

Jeter and Rodriguez were once among the best of friends, then Rodriguez dismissed Jeter as “a good player who simply had a lot of great players around him.” Now, sources familiar with both men tell COUNTDOWN  that late last season, mired with a losing team in Texas, Rodriguez reached out to Jeter through intermediaries. He is believed to have said that he thought a trade to the Yankees was a possibility.  Rodriguez was asking if Jeter would consider moving to third base, the answer was no. 

The other back story is that two months ago the Rangers had agreed to trade Rodriguez to the Yankees archrivals, the Boston Red Sox. But money— how much the Rangers would pay, how much the Red Sox would pay, how much Rodriguez would have to give back, scuttled that swap.  So today, in Boston, in short, they‘re not happy. 

For two long months, baseball‘s most gifted players seemed headed to the Boston Red Sox, whose president called the Yankees “the evil empire.”  But, after agreeing to a trade in a game of $172 million salary chicken, the Red Sox chickened out. 

Periodically you can beat the New York Yankees.  But, not when it comes to spending money.

In Boston, it‘s been happening this way for a while.  The Red Sox were baseball‘s dynasty then, they had just won four of the previous six World Series. Then, they sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees.  The Yankees have won 26 World Series since, and the Red Sox just watching. 

The Yankees beat the Red Sox on a pennant winning homer by an obscure shortstop named Bucky Dent in 1978, then they beat them again on a pennant winning homer by an obscure third baseman named Aaron Boone, last October. 

Then a month ago today, Boone ripped up his knee in a pickup basketball game, putting himself out for the season with an injury.  The Yankees needed a new third baseman and only the Yankees would replace an Aaron Boone with the most expensive player in baseball history.  The Red Sox dreamed of Rodriguez, the Yankees turned to him as a second choice.  It‘s like crashing your 1976 AMC Pacer and going out and buying a Lamborghini. 

Now they add Rodriguez, whom they will pay about $16 million a season, more than what the Montreal Expos will pay all their players this season.  And, just to make it worse, after 85 years of complaining that their hearts have been broken by the Yankees, Red Sox fans learned of this on Valentine‘s Day. 

They must content themselves now with the thought that Rodriguez, as numerologically superstitious as any other athlete, cannot wear his favorite uniform number—No. 3 -- for the Yankees.  The Yankees have retired it.  That was Babe Ruth‘s number, you know, the other guy they stole from the Red Sox. 

This was the fifth story on Monday's 'Countdown with Keith Olbermann.' Countdown airs weeknights, 8 p.m. ET


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