Despite Sox' insistence that A-Rod exchange is 'dead,' shortstop and his agent remain hopeful of deal
NEW YORK -- Even in the midst of angry pronouncements that the deal that would have put him in a Red Sox uniform was now "dead" -- Sox CEO Larry Lucchino's word -- Alex Rodriguez left open the possibility it still could happen, a position supported by his agent, Scott Boras, Texas general manager John Hart, and other parties with direct knowledge of the talks between the Sox and Rangers.
One of those sources involved in the talks said last night he thought a deal could be reached by today.
"Maybe this is not the end -- who knows?" said Rodriguez, who said he spent much of the day yesterday trying not to be preoccupied with the tumult resulting from the union's rejection of the restructuring of his contract, which he'd agreed upon with Red Sox GM Theo Epstein at 3 a.m. Tuesday.
Boras said last night he was still talking with union officials and Texas owner Tom Hicks about a possible compromise solution that would allow the deal, which would have sent Sox outfielder Manny Ramirez and pitching prospect Jon Lester to the Rangers for Rodriguez, a six-time All-Star whose 10-year, $252 million contract is the largest in sports, to proceed. If that happens, the Sox are expected to send five-time All-Star shortstop Nomar Garciaparra to the Chicago White Sox for slugging outfielder Magglio Ordonez, who would replace Ramirez in left field.
"We know a great deal more than we knew three days ago, because we've worked through this process," Boras said last night from the same hotel in which Rodriguez was staying.
"Remember that Tom Hicks has a contract with Alex Rodriguez, and if Tom Hicks can work something out with Alex that meets the approval of the union, and Tom Hicks and the Boston Red Sox can work something out, then a trade is still possible."
Baseball commissioner Bud Selig, whom sources described as furious at the union's position, pulled the plug on negotiations yesterday when no agreement was reached between the teams by the 5 p.m. deadline he had set, primarily because the union had quashed the Sox' restructuring proposal, and the Sox had subsequently rejected a union counterproposal.
Neither side made a new restructuring proposal yesterday.
"I have terminated my permission for Boston and Alex Rodriguez to continue pursuing this transaction at this time," Selig said in a statement, which also contained a sharp criticism of the union from Bob DuPuy, MLB's chief operating officer, who termed it "unfortunate that the Players Association felt it necessary to take a legal position which prevented the player and at least two teams from effectuating an agreement that they felt was beneficial."
A high-ranking baseball official said Selig was adamant that all parties involved cease discussions, which appeared contrary to what Boras said was taking place.
Within an hour after Selig's statement, the Red Sox also released a statement from Lucchino, a longtime adversary of the union, in which he insisted the Sox were ending their pursuit of Rodriguez, widely considered the best all-around player in the game.
"The proposed trade between the Boston Red Sox and the Texas Rangers is dead," Lucchino said. "The Players Association's intransigence and the arbitrary nature of its action are responsible for the deal's demise today. Reports that negotiations are continuing and shall continue are inaccurate."
But several industry sources said Lucchino's statement was designed to place pressure on both the union and Hicks, since Rodriguez wants to be traded to the Red Sox, and Hicks needs to get out from the huge contract and knows he'd be facing a public relations disaster to bring Rodriguez back to Texas.
Gene Orza, the associate general counsel of the Players Association who had rejected the restructured contract proposal because it violated, in the union's view, the collective bargaining agreement -- which stipulates that a player's contract cannot be reworked unless there's an added value to the player -- did not back down from that stance last night.
He was pointed in his criticism of Lucchino.
"I've known Larry a long, long time," Orza said on ESPN News. "It's gratifying to read in the newspapers how deeply concerned he is with the players' welfare, as opposed to me, who's only been representing them for 19 years. Be that as it may, we're always willing to listen if a reasonable proposition comes along that does not cross the line from restructuring to reduction, but they have so far suggested to me that the Red Sox are [only] interested in a massive reduction of Alex's contract."
According to sources, Rodriguez was willing to reduce the value of his contract by $29 million, in exchange for some other concessions. In the union's counterproposal, Rodriguez offered to reduce salaries in his contract by $12 million in exchange for increased marketing and logo use rights, according to Boras. That wasn't enough to satisfy the Red Sox, who were facing a demand from Hicks to pay $25 million of Ramirez's contract as a condition of the trade.
But what of Rodriguez's professed desire to play for the Red Sox, which he expressed directly to Selig at the outset of this process, according to a baseball official?
"We, in fact, do credit, in some value, the fact that a player wants to move from location A to location B," Orza said. "But what the Red Sox did was they took a very important contract that benefits all the players, setting a mark, setting a standard, and then tried to emaciate it. And they played on Alex's desire to go from Texas to Boston as being the basis upon which the union would approve it. They miscalculated.
"Unions have always been looked at as the bad guys. We're not in the business of being popular or making friends. We are in the business to protect the interests of our members as they define their interests."
According to a union spokesman, a small group of Red Sox fans gathered outside union headquarters to protest the union's actions.
But perhaps the fans' anger will be fleeting. Last night, the Rangers maintained there was still some hope of a deal.
"There is a likelihood the deal is dead," Hart said. "But at the same time, we haven't issued a statement that it's completely dead."
Material from Associated Press was used in this report.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.