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Deal doesn't get done

Hicks: Rodriguez trade 'totally dead'

The Alex Rodriguez trade is "totally, totally dead," Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks said yesterday, ending weeks of protracted negotiations with the Red Sox on what would have been the most monumental trade in the history of the game.

 

"Alex Rodriguez will be our starting shortstop on Opening Day 2004," Hicks said.

Hicks, who had set a 5 p.m. deadline for cutting a deal with the Red Sox, said two conversations yesterday with Red Sox principal owner John W. Henry failed to produce an agreement. Hicks said Henry informed him the Sox would not give him the $15 million the Rangers owner was demanding as part of the deal, in addition to All-Star outfielder Manny Ramirez and pitching prospect Jon Lester.

"I talked to John, who said that without serious concessions from the Players Association, he was not in a position to negotiate at all," Hicks said by phone from his office in Texas last night. "It was very easy to see we were too far apart. We agreed it was too big a gulf to bridge, and we decided to call it off." Rodriguez told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, "I just wanted it to end. It's been a challenging process for me. It's been a difficult process for me and my family. Now I just want to enjoy Christmas."Henry did not immediately respond last night to an e-mail asking for comment. The Rangers and Sox issued statements after the passing of yesterday's deadline, Hicks saying that the time had come for the Rangers to "look forward to the 2004 season with Alex Rodriguez as our shortstop and team leader."According to the Dallas Morning News, Hicks also sent a letter to season-ticket holders echoing that the deadline was final, saying he planned to build a team around Rodriguez. "When Alex signed to play for the Texas Rangers, we felt privileged to have the best player in baseball as part of our team," the letter said. "We believed we could build a championship caliber team around Alex. That sentiment has not changed, nor has the commitment."

The Sox' statement was more muted, though Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino had declared the deal dead Thursday, after union lawyer Gene Orza rejected a $28 million reduction in Rodriguez's contract -- the value of the remaining seven years on his deal would have gone to $151.5 million from $179.5 million. The union said the reduction violated the collective bargaining agreement because it did not demonstrate a sufficient added benefit to the player. The Red Sox rejected a counterproposal from the union that would have reduced the contract by $13 million.

"There is nothing further to report relating to the consummation of a transaction between the Boston Red Sox and the Texas Rangers involving Alex Rodriguez," said the Red Sox statement. "No further discussions regarding this transaction are planned."

Hicks, who talked at the end of last week with Sox chairman Tom Werner, thought there was potential for compromise, but those hopes were dashed yesterday by Henry.

The Rangers' position from the start, Hicks said, was consistent: The team would not trade Rodriguez unless cash was part of the deal so it could upgrade its pitching staff. Early in the negotiations, Hicks said, the Rangers asked for pitcher Derek Lowe, but the Sox immediately rejected that proposal.

"I told [Henry] what we needed to have in order to make this deal workable for us," Hicks said of the demand for cash. "But that was really academic, because John said they couldn't get past the first point [the rejected restructuring]."

The breakdown of the deal was a stunning development, inasmuch as the futures of five All-Stars -- Rodriguez, Ramirez, Nomar Garciaparra, Scott Williamson, and Magglio Ordonez -- were hanging in the balance. Had the trade gone through, the Red Sox were poised to send Garciaparra and Williamson to the White Sox for Ordonez.

"The reason I set a deadline in the first place was so everybody -- the Rangers, Boston, the Players Association, the fans, everybody -- would be able to go on and do whatever they were going to do," Hicks said. "We made a decision to call an end to it."

Even after the deadline had passed, a high-level executive in Major League Baseball had held out the possibility an agreement could be reached. "I think there's some hope," he said. "I don't know how much. Is it over for sure? I would not say that. Is there going to be a deal? I wouldn't say that, either. I honestly can't tell you what will happen, but there were a lot of things talked about between the teams [yesterday], and they need to sort those things out.

"Which way is it going to go? I don't know."

But a baseball lawyer with direct knowledge of the proceedings was more pessimistic, saying that whatever hope of getting a deal done was damaged perhaps beyond repair when Orza rejected a restructuring of Rodriguez's contract.

"I don't think this is going to happen," the lawyer said. "If I had to write why in one sentence, I'd say, `Everybody thought the other guy should have done more.' My sense of Tom Hicks right now is he can't be leaving his best player hanging out there. The only thing worse than everybody going back to their teams is having your best player out there."

In the absence of a deal, Rodriguez, the American League's Most Valuable Player in 2003, will stay in Texas, and Ramirez will remain the Red Sox left fielder. Already twice in this offseason, the Sox have attempted to unload Ramirez, first by placing him on waivers right after the season, with any team able to pick up his contract for a $20,000 waiver claim. All teams passed.

The Red Sox are now in the position of needing to repair relations with Garciaparra, whose agent last week said Boston's pursuit of Rodriguez was a "slap in the face." Garciaparra has maintained that he would like to sign a contract extension with the Red Sox, though he turned down a four-year, $60 million offer last spring. Garciaparra is eligible for free agency after the season.

Reached last night in Miami, Cynthia Rodriguez, the player's wife who has numerous relatives living in the Lowell area, spoke about the deal. Her husband, she said, was on a personal errand and she was uncertain whether he wanted to comment at this time.

"The truth is," she said, "Tom Hicks was extremely responsible. He tried and tried to get this deal done. He had Alex's best interests at heart. This was hard for him. He and Alex have a great relationship. We're proud of him. We're proud that Alex plays for him.

"Boston, I'm not sure about how much they wanted to do a deal in the end. They had a pretty good situation. Tom Hicks bent over backwards and Alex bent over backwards to get this done, but in the end Boston didn't make the call. What happened today, I don't know if anything better could have happened for the Red Sox than what happened today. Tom Hicks gave 80 percent, Alex gave 80 percent, we were looking for the Red Sox to give 10 percent.

"We're going back to Texas, happy about it. We're very proud of ownership in Texas. Tom proved to be a very righteous person. Alex is very happy."

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