NEW YORK -- When Alex Rodriguez put on the pinstripes for
the first time, his shoulders stooped, perhaps feeling the weight
of all that tradition on his broad back.
Flashbulbs popped. Cable news networks went live. And Rodriguez
was introduced Tuesday with Derek Jeter, Joe Torre and Reggie
Jackson at his side. The manager even took a moment to adjust
Rodriguez's new Yankees cap to show more of his smiling face for
Start spreading the news: Rodriguez is the new star in town.
"Wow! What a reception," he said at the Yankee Stadium news
conference before going to City Hall to meet Mayor Michael
Bloomberg. "I still feel like someone's going to pinch me and wake
He repeatedly deferred to Jeter, the Yankees' captain and
shortstop, a stark contrast to Jackson, who arrived before the 1977
season and proclaimed he was the "straw that stirs the drink," a
slap at Thurman Munson.
Rodriguez is seemingly happy to move to third from shortstop,
the position he played in Seattle and Texas. The reigning American
League MVP, who was born in Manhattan, wasn't about to stir up
anything, especially on his first full day with the team.
All media hype, Rodriguez and Jeter insisted.
"Derek has four world championships and I want him to have 10.
That's what this is all about," Rodriguez said.
Yankees owner George Steinbrenner watched on television from the
team's minor league complex in Tampa, Fla. Asked where the
acquisition ranked for him, Steinbrenner said: "Probably right up
there with Reggie. I'm not going to say No. 2. How can you argue
when you get arguably the best player in baseball?"
Jackson believes there will be plenty of room for all the egos
in the clubhouse. But Jackson, like all Yankees fans, knows
Rodriguez could be just an 0-for-4 or error away from angering
"If he doesn't do his thing, he'll have to deal with George,"
Jeter dubbed the new pairing the "dynamic duo" and called
Rodriguez "arguably the best player in baseball."
"I think we're going to make a great tag team over there,"'
Much has been made of Rodriguez's criticism of Jeter in an
Esquire interview three years ago, when he questioned the Yankee
captain's leadership. Both tried to put any controversy behind
them, with Jeter saying it was like a spat between brothers. If the
pair are as slick on the field as they were at the microphones
Tuesday, the Yankees should be in great shape for years to come.
"Everyone wants us to not get along, but that's not the case,"
Jeter said. "Our relationship is fine."
Jeter and Rodriguez traveled together from Tampa to New York on
Monday after the trade from Texas was finalized. Rodriguez told
Jeter he was willing to move to third -- possibly costing him a
chance at the home-run record for shortstops. Rodriguez has 344,
one shy of Cal Ripken.
"I told Derek, 'I'm going to stick close to you, ask your
advice on many issues. I need your support and mentorship,"'
Rodriguez grew tired of being the center of attention with the
Rangers, who signed him to a $252 million, 10-year contract in
December 2000. To get out of Texas, Rodriguez agreed to switch
"I look at third base as a challenge and an opportunity,"
The first reigning MVP to be traded, Rodriguez is a two-time
Gold Glove shortstop, perhaps better at the position than Jeter.
"Derek, being the leader of the team, he does it with elegance
and class and grace, " Rodriguez said. "I'm here to assist him,
be one of the guys."
He met with Torre and other Yankees officials Tuesday morning at
the Regency Hotel, the site of New York's traditional power
breakfasts. The manager said he wanted Jeter to stay at shortstop.
"There are things that go beyond ability," Torre said.
"There's something special about Derek Jeter, who doesn't hit 20
home runs, doesn't knock in 100 runs, doesn't steal 30 bases. But
it's something that you can't put down on paper, and that's my job
to have a feel for that."
Rodriguez was counted on in Texas to make the Rangers a winner.
After three last-place finishes, he and the team became convinced
that wouldn't happen soon, the reason the Rangers agreed to pay $67
million of the remaining $179 million he is owed. Texas also gets second
baseman Alfonso Soriano and a minor leaguer to be named.
"Things change," Rodriguez said. "We gave it a heck of a
try." Things didn't work out."
He's already working out for the Yankees.
New York sold 22,000 tickets Monday, raising its 2004 total to
2.3 million, 75,000 ahead of last year's pace. The Yankees have
sold the equivalent of more than 24,000 season tickets, counting
full and partial plans.
Jeter, never one to look too far ahead, seemed amused by
Rodriguez's goal of giving him a World Series ring for each finger.
After coming up short the last three years, he knows what can
"Let's work on five first," he said.