SI Flashback: Hello, New York
By agreeing to move to third base, Alex Rodriguez got out of Texas and into pinstripes as the Yankees pulled off another blockbuster
Posted: Thursday November 15, 2007 1:08PM; Updated: Thursday November 15, 2007 3:30PM
Issue date: February 23, 2004
Once upon a time, Mrs. O'Leary left a lantern too close to her cow, five burglars broke into a Watergate office, and Aaron Boone decided to play a little pickup basketball. History, Voltaire observed, is little else than a picture of human crimes and misfortunes. Over the coming years the exact details are to be revealed as to how the misfortune of Boone, the New York Yankees third baseman who blew out his left knee in a Jan. 16 hoops dalliance, will alter baseball history, especially the raging neo-Peloponnesian War between the Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. But altered it shall be.
When Boone went down, the Yankees needed a third baseman, and when the Yankees needed a third baseman, Texas Rangers shortstop Alex Rodriguez reconsidered his objection to playing third base. And when Rodriguez reconsidered, the Yankees succeeded in less than 72 hours where the Red Sox had failed for five constipated weeks earlier this winter, swinging an unprecedented trade over the weekend for a reigning MVP who also is the game's best all-around player.
Boone, mind you, is the same chap who four months ago hit the 11th-inning home run that ended Game 7 of the American League Championship Series and Boston's season. Now this A-Rod business. In the annals of New England oral history he will forever be referred to as Aaron Bleeping Boone. "I only wish to God," one Red Sox official bemoaned after the trade, "that Aaron Boone never picked up a basketball."
With Rodriguez, the Yankees become the Beatles of baseball, such is their talent and global star power. They open camp this week with 17 All-Stars, including seven regulars who have won an MVP award or finished among the top seven in the voting, and four of the eight players in baseball history who signed a contract worth more than $100 million (Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Jason Giambi and Kevin Brown). The teams chasing this club can only hope that the mass of New York's stars is so great that it collapses inward like a black hole.
How, for instance, will Rodriguez, 28, and Jeter, 29, coexist? Both are signed through 2009 with no-trade clauses; the superior defender of the two, Rodriguez, will play out of position; and their friendship has been strained since A-Rod's critical comments about Jeter in an '01 magazine interview. "Everybody knows their best lineup would be A-Rod at short and Jeter at second," one American League manager says, "but it won't happen because it's Jeter's team."
As of Sunday night Rodriguez had not spoken to Jeter about the trade, but as for deferring to the Yankees shortstop and moving to third base, A-Rod says, "I don't see it as a big deal at all. I look at it as a new challenge. I won two Gold Gloves and an MVP at shortstop. I thought I achieved just about everything personally at shortstop. Now it's time to win. I've always thought of myself as a team player. Playing third base is the ultimate team move."