The King of Texas
A-Rod on stepping in, going out and getting good glovePosted: Wednesday June 11, 2003 1:25 PM
Updated: Wednesday June 11, 2003 1:25 PM
Still, Rodriguez has handled everything that has come his way -- the accolades and the criticism, both -- with a cool belying his 27 years. SI.com's John Donovan caught up with Rodriguez last week for a quick go-round on everything from his Gold Glove to the Rangers' offense to the NBA's lack of it.
SI.com: Maybe as much as any player in baseball, you are viewed as kind of unflappable in everything you do. Yet the demands on you, as maybe the best player in the game, are bigger than on most. How do you handle it all and stay so cool?
AR: I think it's just understanding people's responsibilities. I think the media has a responsibility. As long as it's done with the time and the respect, then I don't have a problem with it.
SI.com: It's not just the media, though. Fans are all over you, there are the commercial endorsements, the team responsibilities …
AR: I've gotten used to it. But I think, to me, the most important thing is the game, and what happens during the game. Everything else is secondary.
SI.com: Let's talk about the Rangers real quickly. Offensively, this is one of the better teams in baseball. Is it as good as some of the teams you played on in Seattle, with Ken Griffey Jr. and Edgar Martinez and some others? Does it compare?
AR: Yeah, it does. It has the firepower, where we can shoot three or four runs in one inning. But I think the one thing that both teams can improve on, the old Seattle and this one, is really grinding out at-bats, being more of a pesky team at times, and being more than just one-dimensional, bringing more to the table than just the home run.
SI.com: Tell me about your defense. You made a play last week against Atlanta where you dove full out up the middle, knocked a ball down, then had the presence -- while you were flat on your face, practically -- to flip the rolling ball over to Michael Young at second for the force out. You're not really known for your defense, but …
AR: I won a Gold Glove last year, so I am somewhat known for it. But, obviously, when you hit 50 home runs a year, and all that kind of stuff, and 40 home runs, people often want to talk about home runs and offense. And that's understandable, too. But I take a lot more pride in my defense than my offense. And, as a shortstop, that's something you have to bring to the table every day.
SI.com: So do you get more satisfaction out of a good dive into the hole or smacking a home run?
AR: I think, when you make a great play to save a game or something, it's obviously a lot more rewarding. You're helping out your pitching. Offensively is almost more individual. Defensively is a lot more team-oriented.
SI.com: Tell me what the best part of a game day is.
AR: I love practice. I do. I love batting practice, and I love ground balls because you're honing your skills. I think that's part of our game that is a little bit of a lost art. Everybody wants to be just a game player. But I think if you take practice seriously and you make strides every day in practice, then I think the game is going to be a lot easier. Your practice should be a lot harder than your game.
SI.com: Sounds like one of your heroes, Cal Ripken Jr. Which brings up another question. You have a streak of consecutive games going. Is Ripken's streak something you shoot for?
AR: Never. Never. That's one of those records that will never be touched. And it should never be touched. Really. With the grinding, grueling schedule, it's something that's not wise for anybody. Especially not anyone playing in the heat of Texas, or Atlanta, or something like that.
SI.com: That said, you're not taking any days off.
AR: Well, that's just because I love the game and I respect the game and, I thank God, I've been healthy enough to play. But to me, it's just about going out there and being out there every day for your teammates and your team and respecting the game. I love to play. I don't think it's to say this guy loves to play more because he's played in 300 games vs. this guy, who took a day off every 20 days. It [being an iron man] is not a big deal.
SI.com: Would you ask for a day off, then?
AR: I don't think I would ask for a day off. Maybe this year I'll take a couple of days off. Who knows? That's up to the manager.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Rodriguez injured his knee running the bases late last week and didn't start Saturday's or Sunday's games against Montreal in Puerto Rico. He pinch-hit in both games, though, and has played in 448 straight games through Tuesday, June 10. He has played in every game for the Rangers since joining the team before the 2001 season.]
SI.com: You got married this offseason. How's married life treating you?
AR: It's going great. I have a wonderful wife, of Greek background.
SI.com: Gotta ask it. A big fat Greek wedding?
AR: No. We had a nice, small, kind of American wedding. She has a psychology background, which is good. She's going for her doctorate now. She helps me out quite a bit with my hitting and my philosophies of life. Good girl.
SI.com: You think all the single women out there know you're married?
AR: I hope so. I think so. It's pretty public.
SI.com: Back to baseball. Can an MVP come from a last-place team anymore? And you know the reason I'm asking this. A lot of people thought it should have happened last year. [Rodriguez hit .300 last year, with 57 homers and 142 RBIs, but was beaten out for the American League MVP award by Oakland's Miguel Tejada.]
AR: Sure. I think so. I don't want to talk about my situation, per se. I think the Most Valuable Player just means the most valuable player to his team. In the rulebook, it doesn’t say it has to come from a first-, second- or third-place team. Or even a last-place team. The fact that there is a precedent set, that it has happened two or three times, then obviously it can happen.
SI.com: One last one. Spurs or Nets?
AR: No interest. No interest at all. I'm a Miami Heat fan, the Mavericks second. But I'm not even watching the games.