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Rodriguez did not have have much enthusiasm for suitors Colorado, Baltimore and the White Sox, none of whom had been consistently successful teams. Atlanta showed interest, but not enough to give him a no-trade clause. That left Texas, which had won three American League West titles in the previous five years, and Hicks, who wowed Rodriguez with his swagger and his money. Critics rushed to compare Rodriguez's contract with the one the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves gave Kevin Garnett, which was regarded as so over-the-top that it triggered the lockout that led to a salary cap.
"People get sticker shock from the 252," Hicks says. "Alex is being paid $21 million this year. If you compare him to other people getting 20, 19 and 18, there's no comparison at all. We couldn't be happier with Alex. Listen, they wanted to do a three- or four-year deal. I gave him 10 years because I want him here that long. We have the luxury of building a team around the best player in baseball."
Rodriguez has an out clause after the 2007 season, when he will be 32. That puts Hicks's guaranteed investment at seven years and $171 million—hardly cause for sticker shock when compared with the $189 million the Yankees gave Derek Jeter (over 10 years) and the $160 million the Red Sox gave Manny Ramirez (eight years).
Meanwhile, Rodriguez tries to impose his will upon a flawed team. He frequently and forcefully scolds second baseman Michael Young and rookie outfielder Kevin Mench for impatience at the plate. Last Thursday, Mench began a two-out winning rally against Baltimore with a well-earned single. Rodriguez hugged him after the game, saying, "You won the game for us." Only the night before, Rodriguez delicately chided Everett for bunting with two strikes, no outs and a runner at second. Everett, who had been riding a hot streak, struck out. "If I was swinging the bat like you," he told Everett, "I'd like to hit there."
"He's much more outspoken this year," Young says. "There's no doubt this is his team."
When Rodriguez opens the door to his bedroom's walk-in closet, it's immediately clear that his wardrobe resembles his game. It is short on flash, long on polish. Rows and rows of dark, understated suits and crisp dress shirts hang in perfect order, set off against honey-colored wood paneling, approximating an Armani boutique. Polo shirts are stacked on shelves in neat rectangles like giant decks of cards.
"It's his one vice," his fianc�e, Cynthia Scurtis, says of his clothes. "He used to be much worse until I made him aware of it. He at least thinks before he buys something now."
A Chagall oil painting hangs over the bedroom fireplace. The house has a warm, neoclassical feel, with wool rugs, gold and burgundy upholstered furnishings and French country pine. Rodriguez spent hours with an interior designer choosing colors and fabrics for every room in the house. Pointing to the yellow wallpaper of a guest bath, Rodriguez says, "It matches the [guest] bedroom, the way I wanted it." Only behind the closed double doors of his office, where baseball memorabilia and awards fill shelves and wall space, is there any evidence that the best player in baseball lives here.
Eddy believes Alex might hit 60 home runs this season (his career high is 52, last year), including the 300th of his career. (He ended the week with 289.) He believes Alex eventually might hit 800.
"I can't get caught up in numbers," Rodriguez says. "As soon as I do that, I lose focus. My focus is on winning. I feel I have an incredible responsibility to Tom Hicks and the Texas Rangers. I'm consumed with that 24/7."