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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
"What are you talking about?" Rodriguez said in reply.
"The batters, they see you."
The conversation continued, and on the surface Alex accepted the critique. Behind the scenes, however, he was enraged at being scrutinized by anyone in his clubhouse. But he didn't change his ways. "He talks about how pressure in Texas made him do certain things," one former Ranger says of Alex, who would later blame his steroid use in Texas on the expectations he felt because of his record-breaking contract. "Well, plenty of guys have faced pressure without undermining their own teams."
Often the pressure on Alex was self-induced. On April 6, 2001, nine days before he was to visit Seattle for the first time since he had dumped the Mariners, a letter addressed to officials at Boeing, which was contemplating a move of its base of operations from Seattle to Chicago or Dallas, was published in business journals. "I moved to Dallas--Fort Worth to improve my future," the letter began, "so should you." It was signed, "Alex Rodriguez."
The letter was a clever promotion for Dallas, but it incensed many Seattle fans, who didn't need much to stoke their A-Rod animus. "I don't care what comes out of their mouths," Alex said. "I still love them."
The feeling was not mutual. Alex arrived in Seattle on April 15 and was greeted graciously—at first. When he went out for dinner that night, he braced himself for boos that never came. But when he walked onto Safeco Field the next day, the retractable roof was open as wide as the cranks and pulleys allowed. "Alex doesn't like to hit with the roof open," Mariners president Chuck Armstrong told reporters earlier that week. "If we can possibly leave it open, we'll leave it open."
Alex slept fitfully the night before the game and talked to Fannin several times the next day. When Rodriguez's name was announced in the first inning, it was greeted with a cascade of boos ... and thousands of counterfeit bills that fluttered down to the field from the upper balconies. It appeared that every stack of Monopoly money within 30 miles of Safeco Field had been tossed his way. Signs written in Magic Marker, crayon and craft paint were flashed from the seats: ALEX, BUY ME A HOUSE AND WHO LET THE DOG IN? and A-FRAUD.
After the game Alex tried to laugh off the boos, but they seemed to have affected him at the plate. In that three-game series in Seattle, he went 3 for 12 with two strikeouts and one RBI. The Mariners won two of three and led the AL West with an 11--4 record. The Rangers were second at 8--8, but they would go on to lose 20 of their next 26 games.
Not even A-Rod could lure people to watch a team this bad. As the Rangers' team ERA ballooned to a league-worst 6.38, fans turned their attention to the upcoming Cowboys season and local TV ratings slid. Johnny Oates resigned as manager after the first month. Alex shook off his slow start in mid-May and got his average up to .308, but skeptics delighted in pointing out that he was only .260 with runners in scoring position at that point in the season.
On June 8 the Rangers were 27 games behind the first-place Mariners and getting pounded on the field and in the papers. Thomas Boswell of The Washington Post called the Rangers' lone-star plan built around A-Rod "idiocy." Jack Curry of The New York Times wrote, "This is the home of the Texas Rangers, the team that can't. Can't win, can't pitch and can't fathom how a season that they thought would be exciting, perhaps memorable, has been a disaster. Can't believe this debacle happened after they signed Alex Rodriguez for 10 years, for $252 million."