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Soriano steals Texas show

7/14/2004

HOUSTON -- Now the Texas Rangers can say they traded an MVP for an MVP.

Alfonso Soriano was the other guy in the deal that sent Alex Rodriguez to the New York Yankees last winter. On Tuesday night, Soriano became the star of the All-Star game, hitting a three-run homer off Roger Clemens in the first inning and earning the Most Valuable Player award in the American League's 9-4 win.

"I feel a little sorry because he's been nice to me all the time," said Soriano, Clemens' former teammate on the Yankees.

Because of the trade, A-Rod and Soriano will be forever linked,
their performances compared, a modern day Ted Williams and Joe
DiMaggio.

Soriano, a three-time All-Star at age 28, hit .289 with 17
homers and 55 RBIs in the first half, helping the surprising
Rangers take a two-game lead in the AL West after three years of
last-place finishes with A-Rod.

Rodriguez, an eight-time All-Star and the 2003 AL MVP, hit .270
for the AL East-leading Yankees with a team-high 22 homers, 58 RBIs
and 18 steals -- fine numbers, but below the even higher
expectations he created for himself. He was 1-for-3 with an RBI
triple Tuesday night.

"I think he's doing his job with the Yankees and I'm doing my
job in Texas," Soriano said. "I'm happy for him, but happy for
me, too."

Soriano's 343-foot shot off Clemens was his second All-Star
homer following a drive off Dodgers closer Eric Gagne two years
ago. It sailed over the "This One Counts" banner hanging over the
out-of-town scoreboard on the short porch in left field and gave
the AL a 6-0 lead.

He followed that with a third-inning single and a fifth-inning
strikeout, going 2-for-3. He also made a nice pickup on Sammy
Sosa's third-inning grounder to second.

"I've seen him do it for several years," said former Yankees
teammate Derek Jeter, who knows a star when he sees one.

Surrounded by his friends, Soriano felt as if he was back in the
Bronx.

"I feel tonight, honest, like I'm coming back to play for the
Yankees," he said, "Having Joe Torre (as) manager, Jeter at
short, (Jason) Giambi at first."

Socks stretched up high and always ready with a big grin,
Soriano was a hit with the Yankees. His homer in Game 7 of the 2001
World Series put Clemens in position to win before Arizona rallied
in the ninth. But for all of Soriano's neat feats in New York, fans
dwelled on his postseason last October, when he hit .206 with one
homer, nine RBIs and a record 26 strikeouts in 68 at-bats.

When the opportunity arose in February to acquire Rodriguez, New
York pounced and sent Soriano to the Rangers.

"I think it was a great trade for Sori because I think the
people in New York lost sight of how inexperienced he is," Torre
said. "So I think it was an opportunity for him to get out, and he
seems to have a smile on his face all the time."

Fans around the nation responded to Soriano's performance this
season by giving him the most votes in balloting for the starting
lineup, 3.47 million. And he rewarded them, becoming the first top
vote-getter to earn the MVP award since fan balloting resumed in
1970.

He's only the fourth second baseman to win it, following Joe
Morgan (1972), Julio Franco (1990) and Roberto Alomar (1998). After
receiving the trophy from commissioner Bud Selig, Soriano went
straight to the interview room and beamed as his mother looked on
from a front-row seat.

"Everything is for her," he said.

The Hall of Fame grabbed his jersey, putting a part of him in
Cooperstown. And then attention turned to October.

With the Yankees and Rangers both atop their divisions, Texas
could have the chance to knock the Yankees out of the postseason in
another matchup that would put Soriano and Rodriguez in the
spotlight.

"We have to make the playoffs first," Soriano said.