Introduction: A-Rod 'overwhelmed, honored'
NEW YORK -- When Alex Rodriguez put on the pinstripes for the first time, his shoulders stooped, perhaps feeling the weight of all that tradition on his broad back.
Flashbulbs popped. Cable news networks went live. And Rodriguez was introduced Tuesday with Derek Jeter, Joe Torre and Reggie Jackson at his side. The manager even took a moment to adjust Rodriguez's new Yankees cap to show more of his smiling face for the cameras.
Start spreading the news: Rodriguez is the new star in town.
|All-time leaders in home runs through the age of 27:|
|Ken Griffey Jr.||294|
"Wow! What a reception," he said at the Yankee Stadium news conference before going to City Hall to meet Mayor Michael Bloomberg. "I still feel like someone's going to pinch me and wake me up."
He repeatedly deferred to Jeter, the Yankees' captain and shortstop, a stark contrast to Jackson, who arrived before the 1977 season and proclaimed he was the "straw that stirs the drink," a slap at Thurman Munson.
Rodriguez is seemingly happy to move to third from shortstop, the position he played in Seattle and Texas. The reigning American League MVP, who was born in Manhattan, wasn't about to stir up anything, especially on his first full day with the team.
All media hype, Rodriguez and Jeter insisted.
"Derek has four world championships and I want him to have 10. That's what this is all about," Rodriguez said.
Yankees owner George Steinbrenner watched on television from the team's minor league complex in Tampa, Fla. Asked where the acquisition ranked for him, Steinbrenner said: "Probably right up there with Reggie. I'm not going to say No. 2. How can you argue when you get arguably the best player in baseball?"
Jackson believes there will be plenty of room for all the egos in the clubhouse. But Jackson, like all Yankees fans, knows Rodriguez could be just an 0-for-4 or error away from angering Steinbrenner.
"If he doesn't do his thing, he'll have to deal with George," Jackson said.
Jeter dubbed the new pairing the "dynamic duo" and called Rodriguez "arguably the best player in baseball."
"I think we're going to make a great tag team over there,"' Rodriguez said.
Much has been made of Rodriguez's criticism of Jeter in an Esquire interview three years ago, when he questioned the Yankee captain's leadership. Both tried to put any controversy behind them, with Jeter saying it was like a spat between brothers. If the pair are as slick on the field as they were at the microphones Tuesday, the Yankees should be in great shape for years to come.
"Everyone wants us to not get along, but that's not the case," Jeter said. "Our relationship is fine."
Jeter and Rodriguez traveled together from Tampa to New York on Monday after the trade from Texas was finalized. Rodriguez told Jeter he was willing to move to third -- possibly costing him a chance at the home-run record for shortstops. Rodriguez has 344, one shy of Cal Ripken.
"I told Derek, 'I'm going to stick close to you, ask your advice on many issues. I need your support and mentorship,"' Rodriguez recalled.
Rodriguez grew tired of being the center of attention with the Rangers, who signed him to a $252 million, 10-year contract in December 2000. To get out of Texas, Rodriguez agreed to switch positions.
"I look at third base as a challenge and an opportunity," Rodriguez said.
The first reigning MVP to be traded, Rodriguez is a two-time Gold Glove shortstop, perhaps better at the position than Jeter.
"Derek, being the leader of the team, he does it with elegance and class and grace, " Rodriguez said. "I'm here to assist him, be one of the guys."
He met with Torre and other Yankees officials Tuesday morning at the Regency Hotel, the site of New York's traditional power breakfasts. The manager said he wanted Jeter to stay at shortstop.
"There are things that go beyond ability," Torre said. "There's something special about Derek Jeter, who doesn't hit 20 home runs, doesn't knock in 100 runs, doesn't steal 30 bases. But it's something that you can't put down on paper, and that's my job to have a feel for that."
Rodriguez was counted on in Texas to make the Rangers a winner. After three last-place finishes, he and the team became convinced that wouldn't happen soon, the reason the Rangers agreed to pay $67 million of the remaining $179 million he is owed. Texas also gets second baseman Alfonso Soriano and a minor leaguer to be named.
"Things change," Rodriguez said. "We gave it a heck of a try." Things didn't work out."
He's already working out for the Yankees.
New York sold 22,000 tickets Monday, raising its 2004 total to 2.3 million, 75,000 ahead of last year's pace. The Yankees have sold the equivalent of more than 24,000 season tickets, counting full and partial plans.
Jeter, never one to look too far ahead, seemed amused by Rodriguez's goal of giving him a World Series ring for each finger. After coming up short the last three years, he knows what can happen.
"Let's work on five first," he said.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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