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Monday, May 10, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

Mariners
Fans can boo away: A-Rod gets last laugh

By Greg Bishop
Seattle Times staff reporter

Alex Rodriguez
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Alex Rodriguez, once a Seattle hero and now a baseball villain, explained that this weekend had very little to do with the monopoly money floating down from the cheap seats or the boos that rained from seemingly every square inch of Safeco Field.

This wasn't about Pay-Rod and his tempestuous relationship with the city he once called home. This was about A-Rod and the two wins he sparked the New York Yankees to this weekend, including a comeback yesterday that Rodriguez called "the biggest win of the year."

"On the road, I'm in enemy territory," Rodriguez said.

Still smarting over the $252 million reasons that turned Rodriguez from a Mariner into a Texas Ranger and then a Yankee, fans bombarded the newest Bronx Bomber with boos for three straight days.

They booed Rodriguez in the on-deck circle. They booed him at the plate. They booed when he smacked a home run in the top of the fourth inning yesterday. They booed until he caught the final out.

They brought signs, too. Signs that chided Rodriguez for his lack of loyalty; signs of dollars ($) everywhere. And they tossed monopoly money like fish at Pike's Place Market every time he stepped into the batter's box.

And while Rodriguez professed his love for Seattle at every turn, his actions on the field contradicted any goodwill off it.

It was Rodriguez, after all, who doubled to start a Yankees rally Saturday night, sending Gil Meche to the showers with another loss and evening this series at a game apiece.

It was Rodriguez who took the first chip at a 6-0 Mariners lead yesterday, launching a 1-0 offering from Jamie Moyer into the bullpen in left field. It was Rodriguez who scored three runs yesterday, Rodriguez who had a base hit in the sixth inning, ahead of Jason Giambi's three-run homer.

It was Rodriguez who glanced into the Yankees' dugout with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Yankees manager Joe Torre told him to move three steps toward the line. And it was Rodriguez who snagged an Ichiro line drive and sent Seattle's season spiraling out of control in the middle of May.
 
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He pointed at the dugout and some wondered if that gesture had been directed at the fans, a here's-what-all-those-boos-got-you sign of showmanship. It wasn't, Rodriguez said.

"I was pointing at Joe," he said. "He moved me about three or four steps to the line. If he doesn't do that, we're probably still playing or we wouldn't even win the game."

Weekends like this one are the reason why the Yankees took on Rodriguez's contract and shifted him from shortstop to third base. Plays like the one he ended the game with are the reason Torre can say things like he said yesterday.

"I think he's a Gold Glove third baseman already," said Torre, after Rodriguez finished his 31st game at that position. "His reaction and athleticism are so good. His quickness is remarkable."

Rodriguez shrugged when relayed the compliments from his manager. Just like he shrugged at the boos he has grown used to in Seattle.

He's getting better every day, he said, his batting average climbing, his power numbers taking a similar ascent. This isn't about Alex Rodriguez and Seattle anymore.

Just ask Public Enemy No. 1.

"My spot in the lineup?" Rodriguez said when asked if Seattle still misses him at shortstop. "I was here a long time ago. Since then, they've won (116) games and whatnot. So I think they're way over me."

Then he started talking again about the Yankees, about this season and where this game might take them. The Mariners were no longer on the Rodriguez radar screen.

And with that, he was gone again.

Greg Bishop: 206-464-3191 or gbishop@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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