ARLINGTON, Texas - Everything's bigger in Texas. So it seems fitting that Alex Rodriguez's first playoff series against his old team is being treated here as if it's almost as big as the chance for the Rangers to go to their first World Series.
A headline on a Dallas Morning News sports blog Thursday called Rodriguez a "supreme villain" and a "diva." And they say New York is a tough town.
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But A-Rod said he has "no emotion" about facing the team he played for from 2001-2003 after signing a then-record $252-million contract.
"I love it here," Rodriguez said yesterday. "The people here were good. I made it my home for three years, in-season, offseason. I've made some of my best lifelong friends in the Metroplex area, and I couldn't be more excited not only for Michael Young but for the fans in the Metroplex area and this franchise."
Will A-Rod's flowery words pacify the crowd of more than 49,000 that will pack Rangers Ballpark Friday night for Game 1 of the American League Championship Series?
Don't bet your 10-gallon hat on it. Some Rangers fans will never forgive Rodriguez for a) not delivering a winner during his three years in Texas; b) saying some unkind things on the way out the door; c) admitting he used performance-enhancing drugs during his Rangers tenure; and d) winning last year's World Series with the Yankees.
But A-Rod apparently has decided to kill his detractors with kindness. On Wednesday, he said, "They're cheering for their team. They want their team to win. I enjoy going back there. I am sure they're just being good sports about it. Look, boos are compliments. When they stop booing me, I'll be out of the game. If you are a great player, you are going to get booed everywhere you go on the road.''
Rodriguez was not a great player in the Yankees' ALDS sweep of the Twins, but they hardly needed him. He went 3-for-11 with one RBI.
Now he gets to hit in a ballpark he truly loves to rake in. Rodriguez is a lifetime .331 hitter with 97 home runs here. It's his highest home run total in any ballpark other than the old Yankee Stadium (124).
"It's obvious I like hitting in this park," he said. " . . . When you're hitting in that box, it's like golf, there's just an enormous fairway. And there's some parks where you hit like -- where the thing just looks like there's water everywhere. Every time you see a lot of green as a hitter, it feels pretty good."
He is 1-for-13 with four walks against Rangers Game 1 starter C.J. Wilson. But after five days off between games, he said, "I'm ready to go."