A-Rod has a great season, but Rangers still finish last

Monday, October 8th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) _ Alex Rodriguez couldn't do it all by himself.

Even though the All-Star shortstop put up MVP-type numbers in the first season of his record $252 million, 10-year contract, the Texas Rangers finished last in the AL West for the second straight year.

Texas was 73-89 and 43 games behind Seattle, A-Rod's former team, even though he played in all 162 games and hit .318 with an AL-leading 52 homers and 133 runs scored.

``I didn't expect anything less than what he's done. He's gone out and played every day and been productive,'' said teammate Rafael Palmeiro, who tied a career high with 47 homers. ``He's all that's been advertised.''

The problem was that Rodriguez didn't pitch.

While the Rangers got the biggest free agent available last winter, there weren't any significant additions to a staff that was already the worst in the majors _ and still is.

The Rangers had a 5.71 ERA, the worst in the majors. They allowed more hits (1,670) and runs (968) than any other team, and only Colorado (239) gave up more the 222 homers hit off Texas pitchers.

The season has already led to the firing of general manager Doug Melvin, the architect of Texas' only three division championship teams (1996, '98 and '99) his job.

``My concern is we as an organization have not done what we need to do as an organization as far as drafting, trading and developing young players, especially pitchers,'' owner Tom Hicks said.

Hicks' new GM needs only to take note of Oakland and Houston, playoff teams this year with young, homegrown pitchers. Hicks wants a top-to-bottom evaluation of the entire organization from his new GM, which could lead to some drastic changes.

Manager Jerry Narron's status will be determined by the new GM. The Rangers were 62-72 under Narron, who took over when Johnny Oates resigned under pressure May 4 after an 11-17 start.

Narron was given a two-year contract extension through the 2003 season about a month after he first replaced Oates.

Not even 10-time All-Star catcher Ivan Rodriguez is a certainty any more.

Rodriguez hasn't even finished the last two seasons because of injuries, this year because of surgery for tendinitis in his left knee after hitting .308 with 25 homers and 65 RBIs in 111 games. He could become a free agent after next season.

Rodriguez's agent indicated that he will seek up to $20 million a year for his client, who has caught almost 1,300 games and turns 30 next month.

When Alex Rodriguez was signed last winter, the Rangers never anticipated going into a rebuilding mode midway through his first season. But their fate was sealed early with their bad start and Seattle's record-setting run.

``We've been eliminated after the first week of spring training with the way Seattle got started,'' A-Rod said. ``We're going to win here, it's just a matter of time. We are getting our stuff together.''

Rookie second baseman Michael Young, who Rodriguez took under his wing along with other young players, became an everyday player. He responded by hitting .247 with 11 homers and 49 RBIs in 106 games, with just eight fielding errors.

Rookie first baseman Carlos Pena got extended time after his September callup, and hit .268 with three homers and 12 RBIs in 56 at-bats.

``Last year, we were going into reverse into the off-season,'' Palmeiro said. ``This year, we're going forward again. We are going in the right direction. We've got young players in place, we've got some young talent.''

Pena has a good chance to play all of next season. Then the Rangers could continue splitting the 37-year-old Palmeiro between first and designated hitter in an effort to extend the slugger's career.

When the Rangers released Ken Caminiti in July, Mike Lamb returned to third base, where he made 33 errors as a rookie the previous year. He made 17 more errors, but hit .306 over 278 at-bats.

Utility player Frank Catalanotto became an everyday outfielder because of a series of injuries, and was fifth in the AL in batting at .330. He was second in the league before ending the season with a 5-for-27 slide.

There was some promising pitching from Doug Davis (11-9, 4.60 ERA) in his second season and Jeff Zimmerman, who took over the closer's role when Tim Crabtree tore a rotator cuff. Zimmerman had 27 saves, including a team-record 17 conversions in a row to end the season.

No. 1 starter Ricky Helling (12-11, 5.17) avoided his first losing record in four seasons with the Rangers by bouncing back from a 1-6 start.