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O's GM MacPhail Says Alex Rodriguez Was Worst Free Agent Signing Ever

Unsolicited, Orioles GM Andy MacPhail offered his choice Thursday night for the worst free-agent signing, ever. Two of my favorite candidates are Barry Zito and Mike Hampton, but that's just a start. You know, guys who were signed to mega-deals and simply didn't perform well, at all.

MacPhail has someone else in mind ...

"Alex Rodriguez to Texas was the worst signing in the history of baseball in my view," MacPhail said, according to The Baltimore Sun. "Why? Because he played as well as you can possibly ask the kid to play. He had great years. And the needle didn't move at all. ... The team didn't improve. Attendance didn't go up. But hey, they got the lead story on ESPN. Well, if that's what motivates you, you're going down the wrong path. You want to put 35,000 people in the ballpark, win the games. That's what (fans) are there to see. That's what the Orioles need—to win some games."

Gee, Andy. You had me right up until the end there.

I wasn't there. Geographically, I mean. But I'm going to guess that when the Rangers signed Alex Rodriguez, they figured 1) attendance would go up, 2) TV ratings would jump, with a corresponding increase in revenues, and 3) the club would win more games.

Somewhat bizarrely, none of those things happened.

Without Alex Rodriguez in 2000 -- and with Royce Clayton's .242/.301/.384 line at shortstop -- the Rangers won 71 games.

With Alex Rodriguez in 2001, the Rangers won 73 games. In his three seasons there, he hit 156 home runs and the Rangers averaged 72 wins per season: 73, 72, 71. That last season came after the arrival of manager Buck Showalter, who had done great things in New York and Phoenix, and would later do something great in Baltimore.

In Texas, though? He couldn't move the bar, either. Not with Alex Rodriguez in the house, anyway.

Same thing with the attendance. There was a slight bump from 2000 to 2001, but in both seasons the Rangers ranked fifth in the American League. In 2002 they dropped to sixth, and in 2003 to seventh. And that was a bad seventh, barely more than two million customers.

But wait, this story gets even better.

In 2004, the first year without Alex Rodriguez? The Rangers won 89 games and attendance jumped a full 20 percent (and yes, I know those things were probably related).

The entire affair just defies explanation. Would the Rangers have been better without A-Rod? It's hard to see how they could have been, considering how brilliantly he played. Could they have been much worse without him? That wouldn't have been easy, either.

The easy explanation is that when the Rangers had Alex Rodriguez, they also happened to have a whole mess of lousy pitchers on the roster. In 2003, for example, Texas starters combined for a nifty 6.24 ERA. Was that A-Rod's fault? Well, only to the extent that his salary might have prevented management from signing better pitchers.

But you know, in 2003 the Rangers' Opening Day payroll was just north of $100 million, leaving something like $80 million for the non-Rodriguez portion of the roster. It wouldn't be easy today, but in 2003 $80 million could get you a pretty good pitching staff.

It's not as much fun this way, I know. And yes, that contract certainly didn't work out for the Rangers. But in my mind, if you spend a lot of money on a player and he performs exactly as you'd hoped, it's your fault if all the rest of your plans don't come true.

Speaking of plans not coming true, I'm still trying to figure out how Vladimir Guerrero moves the needle. But that's just me.