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Tuesday, January 27, 2004
Rangers make Titanic gesture

By Jim Caple
ESPN.com

Fear not. We may have lost Captain Kangaroo last week but we gained Cap'n A-Rod.

Less than two months after he tried to orchestrate a trade to the Boston Red Sox, Alex Rodriguez was named the Texas Rangers team captain Sunday. The Rangers announced the captaincy at a news conference in which Rodriguez, owner Tom Hicks, general manager John Hart and manager Buck Showalter all wore tuxedos.

Buck Showalter,  Alex Rodriguez and Tom Hicks
United they once sat (from left): Showalter, Rodriguez and team owner Tom Hicks.

That's right, tuxedos. And no, I'm not making that up.

In what is already the prohibitive favorite for quote of the year, Cap'n A-Rod told reporters of his battlefield promotion: "I'm probably pretty sure it will work out for the best.''

With fightin' words like that, is there any doubt why the Rangers are putting the big letter C on his jersey?

"Guys, this game we have against Boston tonight is pretty important for us, so I just wanted to say before we take the field that I think that if we go out and give it our best, maybe we might not embarrass ourselves. Though I'm not promising anything and to be perfectly honest, I'd feel a whole lot more confident if I was playing for them instead of you. Now, let's go get them! Just don't get hurt.''

Undoubtedly, Cap'n A-Rod immediately phoned Derek Jeter upon his promotion to brag, "See? Now, I'm a captain just like you!'' But he'll find that the role of team captain comes with pluses and minuses, privileges and responsibilities.

Pluses: Cap'n A-Rod gets to choose which of the five alternate jerseys the Rangers will wear each game, along with the alternate cap. He also gets first choice of powdered wigs in kangaroo court. And he can call "shot-gun'' on the team plane.

Minuses: Nobody salutes or calls you sir and there is no officer's club. And unlike in sandlot ball, Cap'n A-Rod doesn't get to pick his own team.

Clearly, this captaincy is designed to make the best of last December's trade debacle -- the Red Sox will try to assuage their own star shortstop's feelings by promoting Nomar Garciaparra to Grand Poobah -- but I'm probably pretty sure this isn't going to make Texas fans feel any better about the player who essentially told the state that he doesn't want to play there anymore. Not that Hicks is acknowledging the absurdity of the situation. He's still too busy trying to play spin doctor.

"I assure you it's behind us," Hicks told reporters of the attempted trade. "Alex will not only be our starting shortstop on Opening Day, but our captain. With the makeup of our club, he can be a leader in every sense of the word.''

Sure, he will. After all, when a team is coming off four consecutive last-place finishes, still doesn't have enough pitching and begins to struggle yet again, who better to lead it to the promised land than the guy who spent the winter trying to abandon ship?

"O, captain, my captain! Can I get your help on something? I'm hitting .320 in a platoon role but Buck refuses to put me in there against lefties. I know I can hit them and really help the team if only I got the chance. What should I do?''

"Hmmm. That's a tough one. I'm probably pretty sure you should ask to be traded.''

"O captain, my captain! We're 18 games under .500 and 30 games out of first place and it's only May. What should we do?''

"I'm probably not the best guy to ask about these things but I'm probably pretty sure we should get rid of you to clear payroll so we can sign some decent pitchers this winter.''

"O captain, my captain! I'm in a terrible slump and was wondering whether you could help me. Do you think I'm opening my hips too quickly?''

"Well, I'm probably pretty sure you are but I can't really say for sure. Now, if you asked me about Trot Nixon's swing, I could probably help, because I've been studying him pretty extensively. You know, just in case I get traded from this deadass team. Nothing persona, mind you.''

How will this turn out? Alert Texas reporters quickly pointed out that the Rangers traded their previous captain (Buddy Bell) midway through his first season in the role. Me, I'm just waiting for when Cap'n A-Rod demands the Rangers trade him for Mr. Greenjeans so he can wear the red jacket uniform of Captain Kangaroo now that that position is available.

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.