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Both teams begin to look forward

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The trade talks began in private right
after the World Series.

Alex Rodriguez confirmed the day he won his first AL MVP award
that the Texas Rangers had talked to him about a deal.

Now after nearly two months of discussions, the proposed trade
of $20 million-a-year players is off the table. For now, baseball's
two highest-paid players are staying put: Rodriguez in Texas and
outfielder Manny Ramirez in Boston.

Texas owner Tom Hicks said on Tuesday -- his deadline to resolve
the issue -- that the deal was too complicated to complete. The
Rangers now plan for Rodriguez to remain their shortstop next
season, the fourth of his record $252 million, 10-year contract.

Hicks and Red Sox owner John Henry talked twice Tuesday, their
first conversation in four days. And they finally agreed -- that
they were done talking about the proposed trade.

"We both recognized there was too big a gulf to bridge," Hicks
said. "Neither one of us thought it would take the public profile
it did, or get as complex as it did."'

Asked if there were last-minute negotiations or compromises on
the Rangers' part in an effort to complete the deal, Hicks said,
"Not really."

"We mainly made sure that we communicated what each team's
position was," he said. "As the decision-makers, it was important
for us to talk to each other."

Rodriguez told The Fort Worth Star-Telegram in its Wednesday
edition that it had been a challenging process he just wanted to
end.

"Basically, I'm glad it's over, and I'm just proud to work with
an owner like Tom Hicks," Rodriguez was quoted as telling the
newspaper. "We went through the process hand-in-hand. Now, we're
going to work together to get the Texas Rangers headed in the right
direction. I'll do my part on the baseball field, and he'll do his
part."

Hicks insisted that the deadline was final. He even sent a
letter to season-ticket holders Tuesday pledging that next season's
team would be built around Rodriguez. The Rangers have finished
last in the AL West four straight seasons.

Henry, Red Sox chairman Tom Werner, president Larry Lucchino and
general manager Theo Epstein issued a joint statement Tuesday
saying "no further discussions regarding this transaction are
planned."

Rodriguez's agent, Scott Boras, also agreed that the deal was
dead and that the player's relationship with Hicks was still good.

"He learned about his owner, I think their relationship is a
good one," Boras said. "In the end, there was a real question
about what the level of Boston's interest level was."

Had Rodriguez gone to Boston, the Red Sox presumably would have
traded longtime shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, possibly to the
Chicago White Sox.

The collapse of the deal was fine with new Boston manager Terry
Francona.

"I've been looking forward to Manny and Nomar being with us, so
nothing has changed for me," he said.

Rodriguez and Ramirez agreed to their big contracts on the same
day, three years ago during the winter meetings in Dallas. To gauge
if there was interest in Ramirez, Boston placed him on irrevocable
waivers following the World Series, but he went unclaimed.

"Manny is focused on continuing his career with the Red Sox,"
said his agent, Jeff Moorad. "I have said all along that Manny
would be happy in either instance."

Ramirez has five years and $97.5 million left on his $160
million, eight-year deal.

During negotiations last week, the players' association said the
final seven years and $179 million left on Rodriguez's agreement
could be restructured but not reduced. A proposal by the Red Sox to
cut $28 million to $30 million was rejected.

The players' association said it would approve a change that
would lower the contract by $12 million to $13 million in exchange
for Rodriguez getting the right to use Boston's logo and trademarks
in marketing deals. In addition, he'd be able to become a free
agent after the 2005 season.

But Lucchino proclaimed the trade "dead," blaming the union
for not approving the steeper reduction.

Reliever Jay Powell is glad Rodriguez is staying in Texas.

"He's one of the most respected guys in the clubhouse, and we
were hoping he would stick around," Powell said. "I don't know
anybody in the clubhouse that wants to see Alex leave."