Baseball's $250m man leaves failing Rangers to join Yankees

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The Independent Online

In one of the biggest deals in sports history the Texas Rangers short-stop, Alex Rodriguez, has joined the New York Yankees, proving that as in the Premiership, so in major league baseball: the richest teams get the best players.

The $250m (£132m) trade taking Rodriguez from Seattle to the Rangers in 2000 remains the biggest ever contract in professional sport, guaranteeing the player $25m a year for a decade.

For the Rangers, however, it was a colossal mistake, as even the prodigous talents of "A-Rod", generally considered the best player in the game, could not stop the team finishing bottom of its division in every season.

The Rangers unloaded their most prized asset to the Yankees, the richest franchise in baseball and the one team that could afford to take on the majority of the $179m left on that deal, but the Rangers must cover part of Rodriguez's wages.

By the time that contract expires in 2010, they will have paid Rodriguez $46m for each of the three seasons he played. At about £470,000 a week, those are earnings of which the Keanes, Beckhams and Ronaldos of this world can only dream.

For the Yankees, the trade is just another step towards restoring baseball's natural order. It boosts the Yankees' total payroll this year to almost $200m, but in the Bronx the outlay will be regarded as worth it 10 times over if the Yankees win their first World Series since 2000.

Nowhere will there be greater fury, though, than in Boston, where the Red Sox ­ the Yankees' most bitter rivals ­ almost signed Rodriguez before Christmas, only for the deal to collapse.

Once more the shade of Babe Ruth is stalking the city. Like Rodriguez now, "The Babe" was the best player of his era when traded by the Red Sox owner to the Yankees in 1919, to help fund a Broadway musical.

Since Ruth left, the Sox have never won a World Series (their last was in 1918). With Rodriguez slipping through their fingers to the Yankees, the "Curse of the Bambino" looks as alive and well as ever.