Rangers react to A-Rod allegations

Rangers react to A-Rod allegations

ARLINGTON -- Rangers owner Tom Hicks had a simple reaction when he heard the news that Alex Rodriguez had reportedly tested positive for steroids in 2003.

"I'm shocked," Hicks said in an e-mail Saturday morning.

Infielder Michael Young, who has been a close friend of Rodriguez's since they started playing together in 2001, had pretty much the same reaction. Young said Saturday he had no indication that Rodriguez used steroids at any time while they were teammates from 2001-03.

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Report: Positive test

"No, never," Young said. "I had many conversations with Alex in the clubhouse, on the plane and on the field, and that never came up. The guy is the most gifted player I have ever seen and I know what he did to get there with his work ethic.

"He put his heart and soul into being the best player in the game. His dedication is incredible. When it comes to playing the game, he has absolutely no peer and that just didn't happen by accident. It happened because of the work he put into the game, and I saw it firsthand."

Overall, the Rangers seemed to be caught completely off-guard when Sports Illustrated reported on Saturday that Rodriguez was one of 104 players who tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs during Major League Baseball's 2003 survey testing. Rodriguez was still with Texas at the time.

Hicks declined further comment, but other Rangers officials said they were unaware that Rodriguez had tested positive that season.

"This is the first I've heard of it," said Rangers general manager Jon Daniels, who was assistant director of baseball operations under then general manager John Hart at the time.

"That was handled between the union, Major League Baseball and an arbitrary third party," said Hart, who still works for the Rangers as a consultant. "We as general managers and other baseball officials -- owners, managers, coaches, trainers -- nobody really knew who was tested, when they were tested and what the results were."

A-Rod since 2003
Alex Rodriguez's at-bats, home runs and RBIs over the past six seasons

Former strength and physical conditioning coach Fernando Montes said on ESPN that he told Daniels in 2003 he thought Rodriguez might be using steroids. Montes said he had no evidence, but suggested to Daniels that Rodriguez's level of performance did not match his level of work in the weight room.

"I honestly had no recollection of that conversation," said Daniels, who was at a junior level in Texas' front office at the time. "I know that sounds like a line, but I honestly don't recall it all. We're talking about six years ago."

As a part of a joint agreement between the Commissioner's Office and the Major League Baseball Players Association, random testing was conducted during the 2003 season to see if it was necessary to impose mandatory testing in '04. The names of the players who did test positive were supposed to be kept anonymous and no penalties were imposed.

"The report is about testing and the results that the clubs haven't had access to, so it's hard for me to comment on," Daniels said. "Anytime one of these reports comes out, it's a surprise. But unless it comes from the MLB Testing Program, it's hard to take at face value."

Rodriguez joined the Rangers in December 2000, when he agreed to a 10-year, $252 million contract as a free agent. At the time, it was the largest contract given to a professional athlete, and it sent shock waves through the baseball industry.

Rodriguez spent three highly productive years with the Rangers, and in 2003, he won his first Amercian League Most Valuable Player Award, hitting .298 with 47 home runs and 118 RBIs while winning a Gold Glove at shortstop for his defense. At that time, the club had no reason to suspect that Rodriguez was using steroids.

Drug Policy in Baseball

"Absolutely not," Hart said. "At that time, everybody in baseball knew we had issues, but who actually had issues? We didn't know. To try and pinpoint everybody was like a dog chasing its tail until we had testing. Now we have punishment and testing, but at that point, in no way did I have any suspicions on Alex Rodriguez."

Buck Showalter, the Rangers' manager in 2003, said he did not see anything from Rodriguez that suggested his performance was tainted by the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

"I didn't have anything to make me believe that," Showalter said. "It was the first time I managed him. I walked in from Arizona/ESPN and there he was. I wasn't that familiar with him. He was a great player and won the MVP. At the end of the year, we decided to go in a different direction."

Rodriguez's time with the Rangers came to an end just before Spring Training in 2004 when he was traded to the New York Yankees for second baseman Alfonso Soriano and infielder Joaquin Arias. He has since won two more Most Valuable Player Awards but now he joins the list of players who have been -- fairly or unfairly -- caught up in baseball's ongoing steroid controversies.

"If it's true, then it's disappointing, for sure," said pitcher R.A. Dickey, who appeared in 38 games as a rookie with Texas in 2003. "You would hope that he's an incredible talent because of his natural ability. I never thought it was because he was using steroids.

"I always kind of marveled at how good he was and remember telling somebody that season that I might be playing with the best player that ever lived. That would be tainted if he was using an illegal substance. I never saw any evidence that he was doing that. Nothing. I never saw any needles or anything out of the ordinary, which is why this [news] is so surprising."

Several of the best players in Rangers history have been caught up in baseball's steroid scandal, including two of Rodriguez's teammates on the 2003 team.

Rafael Palmeiro, who left the Rangers after the 2003 season and signed as a free agent with the Orioles, was the first prominent player to publicly be identified and suspended for testing positive for steroids. Under the agreement that was in place in August, 2005, Palmeiro was suspended for 10 games for testing positive.

Juan Gonzalez, who also left the Rangers as a free agent after 2003, was implicated in the Mitchell Report for an incident not with Texas but with the Indians in 2001. On Oct. 4, 2001, in Toronto, Canadian Border Service officers found steroids and syringes in an unmarked luggage bag that was traced back to either Gonzalez or his personal trainer, Angel Presinal. Actual ownership was never established and no action was taken against Gonzalez.

Many other former Rangers were also named in the Mitchell Report for incidents that occurred at some point during their careers but never while they were in Texas.

Other than accusations levied by Jose Canseco in his two books, this is the first time a Rangers player has been directly implicated in actions that occurred while he was playing with Texas.

"This is a complete surprise," Young said. "I don't know when he was tested or what he was tested for, but my focus is on being completely supportive of Alex. We were good friends then and we are good friends now. He was my teammate and a great teammate. I have never had a teammate so incredibly supportive of me and my career as Alex."

The Rangers were cited in the Mitchell Report for their proactive approach to steroids under the direction of head trainer Jamie Reed and Dr. Jay Hoffman, a former NFL player who is a consultant and confidential resource in the prevention of performance-enhancing drug use.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Jim Street contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.