You've heard the horror stories before. There's the one about MVP slugger George Foster, who made $2 million a year with the Mets, then lost much of it following bad investments. Or the sorry tales of two-time National League batting champ Tony Gwynn, who filed for bankruptcy last year, or three-time Cy Young winner Steve Carlton, who sued his agent in 1983 and is still in financial straits. And that's not to mention the clients of former agent LaRue Harcourt—pitcher Don Sutton and third baseman Ken Reitz among them—who lost millions because of financial mismanagement.
But that, hopefully, should change soon, now that the Major League Players Association has put into effect a new program to certify anyone who negotiates contracts for players. The first phase of the program, which was devised by players' association director Donald Fehr and associate counsel Gene Orza after extended discussions with the players, involved gathering detailed information from agents concerning every aspect of their professional relationships with their clients.
The information will be used not only to certify agents, but also to help players make informed choices about whom they pick to represent them. One agent, in a panic, recently asked a players' association official, "What happens if one of my clients finds out that what I tell you is different than what I told him?" The reply: "That's what it's all about."
In August, Fehr will be sending each club a list of the agents who have received preliminary certification. Any team that deals with an uncertified agent will be in violation of the Basic Agreement between the players' association and the owners.
The new program also 1) limits player-agent contracts to one year, 2) prohibits agents from charging players for representation who are making the major league minimum salary or less, 3) assures that each player will receive copies of his contract written in his first language, 4) guarantees players the right to audit their agents at any time and 5) puts restrictions on what agents can do to attract new clients.
So far the program has received a generally enthusiastic reception from agents as well as players. "I'm all for it," says Bob Woolf, who represents Boston's Bob Stanley and Milwaukee's B.J. Surhoff "I've always thought anybody representing an athlete should be licensed and supervised. The stricter the better. It only takes an irresponsible few to reflect poorly on our whole industry."
•Minnesota catcher Tim Laudner on Cleveland reliever Doug Jones's changeup: "It is as dominant a pitch as Bruce Sutter's forkball used to be. It seems to stop, wait for the batter to swing, then goes on its way."
•"What year will (Red Sox outfielder] Ellis Burks be the MVP?" asks Twins manager Tom Kelly. "In 1989, 1990? Not much later."
•"In two years [Pirate second baseman] Jose Lind may be the best infielder in the game," says Cubs scout Charlie Fox. "If he and Ozzie Smith played in the same infield, there might not be such a thing as a ground single."
BACK TO THE ZOO
When former Yankee reliever Sparky Lyle returned to the Bronx for Old-Timers' Day last week, he expected to see his ex-boss, George Steinbrenner, in the clubhouse before the game. "I'm waiting for George to come in here and chew our butts out just for the hell of it," he said. "It wouldn't be right to send this team out on the field without really giving it to us one last time."
Unlike many Yankees, Lyle has fond memories of Steinbrenner's clubhouse harangues. "We'd lose a game and hear that he was coming down," Lyle added. "We'd sit in front of our lockers with our heads down, acting ashamed. He'd come busting through the clubhouse doors and say, 'You're damn right. You should be hanging your heads after the way you played.' And then he'd go into his 'Down on the Docks' talk. He'd say, 'You guys don't know how good you've got it. How would you like to work down on the docks? You wouldn't last because you have to have guts.' Then he'd leave and we'd all crack up. We'd win the next day and George would think he was a genius for getting us fired up."
CHINKS IN THE ARMOR
The Mets' midseason slump has been attributed to a number of factors, ranging from the absence of injured first baseman Keith Hernandez to an overall lack of intensity. But one scout spoke for many analysts last week when he said, "Once you get away from their pitching, the team itself simply isn't that good. Without Hernandez, their one outstanding everyday player is Darryl Strawberry. Period." The Mets' biggest concern is catcher Gary Carter, who has been trying for 10 weeks to hit his 300th homer and is having trouble throwing out base runners. Another problem area is the defense, which accounted for 16 unearned runs in the last 23 games. Earlier this year people scoffed when Mets pitcher Bobby Ojeda said, "We're not as good as we were in 1986." It appears that Ojeda was right.
The Athletics had worked out a deal with the Orioles to trade outfielder Luis Polonia and a minor leaguer for Baltimore outfielder Fred Lynn. But when Lynn asked for a raise and an extra year on his contract, which runs out next year and will earn him $1.45 million in '88 and $1.55 million in '89, the Oakland front office declined, suspecting that Lynn cares more about money than about playing for a winning team. Meanwhile, two of Lynn's teammates—first baseman Eddie Murray and pitcher Mike Boddicker—have told opposing players that they would be willing to crawl to get on a contending team. Boddicker could get his wish soon if the Orioles and the Red Sox can agree on a trade involving Boston rookie outfielder Brady Anderson.
MISSING THE BOAT
Chaos reigned in the Mariners' front office last week when they traded designated hitter Ken Phelps to the Yankees for outfielder Jay Buhner and two other players, and outfielder Glenn Wilson to the Pirates for outfielder Darnell Coles. "The general manager [Dick Balderson] has no power, the club president [Chuck Armstrong] was out of town, and the owner [George Argyros] was on a boat," said one frustrated general manager who wanted to make a bid for Phelps. "It was ridiculously confusing." Pirate general manager Syd Thrift was able to complete the deal for Wilson only because he got through to Argyros via ship-to-shore phone.
THE PLOT THICKENS
For those of you who have been trying to figure out why the Royals have been so inconsistent this year, the events of last week offered some fresh clues. On July 17 outfielder Willie Wilson and first baseman George Brett came close to blows on a plane after the team was swept four straight in Boston. When the smoke cleared, Wilson said, "I don't care if it's George Brett, Lou Gehrig or Babe Ruth. Who does he think he is? I'm not sorry I did it. What am I supposed to do, stick my head between my legs, and say, 'Yes, sir,' just because he's George Brett? He hasn't respected me in the 11 years I've been here. Maybe he will now."
OLD AND NEW
The Orioles are baffled by outfielder Larry Sheets's performance this year. Last season he was hitting .321, slugging .609 and had 24 homers and 71 RBIs after his first 302 at bats. This year, through 302 at bats, his batting average had dropped to .219, his slugging percentage was .311, and he had only four homers and 28 RBIs. "Physically, I'm fine," says Sheets. "Mentally, I'm deranged. I really believe I've hit the ball as hard as I did last year. But I can't get it into the air."...
Forty-year-old White Sox catcher Carlton Fisk, who is expected to return from the disabled list in August, has been catching flak from his teammates about his age. "[Shortstop] Ozzie Guillen thinks I played with Babe Ruth," says Fisk. "He keeps asking me, "Did he really have a great swing?' " ...
The Phillies are giving rookie Ricky Jordan a crack at first so they can move Von Hayes back to the outfield next season. Jordan responded by hitting three homers in his first 17 at bats.... Giants general manager Al Rosen went to Everett, Wash., last week to take a look at his No. 1 draft choice, shortstop Royce Clayton. He came away saying, "I'll guarantee you that someday they'll call him "Rolls Royce." "...Last week the Braves' Zane Smith had to leave a start against the Phillies after 1‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√±‚àö¬® innings because his right foot had fallen asleep. It seems Smith had rested it in an awkward position during a flight three days earlier and pinched a nerve. At last report, the foot was still snoozing.
THE SOPHOMORE SWOON
Last year, rookie catchers Benito Santiago, B.J. Surhoff, Matt Nokes and Terry Steinbach combined for a .293 batting average, a .474 slugging percentage. 73 homers and 290 RBIs. Through Sunday the foursome was hitting .236 and slugging .343, and had 23 homers and 92 RBIs.
PHENOM OF THE WEEK
Righthander Pete Delkus, who was signed by the Twins as an undrafted free agent out of Southern Illinois at Edwardsville, was 4-1 through Saturday with 26 saves, 43 strikeouts and a 0.00 ERA—that's right, 0.00—for Class A Kenosha. And he's not the Twins' only promising reliever. Righthander German Gonzalez was 2-1, with 28 saves, 60 strikeouts and a 0.96 ERA for Double A Orlando.
UP IN SMOKE
Reds general manager Murray Cook hasn't had much luck trying to strengthen his lineup. In the off-season he gave up the club's first-round draft pick to sign outfielder Eddie Milner. But in March, Milner was forced to enter a drug program, and he didn't play until June 19. In May, Cook traded pitcher Pat Perry to the Cubs for first baseman Leon Durham. Last week Durham also entered drug rehab.
GRANTED, IT ISN'T EASY
When Yankee outfielder Rickey Henderson was summoned to George Steinbrenner's office for a peace meeting after the All-Star break, he was told that the owner was with Bob Quinn.
"Quinn who?" asked Henderson.
"Bob Quinn," he was told.
"Who's he?" asked Henderson.
"The new general manager."
"I don't keep track of that stuff," said Henderson.
ALL IN THE FAMILY
Before Jack McKeon took over on May 28th as manager of the Padres, his son-in-law, pitcher Greg Booker, had worked in 17 of the club's 46 games. Since then, however, Booker has pitched in only nine of 53 games, and in one span of 17 days did not make an appearance.
QUOTES OF THE WEEK
•Royals first baseman George Brett, on the American League batting leader: "A woman will be elected president before Wade Boggs is called out on strikes."
•Mets pitcher Ron Darling, after allowing nine runs in the first inning of a game against the Reds on July 19: "Now I know how Michael Spinks felt."
•At week's end, the Giants outfield of Brett Butler, Candy Maldonado and Mike Aldrete had only 13 homers in 904 at bats, while former Giants outfielder Chili Davis, who moved to the Angels as a free agent, had 13 in 359 at bats.
•Dodger righthander Alejandro Pena not only had a scoreless streak of 22 innings that ended July 22, but also since last Aug. 30 had allowed only 56 hits and 11 earned runs in 81⅖ innings.
•Since June 18, Yankee outfielder Dave Winfield has had two homers and only 14 RBIs.
•Through 1981, Twins reliever Juan Berenguer was 3-17. Since then he has been 43-28.
•Pirate shortstop Rafael Belliard went on an 8-for-16 binge July 8-14. All eight were infield hits.
•So far this season the Yankees have lost six times after having had the lead with one out to go. They are also 0-29 in games in which they trailed after the seventh inning.
•The regular catcher with the highest average through Sunday was the Angels' 40-year-old Bob Boone, at .294.
•Boston Red Sox ace Roger Clemens is on a pace to strike out 345 batters and walk 50.
MAKING THEM COUNT
RUN PER HOMER
Mike Pagliarulo, Yankees
Mike Greenwell, Red Sox
Ellis Burks, Red Sox
Steve Balboni, Mariners
Andres Thomas, Braves
Kal Daniels, Reds
Steve Buechele, Rangers
Barry Bonds, Pirates
Through July 23
SOURCE: STATS, INC.