Mention the words "incentive clause" to a major league manager and he will cover his ears and say, "Don't tell me, I don't want to know." The current vogue for including incentive clauses in players' contracts can lead to bad feelings between managers and their players. Rangers pitcher Oil Can Boyd, for instance, would have received $100,000 from his former team, the Expos, last year had he made 32 starts. No. 32 was scheduled for the last day of the season, but he didn't start. Feeling cheated, Boyd later filed a grievance and reached a settlement with the team.
Former Mariners outfielder Jeffrey Leonard had a clause last season stipulating that if he had 550 plate appearances, his 1991 contract worth $1.1 million would automatically be renewed. The Mariners were trying to finish .500 for the first time in franchise history, but Leonard sat out 19 of the team's final 30 games, despite getting 15 hits in 27 at bats in September. He ended up with 525 plate appearances, and the Mariners let him go after the season.
Because of the tensions caused by incentive clauses, a few players who had such provisions in previous contracts have removed them from their present contracts. Two of these players are with the Mariners: catcher Scott Bradley and reliever Mike Schooler.
July 28, 1991
"I didn't like the way they made me feel," says Bradley. "No matter how unselfish a player you are, when a team isn't in a pennant race, guys play for themselves. I don't like sitting in the bullpen thinking, I need to play four more games. We had a shortstop here who, with two months left in the season, was always talking about how many games he had to play to reach an incentive. It's sickening. It can get to where someone says, 'I've got to get in this game, I hope this guy doesn't do well.' "
Says Schooler, "[Incentives] changed me. I'd come down to the last week of the season, I'd need two or three appearances, and I said to myself, I don't care if it's a tight game, I don't care what the score is, I'll take any situation. I felt I was compromising myself. I've seen guys get screwed on incentives. Whether it's $1,000 or $100,000, it's still money. When my contract came up this year, and they talked about incentives, I said that wasn't a bargaining point with me."
It is, however, with many players. Here are a few with interesting incentive clauses:
Gerald Perry, Cardinals. He will be paid $3.3 million for three years, ending with the 1993 season. Plus, he will get $8,750 for every game he plays from 105 to 144 in each season, and $2,333.33 for every plate appearance from 326 to 475. A September benching could cost him a cool $18,000 a game.
Dwight Gooden, Mets. He will make an average of $5.15 million per year for the next three years, plus $250,000 guaranteed in each year of the contract for the rights to produce and market videos in which he is the primary subject. There are also various bonuses for the Cy Young Award and MVP awards, and Gooden gets $250,000 for 200 innings pitched in any year of the contract or $750,000 total if he pitches 500 or more innings in the three years.
Dwight Evans, Orioles. He has a one-year contract for $600,000 and gets $10,000 per month for in-season housing and automobile expenses. Incentives include $100,000 for playing 50 games and additional $100,000 bonuses for reaching 75, 100, 125 and 140 games.
Jack Morris and Chili Davis, Twins. Both have contracts laden with incentives. Morris, for example, has a base salary of $2.5 million for 1991, but he can earn $500,000 in bonuses if he pitches 230 innings.
For baseball's sake, let's hope no player is held out of a crucial game against a pennant contender in September just to prevent him from reaching an incentive, thereby saving his team a few dollars. Baseball is a business, but business considerations should not be allowed to affect the integrity of the game. Not putting your best lineup on the field against a team going for a title would be, to quote Bradley, "sickening."
Back, in the Hunt
As the Reds and Dodgers stumbled to start the second half of the season, losing their first eight and seven games, respectively, the Braves moved into second place in the National League West by winning seven of their first eight. Atlanta gained six games in eight days on division-leading Los Angeles, prompting Braves manager Bobby Cox to call it "the most amazing week I've ever seen." Through Sunday the Braves were three games out of first.
The Braves made their surge without first baseman Sid Bream or outfielder David Justice, who both went on the disabled list late in June. Bream is out with an injury to his right knee and could be back this weekend. Justice has been bothered by a strained lower back and probably won't play for at least two weeks. But the team has been bolstered by surprising performances from outfielder Otis Nixon (at week's end he led the National League with 48 steals and was hitting .332) and third baseman Terry Pendleton (he was hitting .339, one point behind the league leader, San Diego's Tony Gwynn). Outfielder Ron Gant (19 homers, 54 RBIs, 16 steals) has also come on strong after a very slow start and has a good shot at his second straight 30-homer, 30-stolen base season. Pitcher Tom Glavine is the leading candidate for the National League's Cy Young Award. As of Sunday he led the league in wins (13) and ERA (1.89).
If the Braves win the division, they'll be the only team ever to go from the cellar one season to the top of the standings the next. Unless, of course, the Twins do likewise in the American League West.
Doing What Comes Naturally
The thick-headed antics of Phillie outfielder Lenny Dykstra—i.e., his poker playing losses and his car wreck after teammate John Kruk's bachelor party—are well documented, but don't ever question how much he means to his team. Dykstra missed 61 games with a broken collarbone, broken cheekbone and rib damage suffered when he drove his car into a tree on May 6, after which he was charged with drunken driving. He returned to the lineup on July 15 and reached base in seven of his first 14 plate appearances. In doing so, he led the Phillies to a three-game sweep of the Dodgers, their first series sweep of the season. Ignoring warnings by doctors not to slide headfirst, Dykstra belly-flopped into second while stealing a base in his first game back, thus positioning himself to score a key run in a 9-8 victory.
"The fact that Lenny is back in the lineup changes our whole outlook," says Phillie reliever Mitch Williams. "If this team could have played in the first half the way it played the last few days, imagine what could have happened. Lenny changes the look of the team. He's our heart."
Of that headfirst slide, Dykstra says, "When I was little and I used to play football, my dad told me that the people who get hurt are the people who are afraid of getting hit. I thought about it before the game, and I figured that if I'm going to play the game, I'm going to play it the way I know how."
Nasty As Ever
When Cincinnati reliever Rob Dibble finally accepted his three-game suspension last Thursday for his part in a brawl with the Astros on April 11. his timing may have struck some as a bit odd. The Reds had just lost nine straight games and were entering a three-game series against the Pirates, who had swept Cincinnati in four games the previous week.
Actually, the timing made sense. Manager Lou Piniella said he needed Dibble more for games against the Reds' division rivals, especially the Dodgers, who play Cincinnati 11 more times this season. Also, the Reds were playing so poorly at the time, and their starting pitching was so banged up that there was a real possibility they would get behind early. What good would Dibble be in a blowout?
Dibble's replacement, Randy Myers, didn't fare too well. As he left the field in the ninth inning after walking three in 1‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√±‚àö¬® innings of the Reds' 3-2 win last Saturday, Myers made a caustic comment to Piniella. The manager shot back a few choice words, which didn't help their already strained relationship. Sniping at the manager on the mound—especially when the manager in, question is Piniella—isn't wise, and it will surely hasten Myers's exit from Cincinnati.
Oriole first baseman Glenn Davis, out since April 25 with nerve damage in his neck, might be able to start a rehabilitation assignment in the next two weeks. On July 15, Davis was told by doctors that no permanent damage would come from the injury. "When I was told that there would be no paralysis, well, now you know why I'm the happiest man in baseball," Davis says. "When you are confronted with not playing the game again, that's very difficult for a player to face." ...The Red Sox continue to be a disappointment, and manager Joe Morgan and general manager Lou Gorman have been at odds, especially over outfielder-first baseman Mike Marshall. Gorman wanted to play him, Morgan didn't. Marshall was released last Saturday.
BETWEEN THE LINES
A One-Note Horn
On July 17, Oriole designated hitter Sam Horn became the first nonpitcher in major league history to strike out six straight times in one game. In the 15-inning game against the Royals, Horn whiffed on six straight at bats before doubling. He matched the one-game consecutive strikeout record set by Carl Weilman, a pitcher for the St. Louis Browns, in 1913. "Three strikeouts is a hat trick, four is a sombrero, five is a golden sombrero, and six is now called a Horn," said Baltimore pitcher Mike Flanagan. "Seven would have been a Horn a Plenty. When you make history, you've got to put your name on it."
No Nail-Biter for Him
The tension surrounding San Diego pitcher Greg Harris's bid for a no-hitter against the Mets on July 14 was lost on one of the game's participants. Harris gave up a double to Mackey Sasser in the eighth inning to spoil the effort, but after the game Padres centerfielder Thomas Howard admitted that he had not known a no-hitter was in progress. "How long did he have it?" Howard asked.
Mariners pitcher Randy Johnson gave up only one hit but walked 10 Milwaukee hitters in four-plus innings during a 6-1 loss to the Brewers on July 17. Johnson threw 103 pitches in his short stint, the same number thrown by Milwaukee's Bill Wegman in his complete-game four-hitter. "People don't understand it's not easy when you're as tall as I am," said Johnson, who is 6'10".
Indians pitcher Rod Nichols won his first game of the season on July 16, beating Oakland 2-1. It made his record 1-8 and ended a string of 13 losses dating back to Sept. 14,1989. "People have been calling me like I'd won my 20th," says Nichols, who has a 3.59 ERA this year. "A bunch of family members called. My college coach called. It was great, but I told [catcher] Joel Skinner in the seventh inning, 'If I win, don't run out and hug me.' I have a long way to go. Now I'm just another 1-8 pitcher."
Two Who Are Due
The Brewers' publicity department tried to set up a home run hitting contest between Milwaukee's Jim Gantner and Minnesota's Al Newman before a game at County Stadium on July 16. On that day the two were tied for longest home run drought in the majors, having each gone 1,611 at bats without a dinger. Gantner, who has 44 career home runs but has not hit one since June 14, 1987, refused to participate in the contest, saying, "I'm not embarrassing myself unless there is a prize." Newman, who has one homer, said he was upset that he and Gantner weren't invited to compete in the home run derby at the All-Star Game. "We would have backed up the All-Star break for several weeks and made sure everyone enjoyed every aspect of the SkyDome," he said.
By the Numbers
•The heart of the Giants' order—Will Clark, Kevin Mitchell and Matt Williams—has had consecutive hits in the same inning only once this year.
•Right now there are no players in baseball who have hit 400 career homers, though Eddie Murray, Dale Murphy and Dave Winfield could all reach that mark before the end of the season. Before 1990, the last time the major leagues were without an active 400-homer hitter was 1956.
•Oriole pitcher Jeff Ballard is 0-12 in his last 17 starts at home.