FEEDING FRENZY THE BIG-REVENUE SHARKS SWOOPED IN AND SNATCHED UP THE BAIT -- SOME OF THE BEST PLAYERS THE SMALL-REVENUE CLUBS COULD NO LONGER AFFORD

April 16, 1995

THE FIRST week of poststrike baseball began for free-agent
outfielder Andy Van Slyke when he changed the chime on his
doorbell from a funereal da-da-da- dum, which had darkened his
house in a St. Louis suburb for eight months, to a spirited
version of the national anthem. On that lively note one of the
most outrageous seven-day stretches in the game's history got
under way on April 3.

For openers, free agent Bo Jackson retired to become an actor.
Then manager Sparky Anderson returned to the Detroit Tigers
after a six-week bout with replacementitis and talked for six
consecutive hours. Then all hell broke loose. The best reliever
in baseball (John Wetteland) was traded, as were the reigning
American League Cy Young Award winner (David Cone), the National
League Cy Young runner-up (Ken Hill), one of the game's best
leadoff hitters (Marquis Grissom), a Gold Glove-caliber
centerfielder (Brian McRae) and a two-time All-Star third
baseman (Scott Cooper). As of Sunday two perennial Cy Young
candidates, Randy Johnson of the Seattle Mariners and Kevin
Appier of the Kansas City Royals, were still on the block.

All this was accompanied by a furious round of free-agent
signings. Last Saturday alone, 22 players accepted offers from new
teams, including six former 20-game winners (Kevin Brown, Tom
Browning, John Burkett, Orel Hershiser, Dave Stewart and Bill
Swift), two former staff aces (Jim Abbott and Bob Tewksbury), the
National League's top rightfielder (Larry Walker) and a potential
Hall of Fame outfielder (Andre Dawson). Still waiting for a call
as of Sunday were more than 100 other free agents, about 30 of
whom were stashed at a workout camp operated by the players' union
in remote Homestead, Fla. (page 36).

When the frenzy had abated somewhat on Sunday, the warning that
hard-line owners had trumpeted throughout the eight-month strike
rang truer than ever: The rich teams are getting richer and the
poor teams are getting poorer. In fact, acquisitions by two
wealthy teams, the already talent-laden New York Yankees and
Atlanta Braves, might have sealed their places in the 1995 World
Series (if it's played, that is).

``I've never seen a week like this,'' said Cleveland Indian
general manager John Hart, who re-signed two free agents, catcher
Tony Pena and outfielder Dave Winfield, and picked up three more,
pitchers Hershiser, Paul Assenmacher and Bud Black. ``It's been
frenetic. I haven't had time to do anything but throw my shoe at
the wall.''

Frenetic is a mild description for the 30-hour stretch endured
last week by Montreal Expo general manager Kevin Malone. Under
orders from Montreal owner Claude Brochu, the poster boy for
small-revenue teams, Malone was forced to trade his three best
players -- Wetteland, to the Yankees; Grissom, to the Braves; and
Hill, to the Anheuser-Busch-backed St. Louis Cardinals -- to avoid
an estimated $13 million drag on a payroll that's being sliced
from $18.6 million in 1994 to a budgeted $15 million in '95. At
the same time, Malone had to convince the fans and the media that
the Expos were doing this all in the name of keeping the team in
Montreal, a city that routinely displays little interest in
baseball (page 32).

``My wife says my cellular phone will have to be surgically
removed from my ear,'' says Malone, who spent hours on the horn
not only working out trades but also answering the salvo of
reporters' questions that ensued after each deal was completed.
Add in the fact that the Expos didn't even make an offer to
Walker, who last Saturday signed a four-year, $22 million contract
with the big-revenue Colorado Rockies, and Montreal has gone from
the best team in the majors last year to a club that will be lucky
to be in the fight for the wild-card spot in the National League
playoffs this season.

Chicago Cub president Andy MacPhail calls Montreal's purge of its
young stars ``the most unfortunate thing I've witnessed since I
got into baseball in 1976.''

Nevertheless, the Expo farm system is regarded as being among the
top two in baseball, and with that thought in mind, Malone just
smiles and says, ``Don't feel sorry for us. We're still better
than most clubs. Everyone is underestimating us, just how I like
it. We can rebuild with young talent. By 1996 or '97 we'll be a
tremendous force. Give me talent over money any day. The teams in
trouble are small markets who don't have a lot of young talent.''

One of those teams is Kansas City. McRae, who made $1.9 million
last year and is eligible for salary arbitration, was traded by
the Royals to the big-revenue Cubs for two minor leaguers. Cone,
who is in the last year of a three-year contract that will pay
him $5 million this year, went from K.C. to the big-revenue
Toronto Blue Jays for three minor leaguers, thus becoming the
first Cy Young winner ever traded before the start of the season
the year after he won the award. If Appier is sent packing as
well, the Royals will have no shot at contending in the American
League Central.

Such dismantling would never have happened were former Kansas City
owner Ewing Kauffman still alive. He often drew on his personal
fortune to help fortify his team, the best example having occurred
when he dug deep to bring Cone back to Kansas City after the 1992
season. Wal-Mart president and chief executive officer David
Glass, who took over control of the team upon Kauffman's death in
1993, isn't willing to do that.

Similar cost cutting is expected this spring from other
small-revenue clubs, such as Houston and Seattle, much in the
manner that the Milwaukee Brewers, the Minnesota Twins, the
Pittsburgh Pirates and the San Diego Padres slashed their payrolls
in recent years. MacPhail, who last September turned down a more
lucrative offer to remain the Twins' general manager so he could
work in the more favorable economic climate in Chicago, says two
Minnesota players -- closer Rick Aguilera and rightfielder Kirby
Puckett -- will soon represent 50% of the Twin payroll. And
Puckett, who in the past turned down richer free-agent offers to
remain in Minneapolis, now says he might not stick around after
the 1995 season if the Twins continue ``liquidating,'' as he puts
it.

``The game has experienced this [salary dumping] before, but now
we're seeing it at the beginning of the season instead of at the
end,'' Oakland A's general manager Sandy Alderson says. ``We used
to see it with teams that fall out of a race, and now we're seeing
it for financial reasons. The disparity between big- and
small-revenue teams will continue to grow. Some teams are swimming
with sharks and trying to stay out of their way.''

Salary dumping also used to involve mostly older players who were
free agents or on the verge of jumping into the open market, but
Grissom, Hill, McRae and Wetteland are all under 30, and not one
was a free agent. ``The undesirable part of this is there's going
to be a loss of interest in baseball in eight to 10 markets
because the teams in those markets won't have a reasonable chance
to be competitive,'' MacPhail says. ``That's not good for the
game.''

Hart adds that the competitive imbalance could become so acute,
``it's going to be like the Washington Generals against the
Harlem Globetrotters. Small-revenue teams are dumping players,
and there's no quality coming back. It's a sham, and it's a
shame.''

Not so for the game's biggest sharks, the Yankees. They had the
best record in the American League last season -- and then in
December traded for Jack McDowell, the league's Cy Young winner in
1993, and signed free-agent shortstop Tony Fernandez, a lifetime
.285 hitter. With the addition of Wetteland as the righthanded
closer, the last hole in the New York lineup was filled. The
Yankees outbid the Braves, the Baltimore Orioles and the Boston
Red Sox, all fellow members of the baseball plutocracy, to get
Wetteland, giving up a Class A prospect (outfielder Fernando
Seguignol), a player to be named later and, most important, a
reported $2 million. Who says there isn't revenue sharing in
baseball?

``It's ludicrous, it's irresponsible,'' says Hart. It's also
against major league rules for a team to pay more than $1 million
in a player transaction. According to a source in the
commissioner's office, all of Montreal's deals will be reviewed,
but all are expected to go through. The reason: The Expos are a
franchise in distress and need the cash to remain viable.

Wetteland, who made $2.2 million last season and is eligible for
salary arbitration this year, will be worth every penny New York
pays him if the Yankees make it to the World Series for the first
time in 14 years. Over the last three seasons Wetteland has been
perhaps the game's best closer, with a 2.32 ERA, 105 saves and 280
strikeouts in 232 1/3 innings. ``When he comes into a game,
opponents say, `Oh, no,' '' says Montreal pitching coach Joe
Kerrigan. ``He has no weaknesses. He will raise the level of
intensity for his team. He was the soul and conscience of our
team.''

Wetteland, 28, says, ``People call me things I'm not worthy of.''

When he first walked into the Yankee clubhouse last Thursday,
Wetteland says, he was awed by the sight of some of his new
teammates. ``I was almost trembling,'' Wetteland says of being
greeted by two longtime American League stars, first baseman Don
Mattingly and third baseman Wade Boggs. Says Mattingly, ``It's
great to get somebody [like Wetteland] and give up somebody
[Seguignol] you've never met.''

In his first two workouts last week Wetteland dazzled the Yanks
with his velocity, which has been clocked in the high 90's, but,
he said, ``I'm not even close to being there [top speed].'' He
also said he was in excellent condition following an off-season in
which he played roller hockey twice a week and skated every day.
That routine, he says, made his legs stronger, helped improve his
balance and was easier on his knees than running.

Over in the National League the acquisition of Grissom had the
same effect on the Braves that Wetteland's arrival had on the
Yankees. Atlanta now is unquestionably the league's best team.
Grissom, 28, was acquired last Thursday for outfielders Roberto
Kelly, 30, and Tony Tarasco, 24; Class A pitcher Esteban Yan; and
a reported $1.5 million that will go toward paying Kelly's $3.4
million contract. A Gold Glove outfielder in 1993 and '94, Grissom
has stolen more bases over the last four years than any other
major leaguer, and he's one of the best all-around players in the
National League. ``All we were missing last year was a true
leadoff hitter,'' says Brave pitcher Tom Glavine. ``We picked up
the best one in baseball.''

An Atlanta native who lives in a suburb, Riverdale, Ga., during
the off-season, Grissom says he was shocked when he was traded
to his hometown; he thought he was headed for Baltimore, Boston
or Florida. What makes him even happier, he says, is that he no
longer has to face the Braves' vaunted starting rotation. ``I
expressed that feeling to all four of those guys,'' says Grissom.

While the Yanks and Braves improved themselves by making trades,
other big-revenue teams hit the free-agent market. In addition to
righthander Brown, the Orioles signed reliever Doug Jones. The
Marlins added Burkett, Dawson, third baseman Terry Pendleton and
pitcher Bobby Witt. The Rockies nabbed Swift and Walker. The
Chicago White Sox signed Abbott and outfielder Mike Devereaux.

On the whole the free-agent money wasn't as good as the players
might have envisioned before they went on strike last August.
Brown, who last year turned down a four-year, $20 million contract
to re-sign with the Rangers, accepted a one-year contract worth
$4.225 million, even though he was perhaps the best pitcher
available. Another top-drawer free agent, first baseman Mark
Grace, re-signed with the Cubs for $4.05 million -- a $350,000
reduction in pay (box, page 26) -- despite hitting .298 last year.
Stewart, 38, earned $4.25 million with the Blue Jays in 1994 but
had to settle for a one-year, $1 million offer from the A's. At
least these guys got major league contracts. Many of the free
agents still out there will be lucky to get a minor league
contract.

``The golden goose has been beat up,'' says agent Tom Reich, who
counts Wetteland among his clients. ``There are some pretty good
free-agent players who are going to be hurt.'' Infielder Jody Reed
took a celebrated beating last year when he turned down a
three-year, $7.8 million deal from the Dodgers and got stuck with
a one-year, $350,000 contract with the Brewers. ``Jody Reed was an
aberration last year; this year situations like his will be
commonplace,'' says Reich. ``This is not a time for the faint of
heart. Both sides are suffering. This screams for a negotiated
agreement between owners and players more than ever before.''

Both sides realize that. Surely the players remember that at one
point in the negotiations the owners pledged that no team
payroll would be allowed to go under $29 million if the players
would accept a salary cap. It's now possible that half a dozen
teams might have payrolls of less than $20 million in 1995. And,
of course, the owners believe the only hope for the continued
operation of some small-revenue teams is to institute a
revenue-sharing plan tied to a so-called luxury tax on payrolls
-- the terms of which are the final major obstacle in sewing up
a new collective bargaining agreement.

Last week's player movement showed that, with the clubs losing
an estimated $700 million as a result of the players' 232-day
strike, a new financial reality has set in. ``In the 1980s
owners shopped at the good stores,'' says Montreal catcher
Darrin Fletcher. ``Now they're shopping at Wal-Mart and Price
Club. They're looking for good buys.'' Indeed, the Expos didn't
unload four star players to prove to the players' union that
they're in deep financial trouble.

``Let's stop litigating and get a deal,'' says Hart. ``This is
bad for the game.''

COLOR PHOTO: RONALD C. MODRA The cats in their new hats last week were (clockwise from top left) Wetteland, Cone, McRae, Hill, Walker and Grissom.[John Wetteland] COLOR PHOTO: TOM DIPACE [See caption above] [Marquis Grissom] COLOR PHOTO: CHUCK SOLOMON [See caption above] [David Cone] COLOR PHOTO: ED ANDRIESKI/AP [See caption above] [Larry Walker] COLOR PHOTO: DENNIS DESPROIS [See caption above] [Brian McRae] COLOR PHOTO: CHUCK SOLOMON [See caption above] [Ken Hill] TWO COLOR PHOTOS: ED ANDRIESKI/AP (2) Rocky owner Jerry McMorris (far left) had better luck negotiating with Walker and Swift (below) than he had with the union. [Jerry McMorris and Larry Walker; Bill Swift] COLOR CHART Economics 1-Oh!-1 Veteran baseball players used to see free agency as a get-rich-quick auction for their services, but this year teams are making take-it-or-leave-it offers at considerably reduced contract terms. Here's a sampling of the new fiscal reality, plus a few expensive exceptions to the new trend. [Text not available] [Lists Pay Cuts and Pay Raises by team and salary for 1994 and1995 for Dave Stewart, Bob Welch, Mike Devereaux, Doug Jones,Pat Borders, Terry Mulholland, Bob Tewksbury, Orel Hershiser,Terry Pendleton, Jaime Navarro, Kirk McCaskill, Mark Grace, Bill Swift, Larry Walker and Gregg Jeffries]
COLOR PHOTO: TOM DIPACE Whenever Malone said goodbye last week, he wasn't kidding. [Kevin Malone using his cellular telephone.] TWO COLOR PHOTOS: JOE SKIPPER/REUTER (2) While Jesse Levis played tag with Kenny Lofton, and Tribe newcomers Winfield and Hershiser greeted each other, Sparky happily hugged Tony Phillips and a young Cardinal fan did some bird-watching. [Jesse Levis and Kenny Lofton; Paul Winfield and Orel Hershiser shaking hands] COLOR PHOTO: CHUCK SOLOMON (2) [See caption above] [Sparky Anderson greeting Tony Phillips; rear view of boystanding at fence]
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
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HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
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Bogey (+1)
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