Inside Baseball

February 26, 2001

Chicago Misdeal?
The Blue Jays say the White Sox sent them damaged goods in the
Mike Sirotka-David Wells trade

As camps opened in 1993, Angels president Richard Brown lamented
that his front office had come off as "country bumpkins" when
third baseman Kelly Gruber, acquired from the Blue Jays in an
off-season trade, was found to need shoulder surgery that
ultimately sidelined him for three months. Said Brown, "Too bad
we don't have a lemon law in baseball."

Last week it was the Blue Jays who felt like bumpkins. Last
Friday, Toronto general manager Gord Ash asked the commissioner's
office to investigate the January deal that sent lefthander David
Wells to the White Sox for lefthander Mike Sirotka, who Toronto
says has a partially torn rotator cuff and a torn labrum in his
pitching arm and could miss the 2001 season. (The day before,
Sirotka had begun a two-week rehabilitation program after which
he and team doctors will decide if he needs surgery.) Upset that
he didn't receive the inning-eating starter he had traded for,
Ash wants compensation--most likely another pitcher--from Chicago.
"I don't think of this as deception [by the White Sox]," Ash
says. "I think of it as a player who's unable to compete at the
level everyone expected him to."

The White Sox maintain that Sirotka's injury is merely his usual
early-spring discomfort. Even if it's more than that, the Chicago
front office says, what's done is done. "Unless we are advised
otherwise by the commissioner's office, we have no reason to
believe that this trade is anything but a completed deal," said
general manager Ken Williams.

Caveat emptor, in other words, which is likely to be Bud Selig's
take as well. Commissioners and league presidents have been
reluctant to rescind trades or force teams into further
compensation, preferring instead to let teams work out solutions
on their own. In 1996 Selig's Brewers voluntarily sent pitcher
Ricky Bones to the Yankees to compensate for infielder Pat
Listach, whom New York found to have a fractured foot shortly
after he was dealt to the team. A similar compromise is unlikely
in this case: Williams adamantly believes the Blue Jays deserve
nothing further, so unless Selig's investigation unearths some
chicanery, Toronto is stuck.

Even Ash isn't accusing the White Sox of dirty tricks. Blue Jays
doctors examined Sirotka five days after the deal was made and
found nothing more than tightness in his shoulder; the more
serious ailment wasn't diagnosed until Sirotka visited renowned
orthopedist James Andrews three weeks later. Sirotka, however,
maintains Chicago knew he was hurt when he was dealt--why else
would the White Sox have given him a cortisone shot a week before
the trade?

But Williams says he was up front with Toronto about Chicago's
treatment of Sirotka, and Ash concedes that he was told about the
shot at some point. "Whether that was before the trade or
immediately after," Ash says, "I don't have that chain of events
in my mind."

Who'll Replace Mo Vaughn?
First Things First for Angels

Last November, after the Braves declined to pick up his option
for 2001, veteran first baseman Wally Joyner decided that he
wanted to play only one more season, and he wanted to play it in
Southern California. His agent, Barry Axelrod, called the Angels
and Padres but got nowhere. When Anaheim signed one-dimensional
slugger Jose Canseco last month, Joyner, 38, took it as a sign he
was done. "I called an Angels executive to say I should retire
since I couldn't even beat out a guy who doesn't bring a glove to
camp," says Joyner. "He said to have Barry call Bill [Stoneman,
Anaheim's general manager] right away."

That morning Anaheim had learned that first baseman Mo Vaughn had
a torn left biceps tendon and would miss most of the season. A
few days later the Angels signed Joyner, who had spent the first
six seasons of his 15-year career as a fan favorite with the
Angels, to a minor league contract. Joyner, who hit .281 in 224
at bats as a pinch hitter and backup for Atlanta last year,
insists he will retire after the season, but he may not last that
long if he doesn't win a full-time job. "I'm not just going to
hang around," he says, "but I wanted to end my career with a
better taste than being a pinch hitter."

Joyner is one of three contestants in one of the spring's most
intriguing battles for a job. Scott Spiezio, 28, a versatile
switch-hitter who clouted a career-high 17 home runs for the
Angels last year, made only one error in 29 games at first, but
he may be more valuable in a utility role. Rookie Larry Barnes,
26, a minor league veteran and the best defensive player of the
three, will also get a shot. Nagging ankle and wrist injuries
hampered him at Triple A Edmonton last season, but he rebounded
to lead the Arizona Fall League in hitting (.355). "To me there's
no question [Barnes] can play first base," says Stoneman. "The
question is if his bat is good enough. This is a decision that
will stretch until the last week of camp."

New Managers
Brenly and Buck Out of the Booth

If you think video flight simulators offer good preparation for
air combat, then you'll think Diamondbacks skipper Bob Brenly is
ready for his new gig. "Part of my job as an analyst was to play
manager and anticipate matchups and strategy," he says. Brenly
spent the past five seasons as a baseball broadcaster. His only
on-field experience since his playing days as a catcher ended in
1989 came during four seasons in the '90s as a coach with the
Giants.

New Blue Jays manager Buck Martinez has even less dugout
experience than Brenly--he hasn't worn a uniform since his
17-year career as a catcher ended in 1986. He spent 14 years in
the booth, a tenure he feels gave him solid, if unconventional,
preparation for being a manager. "Every night I talked to
managers on both sides of the field," he says, "so I saw every
possible situation from different perspectives, not just one
team's."

Both Brenly and Martinez feel the education they received behind
the microphone was as rich as what they would have gotten on the
bench. What did they learn in the booth? "From being around so
many teams, I learned that a big part of a manager's job is to be
organized," says Martinez. However, even the most prepared of
skippers must deal with players, and on that front Martinez cites
advice he received from one of the masters: "Joe Torre told me to
make sure bad news always comes from you."

Broadcasting also offered Brenly and Martinez a portal into
baseball's Information Age. "As a player I didn't pay much
attention to all the statistics," Brenly says. "It was an
education to learn what information was available and how to use
it."

Then there are the media obligations, often the most vexing of a
skipper's duties. Neither former Fourth Estater anticipates
losing sleep over dealing with erstwhile colleagues. Says Brenly,
"I might even suggest some questions they can ask."

For complete spring training news, plus notes from Tom Verducci,
go to cnnsi.com/baseball.

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BIEVER With a partially torn rotator cuff, Sirotka, an inning-eater in Chicago, could well miss the season.

the HOT corner

Forget making solid contact--21-year-old Dodgers third baseman
Adrian Beltre hopes simply to be eating solid food before spring
games begin. After an appendectomy in January, he develpoed a
severe infection and spent a month hospitalized in his native
Dominican Republic. As of Monday, Beltre, who lost 24 pounds
during the ordeal, was still on a liquid diet, and the Dodgers
had set no timetable for when he would be ready to participate in
drills...

The two-year, $6 million contract Marlins closer Antonio
Alfonseca, the National League leader with 45 saves in 2000,
signed last week, minutes before his scheduled arbitration
hearing, rankled some players who felt he'd lowered the market
for stoppers. The Reds' Danny Graves got word of the deal during
his own arbitration hearing; he was asking for $3.075 million
but lost his case and had to settle for $2.1 million. "Alfonseca
undermined us," said Graves, who had 30 saves last season...

Agent Scott Boras is the man to call if you're a free agent, but
not if you're going to arbitration. With losses by clients Travis
Lee and Kevin Millwood this year, Boras's arbitration record fell
to 1-8 since 1997. Another Boras player, Andruw Jones, had his
hearing on Monday...

Could the American League West race be decided by May 1? Teams
in that division will each play 19 intradivisional games in
April. The rest of the schedule is no easier for the favored A's
and Mariners: They each play six April games against the world
champion Yankees and the American League Central champion White
Sox.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)