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Howard v. Phillies (cont.)

Posted: Wednesday February 20, 2008 12:15PM; Updated: Wednesday February 20, 2008 4:13PM
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Wang is no Michael Jordan

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Wang was shooting for the moon with his $4.6-million arbitration request, and his representatives also badly overshot when they tried to compare Wang to Michael Jordan -- yes, that M.J.! -- in his hearing. That's why it's no surprise he lost at $4 million.

The Yankees successfully argued that $4 million was a fair price for Wang considering he didn't match up to Willis entering his first year of arbitration, and Willis, who was coming off a brilliant 22-win season, got $4.35 million. The Yankees also pointed to Wang's great run support in leading to his win totals of 19 (he was the best-supported starter in the majors last year).

The Yankees argued Wang was a lot closer and really no better than Scott Kazmir, and that Kazmir, along with pitching notables Joe Blanton, Freddy Garcia. Roy Oswalt and John Lackey all got $3.8 million or less. It probably didn't help Wang that he bombed in the playoffs last year, leading to the team's early ouster.

The Willis comp was the real killer for Wang, though.

Wang's reps emphasized his 19-win total two straight seasons. They also tried went a little nuts in the hearing room when they described him as "the Michael Jordan of Taiwan,'' and actually produced a graphic depicting how the Taiwanese stock market fluctuated on days he pitched.

As the arbitrators ruled: Who cares about that?

MLB is a $6-billion business, with only about $3 million of that coming from Taiwan. Besides, Wang makes millions in endorsements in Taiwan, separate and apart from his Yankees salary. The Yankees pointed that out, and predictably, Wang suffered a tough loss, a rarity for pitcher who normally enjoys incredible support from his team.

Around the Majors

• The Mets were ready to give Jorge Posada a five-year deal before he re-signed with the Yankees for $52.4 million over four years. His friend Willie Randolph said he wasn't surprised and understands Posada's call. "He wants to go down as one of the greatest Yankee catchers in history," Randolph said. Posada explained his decision, saying, "I belong here.'' Posada, 36, also conceded with a smile: "Five years would have been tough.''

• The plan is to prepare 2007 relief sensation Joba Chamberlain as if he'll be a starting pitcher this year. But if all goes right, Yankees GM Brian Cashman acknowledged, they'll again utilize Joba as the set-up man for Mariano Rivera. Chamberlain said he'd be happy with either role, but he is lockering next to the great Rivera again this spring, hoping to soak up more relieving tips.

Andy Pettitte received great ovations from Yankees fans during his first day on the field. "It was good to be back out there, to put my spikes back on,'' Pettitte said. "It was normal ... everything was great.'' Pettitte also revealed he received a lot of encouragement about returning from Girardi and a phone call before his press conference from former manager Joe Torre, whom he called "a great man.''

• Of the Mitchell men, Pettitte's easily done the best in his explanation so far. His situation is slightly different as he's been pulled into a very public war between two good friends, Roger Clemens and former trainer Brian McNamee, both of whom he obviously still likes very much. But some of the other players mentioned in the Mitchell Report aren't distinguishing themselves so far.

Miguel Tejada, who has more legal issues than the others after the House Oversight Committee sent his case to the FBI, said nothing in Astros camp. Meanwhile, new Brewers reliever Eric Gagne and new Nationals catcher Paul LoDuca apologized but refused to elaborate. When asked what he was apologizing for, LoDuca curtly responded "C'mon bro. Next question.''

• Contract talks between Red Sox manager Terry Francona and Red Sox ownership appear to be progressing. No reason not to get a deal done there. With Tony La Russa and Jim Leyland reportedly getting $4 million annually in recent extensions, that would be a good goal for Francona to shoot for.

• With the Red Sox holding twin $20-million options for 2009 and '10 on Manny Ramirez, folks are expecting Ramirez to turn it on this year, maybe for Manny not to be so much like Manny. Carl Crawford, who trained some with Ramirez this winter, predicted to the St. Petersburg Times, "Manny might have a big year this year -- watch out for that.''

• Interesting that Curt Schilling should try to prove what a stand-up guy he is by saying he took Boston's $8-million offer rather than two other $14-million offers he had since Schilling signed before he was allowed to talk dollars with other teams. If that's the case, Schilling should name those teams so we'll know which teams broke the rules by negotiating early with Schilling, who served as his own agent. It's still also a mystery how Schilling came up with a bad shoulder after passing his physical upon signing his BoSox contract.

• Mets esteemed owner Fred Wilpon said at Mets camp Tuesday, 'It's a championship season. We expect to be in the playoffs, and deep into the playoffs.'' Baseball insiders are saying there's not only extra pressure on manager Willie Randolph but also on GM Omar Minaya, as well.

Vladimir Guerrero made it clear whet he thinks about his role. "No, no to DH,'' Guerrero said in English before switching to Spanish.

• When he was a Texas Ranger, Mark Teixeira always seemed destined for free agency after 2008. But now that he's an Atlanta Brave, he upgraded the chances to sign before he becomes free, if only slightly. At camp this week, Teixeira told Braves writers, 'I'm always willing to listen.'' Hey, it's a start.

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