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Baseball
Tim Kurkjian
June 22, 1992
Motown Blues
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June 22, 1992

Baseball

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Motown Blues

Add the Tigers to baseball's list of financially troubled teams—at least as long as Tom Monaghan owns them. To make last month's payroll, Detroit had to borrow $5 million against a line of credit established by major league baseball. Tiger chief executive officer Jim Campbell insists that the sum was more "an advance" than a loan: Detroit had to pay its players for the month of May and had not yet received the first share of its annual $14 million network-television payout, which is due in mid-July. Times are tight for the Tigers, and Monaghan is strapped for cash because his main business. Domino's Pizza, is ailing.

Commissioner Fay Vincent said last week that so far this season 10 teams have borrowed against the $300 million line of credit. Some of these teams have greater debts than Detroit's, but because Domino's Pizza is doing so poorly, Monaghan's credit rating has been hurt and he can't get a short-term bank loan, as he could a couple of years ago. In the past Monaghan had sometimes used money from Domino's to pay the Tigers' debts. To improve his cash flow, Monaghan recently sold a number of antique cars, including a 1931 Bugatti Royale, for a reported $10 million.

Monaghan now has put the Tigers up for sale and has reportedly set a price of $125 million for the team. So far he has apparently had no firm offers, perhaps because the Tigers look like a shaky investment. According to an 81-page confidential financial report obtained by the Detroit Free Press, the Tigers made profits of $5.8 million in 1989, $2.1 million in '90 and $1.2 million in '91, but might lose money this year. In the meantime the team's payroll has gone from $17.5 million in '90 to $24.4 million in '91 and $27 million this year. It should continue to increase dramatically. Slugging first baseman Cecil Fielder, who signed for $4.5 million this winter, is eligible for salary arbitration after this season and for free agency after the '93 season. If the Tigers plan to keep him, they will have to pay him at least $30 million for five years.

Poor attendance doesn't help, either. The Tigers had averaged only 14,867 a game through last weekend. (Through Sunday, they were 27-35 and 11� games out of first place in the American League East.) Granted, June, July and August are the best months for attendance for most teams, including Detroit, but with the Tigers struggling, there's little chance they will even match last season's sparse attendance of 1,641,661; only the Indians among American League teams drew fewer fans in '91.

A Catcher Catches Fire

In spring training Phillie manager Jim Fregosi said he wouldn't trade his catcher Darren Daulton, who hit a measly .196 in 1991, for the Padres' three-time All-Star catcher, Benito Santiago. Now we know why. Daulton has been the National League's best catcher in 1992.

Through Sunday he was batting .313, leading the league in RBIs (47) and was second in slugging (.598). The last National League catcher to top the RBI leaders this late in the season was the Expos' Gary Carter in 1984, the year Carter joined Johnny Bench and Roy Campanella as the only catchers ever to lead their league in RBIs. Daulton is on a pace to drive in 129 runs. When Carter knocked in 105 in 1986, it was the last time one of the league's backstops had as many as 90 RBIs in a season.

There are two keys to Daulton's success. He's now hitting to all fields, instead of trying to pull every pitch. And he's healthy—at least relatively healthy. "My body is beat up, but when you're behind the dish, you learn to play through that," he says. "You just hope nothing bad happens."

As it did last year. On May 6, 1991, Daulton suffered a broken left eye socket and various bruises in an accident in which teammate Lenny Dykstra slammed his Mercedes into a pair of trees. Dykstra was charged with drunken driving. The accident aggravated a neck injury Daulton suffered two weeks earlier when he was steamrollered by the Cardinals' Ray Lankford in a brutal collision at the plate.

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