Escape from New York
Don Mattingly retiring? No way.
Mattingly, whose five-year, $19.3 million contract ran out after last season, had told the Yankees to make plans to go on without him while he pondered spending summers with his family. It was just his way of gracefully leaving the insanity that comes with being an employee of George Steinbrenner. It seems Mattingly's plan all along was to wait for the Yanks to acquire another first baseman—they got Tino Martinez from the Mariners in a five-player trade last Thursday—and then, with a clear conscience, start looking for another job.
His power sharply diminished over the past six years by an ailing back, Mattingly, 34, had only seven home runs and 49 RBIs last season, but still stroked 32 doubles and hit .288. He also continues to play brilliant defense and is a positive impact in the clubhouse. Mattingly will have to take a huge pay cut—from $4.4 million to, say, $1.5 million with lots of incentive clauses—to catch on with another team. But having had his first taste of postseason play in '95, he's more interested in getting back to the playoffs than in matching last year's income.
Mattingly could even sign with the Mariners, who are managed by one of his favorites, Lou Piniella, a former New York teammate and manager. After trading Martinez—who got a five-year, $20.3 million contract from the Yankees—cost-conscious Seattle needs a lefthanded bat to protect Ken Griffey Jr. Right now the Mariners have 6'5", 240-pound Greg Pirkl, 25, a righthanded power hitter who whacked 15 homers in 47 games at Triple A Tacoma in '95, penciled in to play first.
Second to None
Second baseman Roberto Alomar is the best free agent to hit the market since Barry Bonds in 1992. Alomar, who in 1995 hit .300 with 13 homers and 66 RBIs, stole 30 bases and won his fifth Gold Glove for the Blue Jays, is one of the majors' best all-around players. He's just 27, and he's destined for the Hall of Fame. So why isn't there a bidding war for him?
Here's why: Alomar's initial asking price was $25 million for three years, which one general manager termed "ridiculous." Several other G.M.'s agreed, with one saying he would give Alomar $30 million for six years. Alomar wants a three-year deal because he doesn't want to be stuck with a losing team. Even though Toronto won the World Series in 1992 and '93, the Blue Jays were a shambles by the end of last season. With a three-year deal, Alomar would be in position to avoid getting caught again in the kind of deteriorating situation that occurred in Toronto over the past two years.
Alomar hates to lose, which is admirable, but he essentially quit on the Blue Jays when he removed himself from the lineup the final week of last season. That angered his teammates, and it won't endear him to general managers, who now think the best offer to Alomar will be about $5.5 million a year. Alomar would be a good fit with the Orioles or the Yankees, and both teams are interested in him.