"I wouldn't expect, nor would I think the Dodgers expect, that they are going to get seven years of production from a player [Brown's] age," said Braves general manager John Schuerholz.
Meanwhile, at least one other club summoned enough resolve to draw the line. On Sunday the Astros angrily rejected a request by five-time American League Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens, 36, who has $16.6 million and two years left on his contract, to add one year and $27 million to the deal, if the Blue Jays are able to trade him to Houston. "Quite frankly, we are absolutely stunned and outraged," Houston G.M. Gerry Hunsicker said.
"Teams have got to have some backbone," Lucchino said. "That's a part of it. But the system has got to change."
A Mets Heist?
At 40, Rickey's Not over the Hill
Eighteen years ago Rickey Henderson stole 100 bases in a season for the first time. Eight seasons ago he slid into third base with alltime-record steal number 939, pulled up the bag and held it aloft. On Christmas Day he will turn 40, yet his one-year, $2.3 million contract with the Mets is a flat-out steal for New York.
Widely considered the best leadoff hitter in history, Henderson remained among the American League's finest in that slot with the A's last season. He led the league in walks (118) and stolen bases (66), and his .376 on-base percentage was third best among leadoff men. Mets leadoff hitters, in the meantime, had only a .321 on-base percentage, and the team stole four fewer bases than Henderson did.
Still a chiseled physical specimen and still deeply numbers conscious, Henderson has his narrowed glare set upon two all-time records: He needs 167 walks to pass Babe Ruth's 2,056 and 232 runs to pass Ty Cobb's 2,245. (Henderson scored 101 in '98.)
"You have some initial reservations when you think, Hey, here's a 40-year-old player," says Mets general manager Steve Phillips. "But Rickey, he's not normal."
Getting Fiscal: 60-40 or Fight
Even before the Brown signing, commissioner Bud Selig was getting a little light-headed looking at the precipitous rise in salaries. So when he addressed the owners at a Dec. 3 meeting in Chicago, he told them that they'd have to adhere to a guideline adopted in 1982 but rarely enforced in recent years: The "60-40 rule," which requires all franchises to maintain at least a 60-to-40 ratio of assets to liabilities. Assets are defined as a club's appraised value while liabilities include total player salaries and all deferred money. Roughly 10 teams—whose identities the commissioner's office won't reveal—are currently in violation of the 60-40 rule. (They may not be the usual big-spending bogeymen like the Yankees and the Dodgers, whose high franchise values might allow them to conform to the 60-40 guideline.) If the violators don't fall in line within three years, the commissioner, in the words of one baseball official, "has broad powers to get a team into compliance."