SI Vault
Tom Verducci
January 24, 2000
Left Side StoryIt may take a sinister plan to beat the Yankees
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January 24, 2000


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The Yankees have been so ferocious in October that the lefthanded pitching they've seen from the National League in the World Series hasn't bothered them either. They are 4-0 in those games since 1996, winning against the Braves' Tom Glavine (twice) and Denny Neagle and the Padres' Sterling Hitchcock. Still, the American League contenders are now better armed than they have been during this Yankees run.

"We take nothing for granted," says Hart, "but there's no question that with the emergence of [Bartolo] Colon and the addition of Finley, we look more formidable in a short series. Of the teams in the playoffs last year, we all feel that we've gotten better and the Yankees have stayed the same. That's not bad."

Mid-Market Pitching
Collusion or Realism?

A gaggle of unspectacular pitchers looking for spectacular money hit the free-agent market this winter dreaming of the kind of pay dirt found by kindred hurlers Todd Stottlemyre and Al Leiter a year ago. (Each signed for $32 million over four years, Stottlemyre with the Diamondbacks, Leiter with the Mets.) That kind of funny money never materialized.

Kenny Rogers ($22.5 million from the Rangers), Darren Oliver ($19 million, Rangers) and Andy Benes ($18 million, Cardinals) signed for three guaranteed years, while Aaron Sele ($15 million, Mariners), Juan Guzman ($12.5 million, Devil Rays) and Omar Olivares ($8 million, A's) took two. Steve Trachsel ($1 million, Devil Rays) got only one year.

What happened? Did the owners at last show some admirable restraint in signing pitchers who don't sell tickets or win pennants, or was there something more fiendish at work? It depends on whom you ask.

The management side: "Nobody in the group stood out," says the Red Sox' Dan Duquette. "If you didn't sign one of them, you could move on to the next. The demand wasn't high."

The players' side: "It's that C word," one agent says. "It was a collusive market. I believe they got together, decided where the market was and let these pitchers fall where they may." That's an odd claim, considering that no one dared apply the C word to the rest of the market, which saw setup relievers such as Mike Trombley, Arthur Rhodes and Graeme Lloyd hit it big.

In any case, several pitchers were burned by the market after rejecting more lucrative offers from their former teams: Benes (approximately $25 million over three years), Oliver ($24 million over four years), Sele ($28 million over four years) and Trachsel (about $6 million in arbitration). Hideo Nomo, who wasn't interested in $9 million over three years from the Brewers during the season, is still looking.

Sele did have a $29 million, four-year offer in hand from Baltimore, but that disappeared after Orioles owner Peter Angelos took a look at the report on Sele from the team physician. Angelos, who already had asked that $8 million be deferred, then asked Sele to cut the average annual value of the deal and reduce the guaranteed years to three. Adam Katz, Sele's agent, says three other doctors had found nothing but normal wear in Sele's shoulder. Angelos's concerns sent Sele sailing to the Mariners.

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