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Baseball
Stephen Cannella
July 24, 2000
No Team's ImmuneEven the Braves suffer pitching woes, and Andy Ashby is the latest cure
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July 24, 2000

Baseball

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?If you want to deal, do call the Red Sox. Over the past five seasons Boston has made 15 midsummer trades, the most among major league clubs. (The Mariners and the Mets are tied for second, with 14.) Of course, not every move was a wise one. In 1996 the Red Sox gave the Mariners Jamie Moyer, who's still in Seattle's rotation and since the trade has the fifth-most wins (61) among big league lefthanders. In return they got outfielder Darren Bragg, who hit .264 in three seasons with Boston. The Red Sox returned the favor the next year with one of the steals of the decade. Boston sent Seattle erratic closer Heath-cliff Slocumb and got Derek Lowe, an All-Star closer this season, plus catcher Jason Varitek.

?Speaking of steals, the Yankees pulled off perhaps the biggest heist of recent seasons in '95, when they got righthander David Cone from the Bluejays for minor league pitchers Mike Gordon, Marty Janzen and Jason Jarvis. Janzen, the only one of the three to pitch in the majors, went 6-7 with a 639 ERA in 27 games with Toronto. Through Sunday, Cone had won 61 games for New York and had a 6-1 postseason record.

?If you're dealt on deadline day, chances are you're a pitcher. In the last five years 149 players were sent packing on July 31, and 99 of them, or two thirds, have been pitchers. The best pickups? Johnson, who went 10-1 for the Astros in '98, and righthander Andy Benes, who won seven of nine decisions down the stretch for the Mariners, who won the American League West in '95.

Economic Panel's Report
Playing by the Numbers

The report issued last week by the commissioner's blue-ribbon panel on the state of baseball's economics, a document 18 months in the making, spells out in 87 pages of charts, graphs and arid prose what has been obvious to fans for years: The sport's economic and competitive balance is out of whack. Still, as commissioner Bud Selig would have us believe, acknowledging a problem is the first step toward solving it. "I told the clubs that we're done making believe this doesn't exist," Selig said last Friday after the report had been presented to the owners. "Disparity and baseball's whole economic order is our Number 1 priority."

The report is also a likely first step on the road to labor Armageddon when baseball's basic agreement expires. Traditionally management has closely guarded its books, but the panel's report lists each team's revenues and operating profits or losses over the past five years.

Although the numbers presented are far from complete, the picture they paint isn't pretty. Teams' total revenue (from local and national TV contracts to ticket sales and stadium concessions) more than doubled, to $2.8 billion, from 1995 through '99, but only three teams, the Yankees, Indians and Rockies, turned a profit over that span. With the majority of teams hemorrhaging money, it seems likely that the panel's recommendations—vastly increased revenue sharing, a luxury tax of up to 50% on payrolls over $84 million and an annual "competitive balance draft" that would allow the clubs with the eight worst records to pluck talent from the systems of the eight playoff teams—will receive support from most owners.

The report also advocated allowing teams to relocate if they've exhausted all reasonable means of making ends meet in their current homes. Contraction—the disbanding of two or more teams-was said to be unnecessary if the panel's other recommendations are adopted, but some owners remain intrigued by the idea. Selig said last week that the issue of contraction didn't come up at his meeting with the owners, but "the problems [outlined in the report] are so significant that I wouldn't want to close my mind to any options."

The contraction issue could become a significant hammer for management when labor negotiations begin. According to one major league executive, the owners have the right to disband teams without the approval of the players' union, which would object to the disappearance of 50 player jobs even more vehemently than it would a stiffer luxury tax that might act as a drag on salaries. "We'd have to bargain over the effects of the consolidation—severance pay for jobs lost and things like that," says the executive. "But if the decision to consolidate is made, there isn't much the union can do about it."

Williamson's Big Chance
Going Back to The Start

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