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Stephen Cannella
February 26, 2001
Chicago Misdeal?The Blue Jays say the White Sox sent them damaged goods in the Mike Sirotka—David Wells trade
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February 26, 2001

Baseball

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Chicago Misdeal?
The Blue Jays say the White Sox sent them damaged goods in the Mike Sirotka—David Wells trade

As camps opened in 1993, Angels president Richard Brown lamented that his front office had come off as "country bumpkins" when third baseman Kelly Gruber, acquired from the Blue Jays in an off-season trade, was found to need shoulder surgery that ultimately sidelined him for three months. Said Brown, "Too bad we don't have a lemon law in baseball."

Last week it was the Blue Jays who felt like bumpkins. Last Friday, Toronto general manager Gord Ash asked the commissioner's office to investigate the January deal that sent lefthander David Wells to the White Sox for lefthander Mike Sirotka, who Toronto says has a partially torn rotator cuff and a torn labrum in his pitching arm and could miss the 2001 season. (The day before, Sirotka had begun a two-week rehabilitation program after which he and team doctors will decide if he needs surgery.) Upset that he didn't receive the inning-eating starter he had traded for, Ash wants compensation—most likely another pitcher—from Chicago. "I don't think of this as deception [by the White Sox]," Ash says. "I think of it as a player who's unable to compete at the level everyone expected him to."

The White Sox maintain that Sirotka's injury is merely his usual early-spring discomfort. Even if it's more than that, the Chicago front office says, what's done is done. "Unless we are advised otherwise by the commissioner's office, we have no reason to believe that this trade is anything but a completed deal," said general manager Ken Williams.

Caveat emptor, in other words, which is likely to be Bud Selig's take as well. Commissioners and league presidents have been reluctant to rescind trades or force teams into further compensation, preferring instead to let teams work out solutions on their own. In 1996 Selig's Brewers voluntarily sent pitcher Ricky Bones to the Yankees to compensate for infielder Pat Listach, whom New York found to have a fractured foot shortly after he was dealt to the team. A similar compromise is unlikely in this case: Williams adamantly believes the Blue Jays deserve nothing further, so unless Selig's investigation unearths some chicanery, Toronto is stuck

Even Ash isn't accusing the White Sox of dirty tricks. Blue Jays doctors examined Sirotka five days after the deal was made and found nothing more than tightness in his shoulder; the more serious ailment wasn't diagnosed until Sirotka visited renowned orthopedist James Andrews three weeks later. Sirotka, however, maintains Chicago knew he was hurt when he was dealt—why else would the White Sox have given him a cortisone shot a week before the trade?

But Williams says he was up front with Toronto about Chicago's treatment of Sirotka, and Ash concedes that he was told about the shot at some point "Whether that was before the trade or immediately after," Ash says, "I don't have that chain of events in my mind."

Who'll Replace Mo Vaughn?
First Things First for Angels

Last November, after the Braves declined to pick up his option for 2001, veteran first baseman Wally Joyner decided that he wanted to play only one more season, and he wanted to play it in Southern California. His agent, Barry Axel-rod, called the Angels and Padres but got nowhere. When Anaheim signed one-dimensional slugger Jose Canseco last month, Joyner, 38, took it as a sign he was done. "I called an Angels executive to say I should retire since I couldn't even beat out a guy who doesn't bring a glove to camp," says Joyner. "He said to have Barry call Bill [Stoneman, Anaheim's general manager] right away."

That morning Anaheim had learned that first baseman Mo Vaughn had a torn left biceps tendon and would miss most of the season. A few days later the Angels signed Joyner, who had spent the first six seasons of his 15-year career as a fan favorite with the Angels, to a minor league contract. Joyner, who hit .281 in 224 at bats as a pinch hitter and backup for Atlanta last year, insists he will retire after the season, but he may not last that long if he doesn't win a full-time job. "I'm not just going to hang around," he says, "but I wanted to end my career with a better taste than being a pinch hitter."

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