Similarly, several other high-priced players seem to have worn out their welcomes. Pirates outfielder Derek Bell, who signed a two-year, $9.75 million free-agent deal in December, has been a bust, batting .173 with only five home runs and playing a mere 46 games because of a strained left knee that had him on the disabled list for four weeks in May and June and a strained right hamstring that has kept him on the DL since July 4. Then two weeks ago Bell's name surfaced in testimony that is part of a police investigation of a Tampa underaged prostitution ring. He hasn't been charged with any wrongdoing, and a lawyer representing Bell denies the player's alleged involvement.
Cardinals veteran righthander Andy Benes has become a forgotten man because he's been struggling with his mechanics. He was 7-7 with a 7.38 ERA in the second season of his second stint in St. Louis and despite being healthy had pitched only nine times since the All-Star break. The Cardinals are likely to try to unload Benes and his $6 million salary during the off-season, but figure to have difficulty doing so.
Then there's Carl Everett, the Red Sox outfielder whose erratic behavior over the the last two seasons has apparently exhausted the patience of even general manager Dan Duquette, who had been his chief defender. Last week the 30-year-old Everett was suspended by the team for four games after reporting late to a workout and then berating manager Joe Kerrigan in a profane tirade when informed that he would be fined for his tardiness.
Late last week Everett's agent, Larry Reynolds, asked Duquette to trade Everett, but moving him won't be easy. His stats have plummeted this year (.257, 14 home runs, 58 RBIs; down from .300, 34, 108 in 2000), and with a pending reexamination of his right knee, which he injured on June 21, his season officially ended last weekend. Plus, he has two years and $16.15 million remaining on his contract.
Bowden may find himself in a similar bind when trying to deal Reese, who's making $3.2 million this year. He's eligible for arbitration after the season, and teams are often leery of acquiring players who could lead them into arbitration and an unexpected higher contract. Complicating matters are Reese's declining offensive production the last two years—his average has dropped about 30 points each season from a high of .285 in 1999—and Bowden's insistence on getting high-level prospects in return.
In the end Reese's refusal to sign a long-term deal with the Reds in April—he didn't even make a counterproposal—might have saved Cincinnati from making a tremendous mistake.
No Time for Fighting
On Sept. 4 the commissioner's office sent a letter to the players' association stating that ownership would seek changes in the collective bargaining agreement when the deal expires after the 2001 season. The missive, a formality under the National Labor Relations Act, was the first official step toward negotiations in what was expected to be an acrimonious labor battle. Last week, however, in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, sentiment appeared to be building among players for a quick settlement.
Owners, threatened with a $1 million fine from commissioner Bud Selig if they discuss the labor situation publicly, weren't talking, but several players acknowledge that a nasty labor fight and a work stoppage wouldn't be appropriate, given the recent tragedies. "That would crush baseball, and [both sides] know that," says Marlins outfielder Cliff Floyd. "Either come to an agreement or put it off a couple of years."
"The last tiling people want to hear about is labor problems between us and the owners," adds Rangers righthander Rick Helling, who, as the American League player representative, will sit in on negotiations. "There's no doubt the negotiations will be affected [by the attacks]."