CAN OF WORMS OPENED IN PITTSBURGH
Lawyers are fascinated by Pirates owner
seeking to rid the club of its $5.3 million deferred payment obligation to the outfielder. Pittsburgh attorney Robert Potter, a specialist in contract litigation for the firm of Titus Marcus and Shapira, told the
, "The unique and most critical aspect of the case is Parker's admission that he used cocaine and that it affected his performance. It's the Pirates' biggest weapon in the case, and Parker's improved statistics since he joined the Cincinnati Reds will go right along with that. From a legal point of view, there's nothing wrong with the argument that he breached that part of his contract."
Questions can be raised concerning Parker's performance after he signed the five-year contract prior to the 1979 season. He did help Pittsburgh win a world championship that year. But after having hit over .300 for five straight seasons through '79, he hit below .300 the next four. He also got heavy. It can be argued that his admitted usage contributed to the decline of the franchise.
On the other hand, Parker suffered a number of injuries during the early '80s, and while he was overweight, no one ever accused him of not playing hard. And management has to share some of the blame for the alleged drug-related activity in the Pirate clubhouse, because it refused to confront a serious problem.
Prine's lawsuit could have some undesired effects. Baseball doesn't need another source of friction between players and management, especially a lawsuit that can be seen as a vendetta. Prine assumed the debt when he purchased the club last summer for a reported $22 million and, indeed, the Pirates' drug problems deflated the price. The people of Pittsburgh might feel Parker betrayed them, but Prine's move puts Parker in a sort of double jeopardy in light of
disciplinary actions against him in February. "They sent the war planes out in the dead of night," said Tom Reich, Parker's agent. "This is outright war, and that's just what we're mobilizing for. No player will be unaffected by this onslaught."
BLOWING IT IN THE WINDY CITY
Because managing in Chicago this spring has been like living on death row, the futures of
Tony La Russa
have been the focus of much attention. In La Russa's case, the concern is legitimate. One White Sox owner,
, tells friends that he has saved La Russa's job a number of times, but that he can no longer hold off partner
man. The problems of the Sox delight some baseball people. "What bothers everyone about that ownership is that it sacrificed loyal and competent people within the organization for show business," says one baseball executive....
While the Cubs continue to have trouble scoring, Frey has been annoyed at the speculation about his job. "I keep reading a quote from
that not only is out of context but was said last summer," claims Frey, "so I'm not going to change."... Oakland's
, new prot�g� of
, struck out 16 and 14 batters in his last two starts. "This kid throws harder than anyone in the league," says Seattle's
. The A's other sensation,
gushing after hitting two tremendous homers to the opposite field. "He hits 'em where I hit 'em," says Jackson, "except he's righthanded. That's scary."... Jackson, incidentally, was leading the league in batting, if only briefly, at .429....
The A's, who perennially have the most imaginative media guide, have outdone themselves with this year's cover, a movie theme entitled The A's Story, "based on an original story by Abner Doubleday."...Doctors feel that
might have been better off breaking his left ankle than tearing ligaments, because speed is such an important part of his game. Gibson is being replaced by two players (
) who were released in spring training. So with the starting pitching out of sync, the burden to hold the Tigers together lies with
, who has 67 saves in 78 opportunities since being traded to Detroit in March 1984.
ONE SCOUT'S FAVORITE: RYNE SANDBERG