WISH THEY WERE HERE
The 1987 season opens without:
1) Roger Clemens, the only pitcher ever to win the Cy Young, MVP and All-Star Game MVP awards the same year;
2) Tim Raines, objectively the National League batting champion and subjectively the league's best all-around player;
3) Rich Gedman, the AL's premier catcher now that Lance Parrish is in Philadelphia;
4) Ron Guidry, Bob Horner, Tom Seaver, Bob Boone, Lonnie Smith, Dave Kingman, Tony Armas....
Few would argue with the owners' plaints that salary escalation has gotten out of hand, that players should perform each year and that teams should make money. But by trying to make up for 10 years of profligacy in such a short time, the owners have jeopardized the game's integrity. Sure, many players and agents needed a sobering shower, but the Clemens and Raines scenarios suggest that the victory most owners really want is over the field hands. Many teams don't seem to care that a rookie may be ready to step in and help; they make him start the season in the minors anyway so that, like Clemens, he ends up pitching 3[5/6] seasons to earn the three-year right to go to arbitration. The "business" people believe that players are no different from corrugated boxes, and they delight in turning the working-class public against the players. What does this say about the product? It says the owners believe the fans are so dumb they'll pay more to see Dave Collins than they did to see Tim Raines.
What did the Red Sox gain by deceiving Clemens into the belief that his two-year, $2.4M request was workable, then renewing him at a $500,000 salary and refusing to negotiate? About as little as Clemens is gaining by playing catch with Gedman in Katy, Texas. Neither side will feel the same way about the other again in what should have been a long-term relationship.
Why does baseball's richest team, the Dodgers, refuse even to talk to Raines? Why did the Athletics knuckle under to peer pressure instead of signing Gedman at a discount price? The owners are trying to make a point: We can break the players. But what they're actually saying is that they don't care—they don't care that they're denigrating the players, diluting the game, cheating the fans. The bottom line is that they don't care that the 1987 season is opening without the American League's best pitcher and catcher and the National League's best player.
AN UNDERHANDED METHOD