Mention the words "incentive clause" to a major league manager and he will cover his ears and say, "Don't tell me, I don't want to know." The current vogue for including incentive clauses in players' contracts can lead to bad feelings between managers and their players. Rangers pitcher Oil Can Boyd, for instance, would have received $100,000 from his former team, the Expos, last year had he made 32 starts. No. 32 was scheduled for the last day of the season, but he didn't start. Feeling cheated, Boyd later filed a grievance and reached a settlement with the team.
Former Mariners outfielder Jeffrey Leonard had a clause last season stipulating that if he had 550 plate appearances, his 1991 contract worth $1.1 million would automatically be renewed. The Mariners were trying to finish .500 for the first time in franchise history, but Leonard sat out 19 of the team's final 30 games, despite getting 15 hits in 27 at bats in September. He ended up with 525 plate appearances, and the Mariners let him go after the season.
Because of the tensions caused by incentive clauses, a few players who had such provisions in previous contracts have removed them from their present contracts. Two of these players are with the Mariners: catcher Scott Bradley and reliever Mike Schooler.
"I didn't like the way they made me feel," says Bradley. "No matter how unselfish a player you are, when a team isn't in a pennant race, guys play for themselves. I don't like sitting in the bullpen thinking, I need to play four more games. We had a shortstop here who, with two months left in the season, was always talking about how many games he had to play to reach an incentive. It's sickening. It can get to where someone says, 'I've got to get in this game, I hope this guy doesn't do well.' "
Says Schooler, "[Incentives] changed me. I'd come down to the last week of the season, I'd need two or three appearances, and I said to myself, I don't care if it's a tight game, I don't care what the score is, I'll take any situation. I felt I was compromising myself. I've seen guys get screwed on incentives. Whether it's $1,000 or $100,000, it's still money. When my contract came up this year, and they talked about incentives, I said that wasn't a bargaining point with me."
It is, however, with many players. Here are a few with interesting incentive clauses:
Gerald Perry, Cardinals. He will be paid $3.3 million for three years, ending with the 1993 season. Plus, he will get $8,750 for every game he plays from 105 to 144 in each season, and $2,333.33 for every plate appearance from 326 to 475. A September benching could cost him a cool $18,000 a game.
Dwight Gooden, Mets. He will make an average of $5.15 million per year for the next three years, plus $250,000 guaranteed in each year of the contract for the rights to produce and market videos in which he is the primary subject. There are also various bonuses for the Cy Young Award and MVP awards, and Gooden gets $250,000 for 200 innings pitched in any year of the contract or $750,000 total if he pitches 500 or more innings in the three years.
Dwight Evans, Orioles. He has a one-year contract for $600,000 and gets $10,000 per month for in-season housing and automobile expenses. Incentives include $100,000 for playing 50 games and additional $100,000 bonuses for reaching 75, 100, 125 and 140 games.