A New Standard
Ray Taylor, the father of the Yankees' No. 1 draft choice, Brien Taylor, is a mason. Brien's mother, Bettie, is a crab processor. The family lives in a mobile home in Beaufort, N.C. They say they're not "dirt poor," but $850,000, the offer the Yankees had on the table two weeks ago, would undoubtedly have come in handy. They deserve credit for not being intimidated by baseball's negotiating process and for holding out until Brien, a lefthanded pitching prospect, got $1.55 million to sign a standard $850-a-month minor league contract with the Yankees. The deal was struck at the eleventh hour, on Aug. 26, the night before Brien, 19, was to begin classes at Louisburg ( N.C.) College. Had he started school, the Yankees would not have been allowed to sign him until next May.
The Taylors' adviser, agent Scott Boras, almost certainly orchestrated the family's hard-nosed bargaining, but it was the Taylors who held firm. Bettie told The New York Times that a scout named Don Koonce, of the Major League Scouting Bureau, made an unsolicited visit to her home on Aug. 13 and tried to pressure her into accepting a Yankee offer of $650,000. She says that Koonce told her he reported directly to commissioner Fay Vincent. "He refused to leave," she told the Times. "I told him, 'If you don't leave, I don't want to close the door in your face.' He said, 'That's what you'll have to do.' " Koonce denies that he misrepresented himself.
Brien's deal is sure to affect negotiations with future draft picks. Indeed, a few major league executives think the Taylor signing has opened the door to fiscal insanity. Particularly bothered is Bill Wood, general manager of the Astros, who will have the No. 1 pick in the June 1992 draft if they finish with the worst record in the league, as well they might. "I'll be darned if I know what we're going to do next year," says Wood. "Maybe they should make an adjustment in the rules and allow a team to trade the No. 1 pick."
Taylor's contract is the largest ever given to a draft pick, surpassing the $1.2 million the A's paid high school pitcher Todd Van Poppel last year. As a point of reference, Griffey, the No. 1 pick in the '87 draft, signed with the Mariners for $160,000. "These deals damage the system that rewards players for what they do as major leaguers," says Wood. "We're rewarding players who haven't played an inning as a professional. When you give $1.5 million to an 18-year-old, how eager is that player going to be to listen to a pitching coach who tells him, 'Here's how to hold the fastball'? He can say, 'Here's how I hold it, and look what I got—$1.5 million.' Players in the minors have been motivated to tap into the unbelievable rainbow when they get to the majors. Now they're tapped in already."
There hasn't been a Triple Crown winner in the National League since the Cardinals' Ducky Medwick, in 1937, but through Sunday the Giants' Will Clark was leading the league in RBIs with 102, was three homers shy of the home-run lead with 26 and was 14 percentage points from the batting lead with a .309 average....
The Twins' most consistent pitcher this season hasn't been Jack Morris or Scott Erickson, but Kevin Tapani, who was 13-7 with a 2.89 ERA at week's end. Since May 31 he has lost only once, a 1-0 complete-game decision to Toronto in which the run was unearned. Just think where the Twins would be had they not traded Frank Viola (12-12 through Sunday with the Mets) for Tapani, Rick Aguilera (36 saves) and David West (4-3).
BETWEEN THE LINES
Phillie reliever Mitch Williams was 8-1 in August, one victory short of the National League record for most wins in a month and two shy of the major league mark. In August, Williams had one win fewer than the Expos did.