Sandberg's $7 million contract has touch of...


Sandberg's $7 million contract has touch of smoke and 0) mirrors

It hovers over the Orioles like a dark cloud. It is a number that must strike fear into the hearts of club officials in several cities. It is $7.1 million, purportedly the average annual salary that will be earned by Chicago Cubs shortstop Ryne Sandberg during the next four years.

It is, in the minds of the management types who have examined the particulars of the contract, a fraud.

Agent Jim Turner did a great job to negotiate a four-year contract extension for Sandberg, then he did a great job of selling it to the media as baseball's first $7 million per year deal. He did his job well, even if it took some creative mathematics to turn the Cubs second baseman into the $7 million man.

The Orioles remain mute on the issue of how that deal will affect the negotiations with shortstop Cal Ripken, but club president Larry Lucchino will say that there has been "a great misunderstanding" of the actual annual value of Sandberg's contract.

The total guarantee of $28.4 million for the 1993 through 1996 seasons includes a $3.5 million signing bonus that is payable this year and a $2.5 million buyout on the back end if the Cubs decide not to retain Sandberg for a fifth year (1997) at $5.9 million. The contract calls for a salary of $5.1 million for each of the next three years and a salary of $7.1 million for the final guaranteed season.

The $7.1 million figure for the fourth year includes $2 million as part of a separate agreement on off-the-field services that Sandberg may choose not to perform -- money that may not ever figure into the equation.

The way the contract was set up last spring, it became, in effect a five-

year deal with an option. The signing bonus, payable in December, would raise his take this year from $2.1 million to $5.6 million. The value of the deal then, when averaged over the five years without the 1997 buyout, would be $5.6 million per year, even with the $2 million side letter included.

If you factor the $3.5 million signing bonus into the four-year term of the extension and include the side letter, the average salary still falls well short of $7 million. That way, it works out to $6.48 million.

It's fine to include the 1997 buyout in the value of the total package, because it is money that Sandberg has been 'f guaranteed, but it is ridiculous to add it into the average salary over the four years of the extension.

The Orioles have offered Ripken $30 million for five years, a deal that apparently works out to a legitimate $6 million per year. That offer reportedly was turned down in late March.

Not much has happened since, but here's a suggestion that could solve the whole thing. The club should offer Ripken four years at $24 million with an option for a fifth year at a $6,000,001 salary with a $6 million buyout and a possible $2 million post-career personal services guarantee. That, in effect, would guarantee the fifth year and agent Ron Shapiro could use the Jim Turner method of calculation to sell it as a four-year deal worth $32 million, making Ripken baseball's first $8 million man.

2& Now, that wasn't so tough, was it? All-time hit leader Pete Rose has always held out hope that his ban from baseball would eventually be lifted, and he is hoping that the upcoming reinstatement of suspended New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner is a positive sign.

"Obviously, I don't think the cases are similar," Rose told sportswriter Gordon Edes of the Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Sun Sentinel, "but if the situation with George shows that the commissioner [Fay Vincent] is a compassionate man, then there could be hope at the end of the tunnel."

Rose has been rebuilding his image the past year or so. He has a radio talk show in West Palm Beach and is preparing to open a sports cafe in the area. There also is talk that he will soon come out with a line of food products in partnership with a Dayton, Ohio, company. But he has not decided when he will apply to Vincent for reinstatement.

"What is more important are the positive things I'm doing," Rose said, "as a family man, a father and a citizen of South Florida. I've reconfigured my life."

A Florida ultimatum

University of Miami catcher Charles Johnson, the Florida Marlins' top draft pick, has told the expansion franchise to sign him by Aug. 23 or he'll play his senior year with the Hurricanes and go back into the draft next year. Johnson reportedly is looking for a contract similar to the $1.55 million deal signed last year by New York Yankees prospect Brien Taylor.

Johnson is represented by his father, but he's getting his advice from agent Scott Boras.

The making of a TV star

The soap opera "Santa Barbara" was shooting on location in Philadelphia the past couple of days, which wouldn't be noteworthy here if weren't for a certain member of the cast. Phillies catcher Darren Daulton will make a guest appearance, playing of all things, a baseball player.

The episodes involving Daulton will air the week of Aug. 24 -- that is, if "Santa Barbara" is still on the air. The ratings have been so bad that the show is lower in the standings than the Phillies.

Bad influence

Ricky Rhodes, the older brother of Orioles pitcher Arthur Rhodes, has been suspended indefinitely by the Single-A Fort Lauderdale Yankees. No reason has been given, but Rhodes told a reporter that it was because the club thought he was a bad influence on Taylor. Lest anyone be misled, the club did say that the problem did not involve drugs. Ricky Rhodes' agent, former major-league first baseman Cecil Cooper, said that it was "a misunderstanding" and indicated that Rhodes would be reinstated soon.

Defending the status quo

Thursday was the first day this season that all four of last year's division champions were in first place at the same time.

Doesn't add up

The Los Angeles Dodgers were very excited about the prospect of putting boyhood friends Darryl Strawberry and Eric Davis in the same outfield, so excited that they were willing to let first baseman Eddie Murray become a free agent and sign with the New York Mets.

The sad truth, however, is that the combination of Strawberry and Davis -- both of whom have been in and out of the lineup with injuries -- probably will not total 84 RBI this year, which would be equivalent to the lowest total that Murray has amassed in any of his 14 full seasons at the major-league level [notcounting the strike-interrupted 1981 season when he led the American League with 78 in 99 games].

Davis has 28 RBI, which would project to about 48 for the year. Strawberry has 24 RBI and is back on the disabled list with a chronic back injury, perhaps not to return this year. Murray, meanwhile, is on pace to drive home more than 100 runs for the first time since 1985.

Stand-up guy

California Angels outfielder Junior Felix has been one of the most productive players on the team, but his hustle on the bases has come under the scrutiny of both his teammates and the coaching staff.

It seems that Felix has been fined several times for failing to slide when the situation warranted. The money goes into a fund for an end-of-the-year party, which promises to be lavish if Felix doesn't start getting his uniform dirty.

"We've already gone from hamburger to steak and lobster," manager John Wathan said.

Felix under fire, Part II

Angels general manager Whitey Herzog told a breakfast club meeting

of season-ticket holders recently that he didn't think the team could be a winner with Felix in center field.

This time, Wathan came to the rescue. "Right now," he said, "it would be tough to win the pennant if we had Willie Mays playing center field."

Dodging the obvious

Dodgers GM Fred Claire told reporters on Wednesday that the time had come to take a hard look at the club's roster -- the implication being that it was time to consider trading some veteran players and bringing up some minor-league prospects.

But Claire was upset when his comments were construed as some kind of concession speech.

"Did I ever say I was quitting," he said angrily. "How does a player ever give up as long as here are 25 players competing to the best of their ability. Anybody who knows me knows that I don't give up. Never have. Never will."

Nevertheless, it seems likely that the Dodgers will try to trade one of their high-salaried veteran pitchers in the next few days. Bob Ojeda and Kevin Gross have been mentioned.

November madness

Here is how the November expansion draft will be conducted and a look at how it might affect the Orioles, who could lose two or three players to the expansion Colorado Rockies and Florida Marlins.

Draft rules * Each of the existing 26 teams will be allowed to protect 15 players, not including players with less than three years professional experience who have never appeared in a major-league game.

* When a National League team loses a player, it will be allowed to add three more to the protected list. When an AL team loses a player, it will be allowed to add four.

* Each expansion team will choose 36 players. Twenty clubs will lose three players. Six American League clubs will lose two players.

* Free agents who have not re-signed at the time of the draft need not be protected, because expansion clubs are eligible to bid on them, but "5-10 players" and players with no-trade clauses must be protected.

Projected Orioles protected list

OF Brady Anderson; 1B Glenn Davis; CF Mike Devereaux; 3B Leo Gomez; C Chris Hoiles; 1B Randy Milligan; 2B Bill Ripken; SS Cal Ripken (if he has re-signed with club by then); P Ben McDonald; P Mike Mussina; P Gregg Olson; P Arthur Rhodes; P Todd Frohwirth; P Alan Mills; P Brad Pennington

Orioles most vulnerable to draft

1B David Segui; C Jeff Tackett; P Bob Milacki; IF Mark McLemore; IF Ricky Gutierrez; IF Manny Alexander; OF Chito Martinez

Note: Cal Ripken and Joe Orsulak could be unrestricted free agents at the time of the draft.

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