There they go again. Chicago White Sox pitcher Jack McDowell is feuding with owner Jerry Reinsdorf, which only makes it more likely that McDowell will either be traded in the next few months or will leave the club when he becomes eligible for free agency after the season.
McDowell filed for a record salary of $6.5 million in arbitration, sparking the latest round of unpleasantness in a personality conflict that dates to his earliest contract negotiations with the club. The White Sox offered him a $5.3 million salary in arbitration and a three-year deal worth $17 million, but there doesn't appear to be any productive negotiating going on.
"I would throw a party to be traded," McDowell said recently.
Reinsdorf probably would like to oblige, but discussions with several teams -- including the Orioles, New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays -- have failed to produce a satisfactory trade package.
"His value in terms of talent we could get in return is diminished because he is a year away from free agency," Reinsdorf said, "so, even if we eventually lose him, based on the offers we've had, we're better off keeping him. If Jack McDowell leads us to the World Series and then decides to leave, that's not the worst thing that could happen."
How did all this unpleasantness begin? During the first couple of years of McDowell's major-league career the White Sox devised a play-for-performance system that locked up many of the club's young stars at a substantial long-term savings to the club. McDowell was one of the few players to refuse a play-for-performance contract, which became a source of conflict with Reinsdorf.
Now, the stakes are far higher, and the outlook for reconciliation is bleak.
Does that mean that the Orioles may have a chance to pick him up during this season? Probably not. The White Sox are expected to compete for the American League Central Division title and the Orioles apparently do not have enough to offer to pry him away now.
What should be frightening about this scenario to Orioles fans are the other teams that have shown interest. The Blue Jays may be in a better position to benefit if Reinsdorf's frustration with McDowell reaches a boiling point.
There was a small public uproar in Southern California last week when the city of Anaheim requested state and federal earthquake aid to help repair the damaged scoreboard at Anaheim Stadium.
The stadium sustained an estimated $4 million in damage when the scoreboard toppled into the upper deck at the Big A during the earthquake that ravaged the Los Angeles area Jan. 17. Repair work already has begun, but the way was cleared for emergency funding when Gov. Pete Wilson acceded to a local request to declare a state of emergency in Orange County.
"The county felt it was serious enough to justify it," a Wilson spokesman told the Orange County Register, "and we don't question the county. Our role is to be there when asked."
Orange County was badly shaken by the earthquake, but most of the damage and destruction occurred about 40 miles to the north, well outside the county limits. That's why there was an outcry about the request for earthquake relief for a seemingly non-essential project.
The Angels are making a big run at free-agent relief pitcher Gregg Olson, which is something of an ironic twist to a bullpen saga that began more than a year ago. Remember when the Angels left closer Bryan Harvey unprotected in the expansion draft because it was unsure about his elbow?
Harvey, you might recall, already had undergone elbow surgery, but uncertainty about the date of his return convinced the Angels to leave him off their protected list. The Florida Marlins gambled on his $4 million-per-year contract and he ranked among the National League leaders in saves last season.
So, here it is, a year later and the Angels have made a long-term proposal to a pitcher whose status may be even more uncertain than Harvey's was a year ago. What gives?
"It's January of 1994," said new assistant general manager Tim Mead. "We have to proceed from this date. The past has nothing to do with it. There's nothing we can do about that now. We can't change that or justify that. We just have to look at this year's team.
"Sure, there are ironies, but this ballclub doesn't have -- by definition -- a stopper. There was a feeling that we need someone."
The Angels are very serious about their proposal. Bavasi has been to the office of agent Jeff Moorad on several occasions over the past few weeks to discuss a contract. He was there as recently as Thursday, and is expected to remain in touch this weekend as Olson prepares to make a decision.
Retired NBA superstar Michael Jordan has downsized his expectations a bit, but he still seems intent on going to spring training with the Chicago White Sox. He has backed off his earlier insistence that he would only play in the major leagues, but it still seems like a long shot that he'll play at all.
Reinsdorf admitted as much this weekend on a local radio show, characterizing Jordan's chances of making the major-league club as "one in 10 million," but the former Bulls guard continues to work diligently at Comiskey Park.
"I see a guy who's real hungry, taking a crash course and trying to learn everything as quick as he can," general manager Ron Schueler said last week. "His effort has been relentless and the hours he puts in are unbelieveable."
Jordan will work out for one more week before he and the club make a final decision on spring training. If he shows up at Sarasota, the media circus will make the 1991 Jim Palmer comeback look like a puppet show. Here's hoping he gives it a shot. The first two weeks of camp usually are about as exciting as watching the grass grow in the Astrodome.
Former Orioles catcher Rick Dempsey is paying his dues, and then some. He spent much of the off-season managing the Mayaguez entry in the the Puerto Rican Winter League, and it was not a very pleasant experience.
Volatile owner Ivan Mendez released reliever Brad Pennington early in the season without a bullpen replacement ready and was critical of the team at one point that the players sat out a game in protest. If that wasn't bad enough, Dempsey had two major-league players -- John Cangelosi and Wilfredo Cordero -- walk out on a playoff game and another -- Texas Rangers catcher Ivan Rodriguez -- quit the club after Dempsey reprimanded him for showing up late.
Dempsey has learned some hard lessons, but don't count him out. He couldn't buy this kind of experience anywhere else.