Used to be that getting a player through waivers in August wasn't that big a deal. General managers worked with each other, with an unspoken agreement that went something like this: If you don't claim my player, I won't claim yours.
The wild card has changed all that. More teams are in contention, trades take on greater implications, and getting a player through waivers to trade him is far more difficult than it used to be.
The New York Yankees claimed Minnesota second baseman Chuck Knoblauch on waivers, fearing he would be traded to Cleveland. They claimed St. Louis left-hander Tony Fossas, so he couldn't be dealt to one of their competitors to exploit the Yankees' predominantly left-handed-hitting lineup in the postseason. The Yankees may have been the team that claimed the Orioles' David Wells and Bobby Bonilla, who cannot be traded now that their passage through waivers has been blocked. The Orioles, according to a league source, may have been active in blocking players this month.
The stakes have changed from those days of the gentlemen's agreement. The waiver wire, one major-league executive said last week, "is another way to acquire a quality player and another way to help your situation in the standings, either by doing something yourself or stopping somebody else from doing something.
"It's changed a lot."
The vast majority of players still get through waivers and are eligible to be traded. The whole Chicago Cubs team cleared waivers, as did the Los Angeles Dodgers. Florida passed right-hander John Burkett through waivers and traded him to Texas. Terry Pendleton cleared and moved from the Florida Marlins to Atlanta. "You have to be careful," said the executive. "You can't just go out and claim everybody, because you have to consider all that you're taking on."
Burkett is an example of this. The Yankees and Orioles certainly could have used a veteran right-handed pitcher like him. If they claimed Burkett they would've paid him $1.2 million for the rest of this year - and assumed the $3.5 million owed him next year. It's a large investment in a pitcher with very mediocre results the past two seasons.
But, as the world turns, the Orioles and the Yankees may wind up seeing Burkett in the playoffs. He has been solid for the Rangers, winning a couple of games before getting routed by Cleveland on Wednesday.
An AL executive said: "I think you may see even more action in waivers in the future. General managers are getting away from that [gentlemen's agreement] and being more competitive about which is the way it should be. No quarter."
Of IVs and HRs
San Diego third baseman Ken Caminiti is becoming a symbol of toughness in baseball. He has always played through injuries - trudges out to third every day with a badly hurt left shoulder that will require surgery after the season - but he outdid himself last Sunday, when the Padres and New York Mets played in Monterrey, Mexico.
Caminiti acquired what is commonly known as Montezuma's revenge, which raged through his body and kept him awake Saturday night into Sunday morning. In the hours before Sunday's game, Caminiti lay on the floor of manager Bruce Bochy's office, with an IV stuck into his arm, and San Diego
officials were growing concerned his sickness was serious. Team doctor Jan Fronek gave him a second bag of intravenous fluid.
But five minutes before the game, Caminiti stood and told Bochy he wanted to play. "No way," Bochy said. Caminiti badgered Bochy until the manager relented. Just before his first at-bat, Caminiti, who hadn't been able to eat anything without throwing it up, developed a sudden craving for a candy bar, and downed a Snickers.
Wobbling like Kirk Gibson did pinch-hitting in the first game of the 1988 World Series, Caminiti homered off Mets right-hander Paul Wilson, and hit a three-run homer in the fifth. The Padres' lead was prohibitive, and Bochy replaced Caminiti, who collapsed on the floor of the clubhouse. "What Cammy did," Bochy said, "I've never seen before. I've never been around anybody tougher."
Right fielder Tony Gwynn said: "We all started screaming for IVs and Snickers after that."
GM Kevin Towers: "Two IVs. Two homers."
Caminiti is a candidate for the NL MVP in a field that will include Colorado's Ellis Burks and Atlanta's Chipper Jones and John Smoltz. "If Cammy gets it," said San Diego hitting coach Merv Rettenmund, "he'd sure as heck deserve it."
Bochy has deftly juggled a potentially bad situation with his outfield. He has four established players - Gwynn, Steve Finley, Greg Vaughn and Rickey Henderson - for three spots, and is finding regular playing time for all of them. If Vaughn starts hitting, Henderson would be the odd man out, but Bochy has told him that and Henderson is adapting. "He's the one guy on the bench cheering for the other guys," said Rettenmund.
Chris Sabo, struggling offensively and defensively, accepted an assignment to the Cincinnati Reds' Triple-A affiliate at Indianapolis, and complained as he departed. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
For years, clubs occasionally neglected to follow a rule that required them to tender a contract offer to their first-round draft picks within 15 days after the draft. But agents have exploited the oversight this summer, and their vigilance may end up costing the Minnesota Twins in a big way.
Agent Scott Boras set a precedent by filing a request for free agency for Bobby Seay, the first-round pick of the White Sox, because Chicago failed to tender a contract offer. The White Sox ultimately renounced the rights to Seay, who is drawing major interest from the expansion Devil Rays. (No major bidding war will develop because many teams, including the Orioles, have been scared away by Seay's off-field trouble.)
Word comes this week that Jeffrey Moorad, the agent for Travis Lee, the No. 2 overall pick in the draft and the United States' best Olympic player, had filed a similar complaint with the commissioner's office. The commissioner's office will either hand down a ruling or send the case to an arbitrator within 10 days, and should Lee become a free agent, you can bet the bidding will be fierce.
Lee is a left-handed-hitting slugger and first baseman out of San Diego State, and don't be surprised if the Orioles express some interest.
Brady Anderson cleared waivers Thursday and the Orioles have the option of trading him. They won't.
Club sources indicate that Orioles assistant general manager Kevin Malone, on a one-year contract, will return for 1997, as will farm director Syd Thrift.
Bad elbow no bonus
The Texas Rangers signed their No. 1 pick, pitcher R.A. Dickey, for $75,000, after a dramatic turn of events. Dickey showed up in Texas prepared to sign for a $810,000 bonus, the Rangers' standing offer, but team doctor John Conway didn't like the way Dickey's elbow was hanging and suggested an immediate physical.
Conway discovered Dickey either doesn't have an ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow or it had frayed away completely. Either way, the deal was off and Texas was prepared to renounce the rights to Dickey when the pitcher agreed to the $75,000 bonus.
Jose Canseco bought six land turtles to roam his property at his Weston, Fla., mansion. Four drowned in the pool.
Colorado manager Don Baylor didn't like how Cincinnati manager Ray Knight celebrated with his players in a game Aug. 18, referring to it as "cheerleading." Knight said Baylor's comment didn't bother him - and then went to the Rockies clubhouse looking for Baylor. Not finding him there, Knight left a five-minute message on Baylor's hotel answering machine, before finally talking with him the next day. "We each said our piece," said Knight, adding, in effect, that no one would tell him how to act.
Katsuhiro Maeda, the Yankees' answer to Hideo Nomo (after all, George Steinbrenner must always have the final word) is pitching in the minors. Somebody asked him the identity of the most famous person he had met since coming to the United States. "Billy Connors," he said, referring to the Yankees' minor-league pitching coordinator. What about David Cone? "No," Maeda replied. "Billy Connors more famous."
Marlins GM Dave Dombrowski must be tired of right fielder Gary Sheffield publicly referring to him, in some way, as a liar. "I can go back and on two hands count the things he's lied about," Sheffield said. "I just never said anything in public. I've forgiven and forgiven. But he's gotten his last forgiveness."
Sheffield was upset after Dombrowski told him he might be traded this winter; in some circles, what Dombrowski did would be considered honesty.
Sheffield has a limited no-trade clause in his contract. The teams he can be traded to: Atlanta, Toronto, Houston, Los Angeles, St. Louis, the New York Mets and Yankees and the Chicago Cubs. Not the Orioles, without his specific permission. But then, Orioles GM Pat Gillick may shy away from players who repeatedly accuse their bosses of lying.
Philadelphia owner Bill Giles said that although he would like to re-sign Jim Eisenreich, the 37-year-old outfielder is considering retirement. Eisenreich's response: "That's news to me."
Don't look now, but the Red Sox are looming. In fact, Boston is closer in the standings to the Orioles than the Orioles are to the Yankees. But there are three major factors working in the Orioles' favor in the final five weeks. First, they have only nine games remaining against teams over .500. Secondly, 17 of their last 36 games are against the three worst pitching staffs in the AL, including the Tigers. And they only have one series against the Yankees and one against Boston, while the Red Sox and New York must play two more series.
Pub Date: 8/25/96