Can't count on union for leadership on discipline


The Boston Red Sox are in a no-win situation with troubled outfielder Wilfredo Cordero, who stands accused of assaulting his wife, Ana, with a telephone last month and is reeling from recent allegations that he has engaged in a pattern of domestic abuse that dates back nearly a decade.

If they allow him to return to the starting lineup, they will be viewed as being soft on the highly charged issue of domestic violence. If they release him, they are further downgrading a team that already is playing well below expectations.

The only thing that is clear here is that the Red Sox are not to blame for this situation, but that doesn't mean they won't pay a heavy price no matter how they handle it. Also, the notion that general manager Dan Duquette somehow bears some responsibility for Cordero's behavior because he also had the troubled outfielder in Montreal is ridiculous.

"Everybody looks to the Red Sox to do the right thing," Duquette told reporters recently, "but we're looking at a very limited set of choices which are not very attractive. We want to do the right thing for Ana and Wil, the community, the Red Sox and our fans."

If anyone is to share the blame for the lack of self-discipline among a segment of the player population, it is Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association for muddying the disciplinary landscape to the point where there is little that can be done to effectively discourage poor behavior both on and off the field.

The players union is obligated to represent offending players to the best of its ability, but the lengths it has gone to assure that players are paid during suspensions has undermined the image of the game and -- by association -- damaged the reputations of the vast majority of players who acquit themselves honorably.

The solution: The union and owners should agree on a new behavior clause in the standard players contract that allows an arbitration panel to determine whether a player who willfully acts to damage the image or integrity of the game should continue to paid if he is suspended or released. That clause, if required in every contract, wouldn't make baseball players exempt from the problems that infect society at large, but it would create a disincentive for a variety of activities that are damaging to the sport.

Of course, the players association would never go for it, because it would -- however slightly -- diminish the power of the union, and that is something that the union would not abide even if it clearly was to the benefit of the majority of players.

This is just another sad situation that will be handled with lip service and litigation instead of common sense. That's baseball in the '90s.

Let the rumors begin

Philadelphia Phillies pitching ace Curt Schilling informed the club on Tuesday that he would be willing to waive the no-trade clause in his contract if the club wanted to make a midseason deal to unload payroll and bolster the minor-league system.

It probably wasn't a coincidence that Schilling's agent -- Jeff Borris -- made the overture while Schilling was with the club in Baltimore. He has made no secret of his desire to play for the Orioles again, and would designate Baltimore, Houston, Atlanta, St. Louis and Florida as the five teams to which he would allow the Phillies to trade him.

So far, however, the Phillies maintain that they hope to rebuild the club around Schilling. That's why they signed him to a three-year, $15.45 million deal at the start of the season.

Hats off to Wells

Former Orioles pitcher David Wells is one of the world's biggest -- literally and figuratively -- Babe Ruth buffs, and proved it by buying a cap Ruth wore for $35,000 recently. Last week, he wore it to the mound for the first inning of a game against the Cleveland Indians.

It might have been a nice gesture, but it didn't go over that well. Technically, Wells was out of uniform, and manager Joe Torre told him to remove the weathered cap after the first inning.

Apparently, the Babe wasn't happy about that. Wells pitched a scoreless first inning, but the Indians scored five runs on eight hits over the next two innings to knock Wells out of the game.

Lofton wavering

Atlanta Braves center fielder Kenny Lofton is understandably thrilled to become only the second player selected to both the American League and National League All-Star teams in consecutive years, but he may not make an appearance in this year's game.

Lofton has been on the disabled list for two weeks with a groin strain, and wonders if it would be a good idea to risk aggravating the injury for what essentially is an exhibition appearance.

"I'd love to be out there for the fans," he told reporters last week, "but the Atlanta Braves are first and foremost. If I don't play this weekend, I'm not feeling right, not feeling up to par. This is the All-Star Game, but also my career. The All-Star Game is $l secondary right now."

Still, don't be surprised if he changes his mind by game time. Just don't expect him to do anything that might keep him out of the Braves' lineup next weekend.

"If I have something nagging," he said, "I'm not going to go out and kill myself."

Sosa defends contract

Is Sammy Sosa worth $10 million per year? He certainly seems to think so, and the Chicago Cubs apparently agreed when they signed him to the latest in a series of megacontracts that have carried baseball's salary spiral to a new level.

But Sosa knows that there will be people who don't think he's worth that much money.

"If someone says that, there's nothing I can do about it," he said. "I know myself that I belong there. I'm out there every day. I play hard. The reason they [the Cubs] made that decision is because they know I'm young. I'm only 28. And the way that I've been playing here the last five years. I've put up big numbers."

Sosa has averaged 33 home runs and 95 RBIs per year since he played his first full season with the Cubs in 1993. He is on pace for 30-plus homers and 100 RBIs again this year and he leads the National League in outfield assists.

It's a lot of money, but in today's economic environment, you can make a case for it.

And another thing

The Indians had to be wondering about the wisdom of interleague play on Tuesday night, when promising young pitcher Jaret Wright was hit on the hand by a pitch while trying to bunt in a game against the Astros.

Wright had to leave the game with a painfully bruised right index finger and will miss at least one start.

"I've been talking about this all along concerning interleague play," said Indians general manager John Hart. "It puts our pitchers at risk. It asks them to do something they're not familiar with. And, by God, don't you know we're the ones who lose a pitcher."

The Indians can't afford to lose anybody who can throw strikes right now. Jack McDowell may need until August to recover from elbow surgery and Chad Ogea also is out with a sore elbow. The club can only hope that Wright -- one of the club's top young prospects -- will be ready to rejoin the rotation next weekend.

The plain truth

Hart didn't waste any time quashing rumors that the Indians were close to trading third baseman Matt Williams to St. Louis for outfielder Ron Gant.

"I've got Manny Ramirez signed through 1999, Marquis Grissom through 2002 and David Justice through 2001," Hart said. "Where is Ron Gant going to play?"

More on Marlins sale

Florida Marlins players were understandably saddened by the news that Wayne "How much do you want?" Huizenga had decided to sell the franchise.

"It's a sad day for me," said outfielder Gary Sheffield, "because he's one of the few owners who really cares about the franchise. He gave the product everybody here wanted, we're playing great ball, and we're still not getting support. I think that's what he's frustrated about."

That's hogwash, of course. The Marlins rank fifth in the league in attendance and would not be in such poor financial straits if Huizenga hadn't spent the past six months stoking the salary spiral.

It shouldn't be a sad day for Sheffield. He'll get his $10 million no matter who owns the club, even if he continues to hit .240.

Haynes struggles out of gate

Former Orioles pitcher Jimmy Haynes, who was traded to the Oakland Athletics along with a player to be named for Geronimo Berroa, gave up six runs (two earned) over six innings in his first start for the A's Triple-A affiliate in Edmonton.

He'll have to do better than that to fulfill the expectations of his vTC new organization, which plans to put him in the major-league rotation in early August.

Facts and figures

* Jeff Fassero's bunt single Wednesday night was the first regular-season hit by a pitcher in Seattle Mariners history. But the franchise was awarded during the designated-hitter era, so there were only eight previous pitching at-bats.

* The Toronto Blue Jays used to be the hottest draw in baseball, but Tuesday's Canada Day crowd of 50,436 for an interleague game against the Montreal Expos was the first sellout since Opening Day 1995 -- a span of 195 home dates.

* Braves reliever Mark Wohlers has almost the same numbers as he had at this point last year. He was 0-1 with a 2.81 ERA and 18 saves in the first half of 1996 and is 2-3 with a 2.23 ERA and 19 saves this year. The major difference: Last year, manager Bobby Cox named him to the All-Star team, This year, he's getting three days off.

* All-Star reserve shortstop Nomar Garciaparra needs just one more home run to tie Rico Petrocelli's Red Sox record for homers by a rookie (13).

* The 14 home runs that the Detroit Tigers hit in a three-game sweep of the New York Mets earlier this week were a club record for both teams, though the Tigers probably were happier about their tiny place in the record book than the Mets' pitching staff was.

* The Padres and Athletics combined to leave 29 runners on base Tuesday, just missing the major-league record (30) for a nine-inning game.

Pub Date: 7/06/97

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