n the time it took arbitrator Tom Roberts to place a telephone call to the Major League Baseball Players Association in New York, 22-year-old Fernando Valenzuela became the highest-paid Los Angeles Dodger, the highest-paid third-year player in baseball history and the first player to be awarded $1 million in arbitration.
The ruling gives Valenzuela, who played last year without a contract following a bitter wrangle with team management, a one-year contract.
"I would like to congratulate Tony DeMarco (Valenzuela's agent) and Dick Moss (Valenzuela's lawyer) for what must have been a very impressive case," Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley said tonight in Vero Beach, Fla., the team's spring headquarters.
This is how impressive the case was: It included taped endorsements from Al Campanis and Tom Lasorda, Dodger executive vice president for personnel and manager, respectively. Lasorda said, "Fernando is a player who comes along once in a lifetime." Campanis said, "Fernando is the answer to all our dreams and prayers."
Valenzuela, a left-hander, in 1981 became the first National League pitcher to win the Cy Young Award his first season; he also was voted rookie of the year.
"We're elated," DeMarco said of Roberts' decision. DeMarco said Valenzuela, who has yet to report to camp, "was also very happy."
DeMarco said Valenzuela would join his teammates after visiting Mexico to clear up a few "family things."
In the arbitration, both sides had submitted signed blank contracts, and Roberts filled in the amount. The team had offered Valenzuela $750,000; he had asked for $1 million.
The settlement eclipses the $700,000 awarded Chicago Cubs pitcher Bruce Sutter in 1980, which until now had been the largest-ever arbitration contract.
Last season, Valenzuela struck out 199 batters and had four shutouts in 18 complete games while compiling a 19-13 record and a 2.88 ERA.
In 1981 he was 13-7, with eight shutouts and 180 strikeouts--both best in the majors.
He was paid $42,000 that year. When he renewed last season after a contract fight, he turned down the Dodgers' last offer of $450,000 and accepted their previous one, $350,000. He never signed.
In the appeal that led to arbitration, Valenzuela claimed attendance at Dodger Stadium increases by 5,000 when he pitches. That would be a gross revenue boost of $30,000 to $40,000 a game. He also claimed boosts of 4,000 away, out of which the Dodgers get 75 cents a ticket.
The Dodgers were represented by Bob Walker, who had handled three other arbitrations for them in the last two weeks--against Pedro Guerrero, Steve Howe and Mike Scioscia--and won them all. In those arbitrations, he saved the club $340,000.