The beauty of baseball's arbitration process is that by the time it's over, everyone is mad. The owners are mad about the cases they've lost, the players are mad because they've been insulted by the owners and the attorneys are mad because they've put so many hours into a process that concludes with a decision that is purely subjective.
For example: If you're Ron Darling of the New York Mets, what are you thinking? You've gone 16-6 with a 2.90 ERA and you've lost your arbitration case. You'll make $440,000.
Which isn't bad until you see that Orel Hershiser of the Los Angeles Dodgers went 19-3 and won his case. He'll make $1 million.
Then there's Kansas City's Charlie Leibrandt, who went 17-9 and won his case for $770,000. His teammate, Bret Saberhagen, won 20 games, a Cy Young Award and a $925,000 arbitration case.
But were Leibrandt, Hershiser and Saberhagen that much better than Darling?
That's only the beginning. Owners have won 16 of the first 30 decisions this winter, but went only 4-8 against pitchers. While Darling was losing, these pitchers were winning: Minnesota's Frank Viola ($674,000), Detroit's Dave LaPoint ($550,000) and the Mets' Ed Lynch ($530,000).
Darling joins these losers: Atlanta's Jeff Dedmon ($200,000), Houston's Bill Dawley ($325,000) and Seattle's Mike Moore ($400,000).
One more arbitration story: catcher Alan Knicely lost his case, but catcher Dave Van Gorder won his. Van Gorder won despite asking for $10,000 more than Knicely, and last season in Cincinnati, he was Knicely's backup.
You know it's spring training when Detroit Manager Sparky Anderson says: "On paper, this is the best team I've had at Detroit." He said that this week, and he also said, "Realistically, I think Willie Hernandez can save 40 games." This is an important year for the Tigers, who will have pitcher Jack Morris, catcher Lance Parrish, outfielder Larry Herndon and DH Dave Collins eligible for free agency next winter . . .
The Chicago Cubs' media guide lists pitcher John Green as having a 4-0 record and 7.11 ERA in rookie ball last summer. He actually had an ERA of 4.00. The mistake didn't go unnoticed. He's the son of Cubs General Manager Dallas Green . . . Another indication the San Francisco Giants will be the Denver Giants or Phoenix Giants or Washington Giants in 1987: the plot of land that had been zoned for a stadium will have two high-rise towers built on it. San Francisco planning director Dean Marcis said Rincon Hill is "no longer considered a site for a stadium." . . . Someone broke into the Giants' clubhouse this week, but the only thing stolen was pitcher Vida Blue's practice jersey.
The Milwaukee Brewers arrived at their new spring training home in Chandler, Ariz., to find the stadium still under construction. The town promises it will be ready Monday . . . The Brewers must be wondering about David Green, whom they obtained from the Giants last winter. When a public relations man phoned to ask a couple of routine questions, Green hung up . . .
Minnesota Manager Ray Miller came to spring training with a 10-page, hour-by-hour schedule for the first 15 days of workouts. In going 50-50 after taking over the Twins last summer, Miller has a club this spring that has replaced 23 of 40 players on its roster. Of the team's 18 pitchers, only seven have been in the big leagues more than a year . . .
Chicago White Sox infielder Julio Cruz angered the team by showing up last spring having had a surprise knee operation. This winter, he had surgery on the big toe of his right foot without telling the club.
The University of Texas baseball team sold 2,400 season tickets this year -- more than the Cleveland Indians or Giants . . . Several baseball executives say the Indians will be playing in Columbus, Ohio, by 1987 . . .
Yankees second baseman Willie Randolph got a surprise check for $100,000 in the mail the other day. He forgot a clause in a contract signed four years ago that said if he wasn't traded by Feb. 1, 1986, he'd get a $100,000 bonus . . . Milwaukee pitcher Bob Gibson, who has an 11-16 career record, will make $160,000 this year. That's the salary Hall of Famer Bob Gibson made in his highest-paying season.
Matt Winters played seven years in the Yankees' minor league system, and having not gotten to the big leagues, he became a free agent last winter. He signed with the White Sox, who promptly traded him back to the Yankees in the Ron Hassey deal.
An oddity of the Hassey deal is that Yankees owner George Steinbrenner let it be known he had no confidence in Scott Bradley's throwing arm. Yet Hassey's 18.3-percent success rate last season was the third worst in the American League, behind only Baltimore's Al Pardo (3.3 percent) and Texas' Glenn Brummer (10.7 percent) . . .
The Dodgers' average salary went up $145,000 this winter, from $430,000 to $575,000 . . . Mets pitcher Bruce Berenyi has recovered from rotator-cuff surgery so quickly that he's ready to pitch this season . . .
The Cubs' Rick Sutcliffe on Dallas Green's insistence that his pitchers lose weight: "With all the weight clauses we've got, we're going to have 25 Manute Bols." CAPTION: Picture, Right arm of the Royals' Bret Saberhagen will earn him $925,000 this season. AP