What has happened to the Detroit Tigers? They lost catcher Lance Parrish to free agency last year, they lost outfielder Kirk Gibson this year and, by the end of spring training, they could lose both Jack Morris and Doyle Alexander because of free agency.
The irony of all this is that the Tigers could be hit hardest of all in a game they never chose to play. Outside of Darrell Evans, they never ventured much into free agency and, as perhaps the last of the old-time franchises, they occasionally refused to admit it even existed.
Tiger strongman Jim Campbell refused to admit that Parrish would leave them, and he apparently refused to believe that Gibson might not come trotting back to Tiger Stadium with his tail between his legs when he was declared a free agent in the Collusion I ruling.
Now it appears the Tigers may be hit again. Rumors are swirling that arbitrator George Nicolau will have a ruling in the Collusion II case in mid-March, and that he'll set the awards quickly. Collusion II is the grievance filed over players who were free agents after the 1986 season and it includes stars such as Parrish, Morris, Andre Dawson and Tim Raines.
Arbitrator Tom Roberts decided Collusion I and his first penalty phase was to declare the involved players free agents. If Nicolau does the same -- and baseball people believe he will -- the game will be rocked as it has few times before. Even Parrish has admitted he might return to the Tigers, but even if they get him back they risk losing Morris and Alexander, their best starting pitchers.Labor Woes, Continued
The current Basic Agreement between players and owners will expire after the 1989 season, and, with the players determined to regain free agency and the owners determined to do away with arbitration, a lot of people expect that the 1990 strike could be the longest and nastiest of all.
All of which makes the contract signed by Minnesota third baseman Gary Gaetti so interesting. It appears that he is the first player to negotiate a contract based on the possibility of not playing much in 1990.
His three-year deal will pay him a base salary of $1 million this season, but it also includes a $2 million annuity to be paid in full this year. Then, oddly, his base salary begins to go down, to $800,000 in '89 and $500,000 in '90. By the time 1990 rolls around, he will be financially secure no matter how long it takes the players and the owners to iron out a new agreement . . .
When the Montreal Expos were so desperate for pitching last year, they invited any and all able bodies to spring training. They found a jewel in Pascual Perez, and it's probably no coincidence that the Cleveland Indians will have 40 pitchers in spring training . . . Similarly, the Atlanta Braves will have 24 pitchers in camp. They love several of their young prospects, but only one of them has pitched above Class AA. Their best bet is Tom Glavine, a left-handed junk baller who was impressive at the end of last season . . .
The Chicago White Sox have decided not to invite reliever Bob James back to spring training. He was also turned down by the Indians, who said he has gained so much weight he's barely able to throw from a mound . . . Los Angeles Dodgers Manager Tommy Lasorda said if all five of his outfielders are healthy on opening day they'll all be in the lineup, which makes for an interesting defensive alignment.
The Dodgers want an outfield of Gibson, John Shelby and Mike Davis, and that leaves Pedro Guerrero and Mike Marshall to play somewhere in the infield. Marshall was sent back to the outfield after a one-day trial at third base during a workout at Dodger Stadium last week. That means Guerrero might be used over there sometime this spring. The Dodgers won't say it publicly, but it's clear they'd like to trade Marshall or Guerrero for a starting pitcher. But if they are all still around on opening day, it's unlikely they'll be healthy. In the last two seasons, Guerrero has missed 142 games, Marshall 117, Gibson 77 and Davis 43 . . .
The California Angels and first baseman Wally Joyner are in the middle of a bitter contract dispute, one that's unwinnable for Joyner as he's a year away from being eligible for arbitration. In the meantime, the Angels are extracting their pound of flesh. Although he's the ninth man in history to start his career with back-to-back 100-RBI seasons, he made only $180,000 last season. The Angels have offered only $281,000 this year, which is about $500,000 less than Joyner would like. He has made noises about holding out, but more likely he'll try to have a third straight big season and get his $1.5 million in arbitration next winter . . .
The World Series champion Minnesota Twins have sold more than 8,000 season tickets, shattering the franchise record of 5,003 . . . After Pat Corrales accepted a job managing at Class AAA Toledo in December, the San Francisco Giants offered him their third-base coaching job. He said no because he'd already made a commitment to Toledo . . .
If size counts, vote for the Oakland Athletics. Their Big Five of Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Carney Lansford, Dave Parker and Don Baylor average 6 feet 3 1/2 and 225 pounds. They also totaled 141 homers and 467 RBI last season . . .
The Texas Rangers are believed to be the first team to ever sign a native Spaniard. He's left-hander Pedro Valarezo, who was spotted by scout Luis Rosa in Panama. Rosa was so impressed that he got Valarezo's name on a contract, then flew to Barcelona to get the permission of the player's dad . . . Left-hander John Henry Johnson has signed a minor league contract with the New York Yankees. It's his seventh organization in 14 seasons . . .
If you're a scoreboard buff, you know that the three biggest message boards are in Miami's Joe Robbie Stadium, San Francisco's Candlestick Park and California's Anaheim Stadium. The Toronto Blue Jays say all three would fit inside their $17 million Jumbotron, which is being erected in their new, retractable-dome stadium. It'll be ready for opening day in 1989 . . . If the Kansas City Royals don't make the playoffs, it'll be the first time since 1973-75 they've gone three straight seasons without a postseason appearance.Quotes of the Week
After Gibson signed with the Dodgers, he was asked about telephoning Sparky Anderson, his former manager. "No," he said, "but I know what he'll say. He'll say that Ruth died, and baseball still survived."
Gibson was dead wrong. What Anderson said was: "Babe Ruth is dead and buried in Baltimore, but the game is bigger and better than ever."