MIAMI, FEB. 27 -- The Oakland Athletics are furious at outfielder Jose Canseco, who is skipping the first five days of spring training to attend baseball-card shows in Pennsylvania and New York this weekend.
The Athletics rushed to sign him so that he'd be at spring training on time, and near the end of the negotiations his agent said something like: "Oh, by the way, he may be a couple of days late because of a personal problem."
When General Manager Sandy Alderson couldn't get a commitment on exactly when Canseco would report, he pressed to know the problem.
"To be honest, we were worried," he said. "We wanted to help. I don't consider a card show a personal problem, and besides, I was deceived. They said it would be a day or two, and it's going to be five."
The personal problem turned out to be that Canseco had signed up to appear at the card shows. It appears he's testing the team for a second straight year -- he held out briefly last spring -- and no one is sure why.
His absence is the first problem of what is supposed to be a dream season for the Athletics. Manager Tony La Russa had planned on looking at Canseco in center field and in left the first 10 days of camp, but now may drop the idea.
Meanwhile, rookie of the year Mark McGwire showed up in tremendous shape. His 118 RBI last season were the most by a rookie since 1950 and the ninth-best ever. In order, the best RBI seasons by a rookie are: Ted Williams (145 in 1939), Walt Dropo (144 in 1950), Hal Trosky (142 in 1934), Dale Alexander (137 in 1929), Joe DiMaggio (125 in 1936), Wally Berger (119 in 1930) and McGwire . . .
The message on La Russa's answering machine includes these words: "We're going for 100 wins and 2 million fans." McNamara in Trouble
Boston Red Sox Manager John McNamara is in big trouble and appears to be the most likely manager (other than Billy Martin, who is always first) not to finish the season. His first problem is that old friend Haywood Sullivan has been shuffled out.
Second, he told reporters he had talked to Jim Rice about switching to designated hitter. He had not, and when Rice read news accounts he blew up and is all but daring McNamara to try to use him anywhere except left field.
Third, McNamara gave the Red Sox a speech about why he wasn't going to allow golf clubs to be taken on the road this year. Then 15 minutes later, McNamara was seen loading his clubs and leaving camp.
"Some people will try to put the heat on me, but it doesn't bother me," he said, combative as ever. "You guys are the ones who say I'm on the hot seat. What do I have to prove? I don't think I have to prove anything to anybody" . . .
People close to Lou Piniella believe he'll leave the New York Yankees after this season. For one thing, he hasn't yet signed his contract to be general manager and apparently doesn't intend to. That means he's still working on his managerial contract, which will expire at the end of the season . . . Likewise, almost no one expects Dodgers Manager Tommy Lasorda to stick around after his contract expires this year. He wants to be a general manager and if he can only get a managing job it's likely to be away from new Dodgers boss Fred Claire. Their relations are strained . . .
If everything works out, the average age of the Chicago White Sox's starting rotation will be 24.8 years per man. That includes Melido Perez (22), Rick Horton (28), Dave LaPoint (28), Joel Davis (23) and Jack McDowell (22) . . . Seattle's new reliever, Mike Jackson, told reporters this week: "I'm ready to be like Goose Gossage and Lee Smith, one of those 35-save guys." He was 34 short of that last season . . .
The Tigers plan on Jim Morrison being their opening-day third baseman, which is an old story to Tom Brookens, who has had the position more than anyone else the last eight years.
New Detroit center fielder Gary Pettis has stolen more than 50 bases in two of the last three years. That would be a boost to the Tigers because, since Ty Cobb, only one Tiger has had a 50-steal season -- Ron LeFlore . . . Yankees Manager Martin says he'll hit Dave Winfield second in the batting order and make Jack Clark cleanup man . . .
With Dave Parker gone, Cincinnati Manager Pete Rose will shift former leadoff man Kal Daniels to the No. 3 spot. There are a lot of people betting that Daniels will be the National League's next big star, especially after seeing him lead off games with home runs eight times last season. The Reds' biggest hope is that rookie Jeff Treadway can win the second base job . . . Shortstop Barry Larkin will be their new leadoff man.Lawless Who?
Remember World Series star Tom Lawless? It appears he won't make the St. Louis Cardinals this spring. Rod Booker is the favorite to win that utility job . . . The power struggle goes on in San Diego. General Manager Jack McKeon would have expanded the Gossage-for-Keith Moreland deal to include outfielder Carmelo Martinez. He'd get left-handed pitcher Drew Hall in return, but new team president Chub Feeney rejected it . . . Minnesota reliever Jeff Reardon is experimenting with a knuckleball . . . When Minnesota scuffballer Joe Niekro was checked before an intrasquad game last week, he pulled a can opener, pliers, salt shaker and emery board from his pocket . . .
If there are no delays, the first night game in Wrigley Field history will be Monday, July 18. It'll be against the San Francisco Giants and will be carried live by ABC . . . It's hard to believe but Danny Tartabull is the first holdout Kansas City has had in their 20 years. He made $145,000 last season, and, after hitting 34 homers and driving in 101 runs, wants a raise to $425,000. The Royals have offered $325,000 . . .
The Twins are looking at left-hander Bryan Clark, the former Alexandria pitcher who is 31 and has pitched in 17 cities in 13 seasons. "No one said it was going to be easy," he said.