Philadelphia Daily News - December 8, 1980

Tug Takes Owens’ Changeup

 

By Bill Conlin

 

DALLAS – Paul Owens says it is one of the better signings he's made, considering the contract armed robbery rampant in baseball today.

 

But it wasn't easy to get Tug McGraw's name on the free agent's newly minted four-year contract.

 

"We were at an impasse," The Pope said last night in his winter meetings suite at the incredible Loew's Anatole Hotel, where the Kilgore Rangerettes were prancing through their precision routines in the atrium lobby.

 

"I don't want to leave the impression that Tug capitulated to me or I capitulated to Tug. What it came down to was he came down a little in money. I agreed to guarantee half the salary in the fourth year of the contract and defer enough salary so his family will have security down the road."

 

Sounds reasonable so far. Pope.

 

"He didn't want to leave this team." Owens said. "And we didn't want him to leave. It just proves that in any good negotiation, if people sincerely want to reach an agreement they can do it."

 

McGRAW DID NOT emerge from his fling with free agency as the highest-paid relief pitcher in the game. But he will more than double his 1979 salary of $175,000 with the four-year, $1.5 million contract he agreed to Saturday.

 

"It's an almost straight contract and it keeps my philosophy in line." Owens said. "People look at him sometimes like he's a buffoon or something, but he's a much more serious man than you'd suspect, a very heart-rendering kind of guy."

 

McGraw did not render himself into the auction with the head-first abandon he reserves for bases-loaded jams. Undrafted in the re-entry phase of the emancipation process. Tug lost considerable leverage, although he insists he could have signed for much more money with several other clubs. Fortunately for the Phillies and Tug's adoring fans, he never had to put that theory to a test.

 

"I didn't negotiate in good faith with other clubs," McGraw said last night after returning home from a promotion at Penn National Race Track in Harrisburg. "I called a few clubs and asked how much interest they had in me. But I told them I couldn't sit down and talk money until I resolved all the avenues in Philly.

 

"l DIDN'T WANT to get into that kind of negotiating – playing one club against the other. I went straight across the top of the table. I was starting to feel depressed last week because it looked like we weren't making any progress. Right now I feel on top of the world."

 

Dallas Green was right behind him in top-of-the-world feelings.

 

"I'm tickled to death," the manager said. "Tug was one of the few guys on the ballclub who knew there was method to my madness. He gave me his heart and his mind.

 

 

"But I almost ran him out of gas at the end. Now that we'll have Sparky Lyle for a full year I don't think I'll have to do that again."

Trading Market Looks Bullish to Phils

 

By Bill Conlin

 

DALLAS – It was the autumn of 1972 and the Phillies were looking for a manager.

 

Actually, they were at each other's throats in one of the truly Machiavellian struggles in the history of the franchise.

 

Danny Ozark emerged from the pileup as the compromise candidate, boosted over the top by the persistence of Bill Giles. A couple of angry finalists were left holding a handful of promises, particularly Dave Bristol, whose bags were all but packed.

 

The lights will burn long into the Texas night the next few days in the Phillies winter meetings War Room. The topic at hand is a touchy one. It involves sharply divided opinions, questions of loyalty being weighed against the more practical consideration of fielding the best possible team in 1981.

 

The question has been snapping at the Phillies' heels since July. The question is: What do they do with Greg Luzinski?

 

THE ANSWER might not be forthcoming until the second inter-league trading period begins Feb. 15. It will determine what Paul Owens does here this week. But there might not be enough time to scrutinize all facets of the delicate situation.

 

More to the point, there might not be enough interest in a tarnished slugger coming off a pair of down, injury-plagued years.

 

Ruly Carpenter, who has the final say in most top-echelon matters, still loves The Bull, although he did not love him enough to renegotiate Luzinski's contract during the past two seasons. The owner regards his leftfielder as family, a pivotal figure in the Phillies' long, frustrating drive from the outhouse to the penthouse.

 

At the other end of sentiment is Dallas Green, a realist who feels that for whatever reason, Luzinski is a longshot to return to the outstanding hitting consistency which vanished after the 1978 season.

 

Owens is somewhere in the middle, probably leaning slightly toward his manager, but closely tuned to Ruly's feelings in the matter.

 

Others in the organizational chain of command feel the boat has sailed, that Luzinski should have been traded last winter, when there was a more active and attractive market for him.

 

"Our biggest decision here is what we want to do with Bull," Owens said last night. "I'm not shopping him, not peddling him, but I'm talking him."

 

That's a diplomatic way of telling other the media and other clubs that he'll entertain offers.

 

"I'D LIKE TO make two moves by Wednesday and go home," Owens said. The moves would involve Luzinski and Poor Randy Lerch, who might be the best bargain available here. The out-of-favor lefthander is (a) young, (b) healthy and (c) has one hell of an arm, a fact he might be able to exploit now that he is working with an almost religious zeal to prove his detractors are wrong about him.

 

"Lerch? I've got enough interest in him," Owens said. "There's nothing wrong with Randy Lerch's arm, but I'm not giving anybody away. A couple of people have got to call me. That's the position I'm in. I've got a better ballclub right now than I did a year ago and I've got a chance to make it better than it is now. I'm not bragging. I'm just proud of it.

 

"Right now I've got four clubs talking to me about the Bull and five clubs talking to me about Lerch."

 

Owens could deal Lerch for Cubs outfielder Jerry Martin by picking up the phone.

 

"But where does he play for me?" the Pope shrugs. "I could only think about him if I move Luzinski and that's a decision that has to made here by the organization. We have to ask ourselves how much we want our hearts to rule our heads. The man's only 30 years old. The man could come back and spin me like a top."

 

On the other hand...

 

 "GREG LUZINSKI can only help the Phillies ballclub if he swings the bat the way he did about five straight seasons before 1979," Green said. "He can't help us unless he hits, unless he stays with the program for 162 games, which he didn't do last year."

 

You keep hearing the Orioles would part with lefthander Scott McGregor for Luzinski. But McGregor just signed a fat new five-year contract. The club which deals for Bull will be faced with a contract which expires after next season.

 

Owens addressed himself to the question of Luzinski's value.

 

"I always give credit to my opposition," he said. "Greg Luzinski has not been productive for me the past two years. But anybody who's done his homework had to be impressed with how he hit before his knee gave out on him at mid-season.

 

"People who don't think he has any value are not astute baseball people. And the question of his value is for so-called astute baseball people to decide."

 

And the hour of that decision appears to be at hand.

 

 

PHILUPS: Here are some of the rumors echoing through the vast twin-atrium lobbies of the Loew’s Anatole:... Batting champion Bill Buckner to the Giants, but not for Mike Ivie... The Giants will definitely trade John Montefusco and reliever Gary Lavelle... Texas wants Pirates shortstop Tim Foli. Pirates GM Pete Peterson says he's not so sure now he'll make three major deals but guarantees at least one – Bert BIyleven to the Angels, insiders say... The meetings formally open this morning with the draft of players not protected on major league rosters. The Phils feel they have a chance to lose Oklahoma City righthander Dan Larson. Sore-armed prospect Jim Wright is unprotected, but Paul Owens doesn't feel anybody will offer at a pitcher with Wright's grin medical history.