Philadelphia Daily News - November 12, 1980
Why Would Yanks Want Winfield?
By Bill Conlin
George Steinbrenner, the village idiot who runs the New York Yankees, can’t wait to make Dave Winfield baseball's highest paid performer.
Rumor has it that the Lite Beer people are setting up a dunce cap for Jugular George to wear for his next commercial.
Winfield was asking the San Diego Padres, his current employer, to pay him $13 million for the next 10 seasons. That's only $1 J million a year. Such a deal.
What would the Yankees get for their money?
Well, Winfield and Mike Schmidt both played their first full season in 1973. Since then. Schmidt has hit 45 or more homers twice, 35 or more homers four times. He's driven in more than 100 runs four times and scored more than 100 runs five times.
Winfield? Big Dave has hit more than 30 homers once. He's driven in more than 100 runs once. He's scored more than 100 runs once. He's hit over .300 twice – matching 308 marks in 1978 and 79.
THIS IS A $1.3 million player? Is he good? Yes. A he the best player in the game? No way. The line starts with Schmidt and George Brett. If you include pitchers. Dave doesn't make the Top 10.
But the name of the game is when your contract is up and when you're eligible for the reentry draft.
Schmidt's $580,000-a-year contract runs through 1982. He’ll be 33 years old when the golden ring comes his way again and it figures to be studded with diamonds.
Although Winfield is by no means the game's outstanding talent, he heads the list of players who will be up for grabs tomorrow morning when representatives of the 26 major league clubs gather to perform their version of Samurai Delicatessen – the fifth annual re-entry draft of free agents.
It would be appropriate if Commissioner Bowie Kuhn asked the lodge members to observe a moment of silence in memory of the $3 million the Giants squandered on second baseman Rennie Stennett last November.
And someone should lay a memorial wreath on the table occupied by Ray Kroc's San Diego delegation. Having retired the trophy for worst free-agent signings, lifetime, the Pads are now about to lose their only certified star via the same route. The equivalent would be the guy who throws the switch at the Death House accidentally sticking a wet finger in a light socket.
WINFIELD HEADS A grab-bag which lost some of what little luster it had when the Dodgers signed Dusty Baker to a five-year contract just before the Monday night deadline.
The best of the rest are Dodgers righthander Don Sutton, Phillies relief hero Tug McGraw, Royals catcher Darrell Porter, Pirates outfielder-first baseman John Milner, Expos rag-armed base thief Ron LeFlore and Cubs reliever Dick Tidrow.
Antique collectors can choose from elderly Yankee righthanders Luis Tiant and Gaylord Perry, Orioles DH Lee May, Rangers DH Rusty Staub and Rangers infielder Buddy Harrelson.
Players worth a roll of the dice if the price is right include Red Sox utility man Jim Dwyer, Indians lefthander Dan Spillner, Royals reliever Marty Pattin. Expos reliever Stan Bahnsen, Phillies post-season pinch-hitting hero Del Unser, Twins lefthander Geoff Zahn and Cubs utility man Larry Biittner.
Most of the rest will straggle into somebody's spring training camp with hats in hand.
The Phillies have pledged to go light in the auction once more, selecting players they feel will not be overpriced, have signability, could help bolster the club's depth and serve as a hedge against the loss of McGraw or Unser or a failure to make a favorable trade.
"WE'RE NOT ABOUT to go up there and play games," says Manager Dallas Green, who will stay in Florida while Paul Owens and new farm director Jim Baumer handle the draft. "There might be years when you drafted some guys you knew you had no chance to sign, but would perk up interest in the ballclub, get you some ink, but this is not one of those years. And we're not into subterfuge. We won't draft a guy to try and screw somebody else who has a legitimate interest in him."
For those of you tired of the question, "Who shot J.R. Ewing?" the focus tomorrow will be on a potential scenario titled, "Who Shot Down George Steinbrenner?"
There could be a Blue Collar Backlash brewing in the wake of Winfield's attempt to discourage certain teams from seeking to bid for his services. Dave advised 14 teams by mail to forget it. No way, baby.
Some of the have-nots, including lame-duck White Sox owner Bill Veeck and Indians President Gabe Paul, did not take to Winfield's advice in a kindly way.
Once a guy is selected by 12 teams plus the team losing him, he's frozen. In the first four years of the draft, no team has been frozen out of a player it wanted. In fact, no player has ever been frozen before the end of the first round.
There were no particular axes for anybody to grind when Pete Rose was a free agent three years ago. But Rose did his weeding in a more diplomatic fashion, announcing the teams he would prefer to play for, not those teams he wouldn't touch with a 10-foot bat.
A MORE COMPELLING factor than Winfield's preference could be that Steinbrenner has walked around for two months wearing Dave's heart on his sleeve. The brethren know that the Yankee owner is prepared to outbid everybody – including several small nations – for Winfield, and a few of George's colleagues might be prepared to stick it to a guy who has spent the autumn with his foot in somebody's mouth – usually his own.
As many as 23 clubs could select Winfield before the Yankees' turn comes up. The Royals and Phillies will pick 25th and 26th.
There's a rumor circulating that if Winfield feels he's been blocked from pursuing the pot of gold under the rainbow of his choosing the. outfielder will sue everybody in sight, charging anti-trust violations, conspiracy, etc. Ironically, he could wind up taking action against a system propagated by Marvin Miller and the Players Association.
Maybe there will be one or two spite selections, but the owners are trying manfully to keep as much of their business as possible out of the courts on grounds that some judge someday is going to order a club to show its books to Miller.
And that's one Pandora's box the Lords of Baseball want to keep padlocked.
The Beat Goes On…
The unbeaten streak continues.
The Sixers mauled the Chicago Bulls, 121-80, last night for their 12th win in a row, their 10th since Oct. 18.
Oct. 18, if you can remember that far back, was the last time a Philadelphia professional sports team lost a game. The Phillies lost Game 4 of the World Series and the Flyers lost to Toronto.
The Flyers, working on an 11-game unbeaten streak, play Edmonton at the Spectrum tomorrow. The Eagles are working on a six-game winning streak. The Fever is 1-0. And with the Phillies' wins in Game 5 and Game 6, tnat's 32 games without a loss, 28 since Oct. 18.
The streak goes on.