Camden Courier Post - November 14, 1980

Draft leaves Tug in cold

 

By Ray W. Kelly of the Courier-Post

 

Hi! This is Tug McGraw of the Phillies. Would you like to talk to me about pitching lor your team?

 

I'd like to talk to you.

 

By the way, how come you didn't pick me during the free agent draft?

 

That's the speech Tug has all prepared for next week, when he starts calling major league teams he thinks might be able to use one of the best lefthanded relief pitchers in baseball. Him!

 

"I had to come up with it real quick," said McGraw yesterday. "It's something I never thought I'd need."

 

Neither did anyone else who gathered in New York yesterday to watch 26 big league clubs declare their intentions of bidding for the services of 48 players, most of whom couldn't carry the world championship ring Tug will soon be placing on his finger.

 

In a turn of events that shocked many baseball people, McGraw was completely ignored by representatives of all the teams. The Phillies were shut out because, by rule, they aren't permitted to draft the rights for renegotiation until two other teams take the player in question.

 

"Yes. I was a little surprised, to say the least," said the 36-year-old hurler, who has been in the forefront of two teams' (New York Mets and Phillies) climb to the top of the baseball world. "But, I'm not discouraged."

 

Sharing McGraw's surprise was Phillies General Manager Paul Owens, who admitted, "If I'd been one of a number of other clubs, I would have taken Tug. I mean, someone has to take a quality reliever like Tug. I can't believe it."

 

Owens suspected a number of things combined to cause what is obviously a rather suspicious looking baseball phenomenon.

 

"I think Tug's age and his demands may have played some part in the thinking of some clubs," said Owens. "But that can't possibly be the whole story.

 

"Maybe the other clubs simply felt it was a waste of time trying to sign him; that in the end, the Phillies were going to make him an offer, that we weren't about to let him get away.

 

"This was a different kind of draft, almost two drafts in one. After the big guys, Dave Winfield and Don Sutton, were chosen, it was like the second phase was a backlash by teams rethinking their approach to free agents."

 

Maybe so. But it was hard to think that after several years of falling all over each other to give all kinds of money to mediocre athletes, every team in baseball suddenly got religion.

 

It would be easier to believe there was a conspiracy.

 

"I'm not that type of thinker," said Tug. "No, there can't be a conspiracy. That's absurd. If it was some sort of plot, I would have been drafted by a few unacceptable teams. Then I'd be stuck.

 

"As it turns out, this may be even better. I'm completely free to make my own deal. I don't even have to inform the Phillies of any offers or give them a chance to match it. Although, you know I wouldn't do a thing like that."

 

Owens also rejected the notion that McGraw was snubbed because of any prearranged deals.

 

"No, no way," said the Pope. "First of all, Tug wasn't the only one hit by this. Ron LeFlore (Montreal) wasn't chosen. Almost half the players were selected by one team or less.

 

"Apparently, the industry is beginning to realize that the free-agent draft has not been successful for most clubs, that developing talent is still the answer.

 

"There was $35 million spent last year. A lot of people were disappointed. People are beginning to say that they're not getting true value out of this thing, that trying to do something (build a winner) overnight is simply a good way to lose money. The Yankees have done well, but they are in a minority.

 

"This wasn't a good draft insofar as there wasn't a whole lot of quality players. But it's more like the industry has begun to realize it has just been foolish... that this isn't a bonanza and that spending $12 million or $15 million just doesn't make good sense when it's not working."

 

McGraw, who was busy rehearsing "Casey At The Bat" for Tuesday night's performance at the Academy of Music when he received word that 25 teams had given him the cold shoulder, tried to be optimistic.

 

"I'm not going to take it as a reflection of my ability," he said. "I was prepared for a possible problem because I gave a lot of teams the impression I was coming back to the Phillies and wasn't interested in them.

 

"I didn't contact anyone. I didn't make a lot of noise in the newspapers and name a lot of teams I'd like to have contact me. Instead, I laid low.

 

"Obviously, that was a mistake. I'll just have to start calling up the teams that need help. A team like the Mets, if they don't sign Winfield, may be interested. I know more than a few clubs were interested before the draft.

 

"One thing is certain, I'm not backing away from the figures I gave the Phillies. I'm sitting on what I want – period!"

 

Owens, who will probably be contacted by McGraw this coming week, indicated that what transpired at the draft will not have a major effect on negotiations.

 

"I'm sure both Tug and Del Unser will be getting back to us," he said. "We told both players that although some clubs have gotten mad at having their players go free agent, we don't feel that way.

 

"I'd rather see them test the market and get a better idea of their value than sit around here wondering how much they're worth.

 

"Now they know. But our figures aren't going to change."

 

McGraw wishes the television sportscaster was right when he reported Tug was seeking a $650,000 per year contract. "Good grief!" said McGraw. "If I was looking for anything close to that kind of money, I could understand the Phillies not signing me.

 

"No, the problems are not just money, but the length of the contract and the deferment of the money. Plus the fact that Steve Carlton's contract is used by the team as a guideline. But Lefty being underpaid shouldn't be my problem."

 

McGraw's biggest problem may have been all the positive statements he has made about the Phillies and the Philadelphia area. After awhile, it got very hard to believe that the Phils would let him go or that he would even consider leaving.

 

"Look," said Owens. "Maybe this might help Tug realize that we were being fair with our offer all along. We've tried to take into consideration not only his talent, but the good public relations he's brought us.

 

"I swear I never talked to anyone concerning him and the draft. I wouldn't do anything to hurt him. Hell, I want him with us!"

 

Maybe McGraw will be back with the Phillies next year. But, whenever the subject of the re-entry draft comes up, a lot of people are still going to feel like Tug's wife, Phyllis.

 

"I don't know," she said yesterday after hearing the news. "It's just seems so... so ironic!"

Phils ignore big boys, draft Rangers’ Roberts

 

By Ray W. Kelly of the Courier-Post

 

The Phillies sat back during yesterday's re-entry draft and watched the Lords of Flatbush flash their Yankee and Met checkbooks at Dave Winfield and Don Sutton. The world champs from Philly had smaller fish to fry.

 

"With the exception of Pete Rose and Richie Hebner, who were special cases, we've never gone overboard for free agents," said Phillies General Manager Paul Owens after the draft in New York.

 

"We're just trying to add a little strength here and there, if we can," he added.

 

In what was best described as an "austerity draft," the Phils spent most of their time hedging their bets against the possibility of losing bullpen ace Tug McGraw or utilityman Del Unser.

 

Owens, for example, chose Dave W. Roberts of Texas on the second round.

 

"He's played seven positions," said Owens. "Plus, he's a right-handed hitter with some sock coming off the bench. We're hoping to add that kind of hitter to the club."

 

The Phils also took Boston's Jim Dwyer, and outfielder-first baseman who was described as "an Unser type of player," as well as three pitchers: Montreal's Stan Bahnsen and John D'Acquisto, and Minnesota's Geoff Zahn.

 

"Bahnsen has always pitched well against the Phillies," said Owens. "He could be used in middle relief (to replace Ron Reed?). Zahn has potential. And, we've always liked the way D'Acquisto throws. He could be the real sleeper of the draft because he's only 28 years old."

 

The age of Winfield and Sutton didn't seem to matter. Both were picked by 10 teams – three below the limit allowed. The bidding began immediately.

 

Five teams – the New York Mets, the New York Yankees, the Atlanta Braves, the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Cleveland Indians picked those two players in the first two rounds.

 

The price tags are high. Winfield is said to be thinking $13 million over 10 years and Sutton is talking about $500,000 for four years.

 

Frank Cashen, executive vice president and general manager of the Mets, declared there was no ceiling on how high his team would go in the Winfield sweepstakes. That is a clear-cut policy change by new management after four years in which the Mets participation in the free agent draft was all but invisible.

 

The Mets have spent about $2 million on free agents so far. Their crosstown rivals, the Yankees, have doled out about $15 million and George Steinbrenner is ready to go for more.

 

"He's outstanding, not only as a ball player but as an Individual," said the Yankee owner, sounding like a man looking forward to matching his checkbook against the other bidders.

 

As for Winfield, he's playing it cool.

 

"I just feel good about my position," the slugger said. "The rest is negotiation."

 

Among Winfield's priorities are that the club he sign with be committed to his youth program and that it is a winner in a major media center.

 

Some teams took a defiant stance in the draft. The Chicago Cubs opened the action by choosing Roberts and then did not select another player. What's more, the Cubs turned down the chance to retain negotiating rights to their own free agents, first baseman Larry Biittner and third baseman Lenny Randle.

 

San Diego, which has invested about $10 million in free agents before, passed from the start, as did Minnesota, Detroit and Kansas City. Texas and the Chicago White Sox, with 13 selections, led all teams in picks.

TGIF:  Try the Pops

 

Well, you maybe accustomed to his face, but not on stage with the Philly Pops. Actor Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. sings tunes from "My Fair Lady," "Camelot," "Knickerbocker Holiday" and a medley Cole Porter songs Sunday at 3 p.m, at the Academy of Music. Fairbanks joins conductor Peter Nero and the pops orchestra for an afternoon of Broadway melodies and epic poetry. For more information call (215) 735-7506. Also joining Fairbanks, will be Phillies relief pitcher Tug McGraw.