Philadelphia Daily News - November 6, 1980
Free (Agent) at Last
By Bill Conlin
Tug McGraw set Ruly Carpenter to dancing when he fired that John Jameson fastball past Willie Wilson on the night of the Millenium.
If the Phillies owner wants to keep dancing he will have to pay the fiddler.
McGraw wants $2 million for a four-year guaranteed contract. His financial adviser, Phil McLaughlin, laid that package on the table for Carpenter and Paul Owens Monday. They ran it up the flagpole and nobody saluted.
Everything is inflated in your own mind," Manager-apparent Dallas Green said Tuesday night. "Tug's got his idea of what he might be worth on the open market. We've got our idea of what he's worth to the Phillies. There is no contesting that Tug had a super year for us. But the feeling is that we'll let him go through the thing and establish his value. My gut feeling is that a 36-year-old relief pitcher is not worth the numbers he's asking. And that's not to belittle Tug in any way. The system has been created for a successful player to make some very big money."
The "thing" is the re-entry draft which will unfold for the fifth time next Thursday in New York's Plaza Hotel. McGraw will be in it.
ON A DAY when the Phillies signed Larry Christenson to a one-year contract, McGraw and pinch-hitting hero Del Unser informed the club that they will take part in the free-agent draft. Owens can continue negotiating with the players until midnight Monday, after which nobody can discuss money with them until after the draft. Following their selection by up to a maximum of 13 teams, the Phillies retain negotiating rights, which is how they got Greg Gross back last winter.
McGraw issued a statement yesterday through his wife, Phyllis, that as a prime contributor to the Phillies' first world championship in 98 years he expects to be paid at a level equivalent to that of the club's established stars. A $500.000-a-year salary would leave him trailing only Pete Rose, Mike Schmidt, Garry Maddox and. possibly, Steve Carlton on the salary totem pole. He would be on a par with Bake McBride and ahead of Greg Luzinski.
McGraw certainly will not sign for less than the $375.000 the Phillies are contracted to pay 36-year-old Sparky Lyle in each of the next two seasons. Nor should he.
Tug earned $175,000 last season, a peon's wage for a player at his level of achievement. And $75,000 of that will come in the form of deferred payments, money that will be eroded by inflation's rocky road.
"That's Tug's own fault." a prominent agent said over the weekend. "He does his own negotiating. He's too nice a guy to get into the push, shove and hard feelings that a third-party negotiator can absorb. He should have had a ' much better contract than the one he signed."
McGRAW ISN'T going to let the negotiations ruin the enjoyment he's had out of life since his epic World Series-ending strikeout. In fact, the only thing that came close to bringing him back to the planet Earth was a torrent of icy water.
"With the parade and everything it seemed like everything was just unreal." McGraw said at the Mike Schmidt Golf Classic Sunday morning. "I finally began to get my feet on the ground and come back to reality about four days afterwards and my wife and I got up to take a shower at home. The hot-water heater didn't work. It was a chilling awakening to the real world."
He has a charisma second to none in baseball and representatives of the marketplace are lining up to pay him homage and other valuable considerations.
He began his autumn hegira in Las Vegas, where he appeared on a week's worth of "Hollywood Squares" shows. The McGraw segments of the popular celebrity TV game show will air at the end of this month. Consult local listings.
It was an experience, since the five shows were taped in one whirlwind session. The celebs wear the same pants and keep changing jackets, shirts and ties.
"I'm tasting the fruits of victory and I've been enjoying myself," Tug said. " 'Hollywood Squares' was fun. I met a lot of neat people. Wink Martindale, Foster Brooks, who I felt like I knew really well. George Gobel, Joan Rivers, Paul Lynde, who was hilarious. It's amazing how much those guys all follow sports. Gabe Kaplan was on the panel and Dr. Joyce Brothers. Did I say Jane Russell? It'll be shown around Thanksgiving time.
"There were no re-takes and no bleepers. Nothing was rehearsed. It's al! cold turkey. All that stuff Lynds and Gobel say is right off the tops of their heads. Lynde was in pain, too, but you'd never know it. He broke a rib falling in the bathtub. or something. Those guys are gamers just like we are. You get 15 minutes between shows and you just change tops."
HE TOOK Phyllis to see Neil Sedaka at the Riviera Hotel. The pops superstar introduced McGraw from the stage.
"It was a full house – 2,600 people – and they gave us a standing ovation. Susan Anton was there, too. I gave her a standing ovation."
He's got some lucrative endorsements pending, none of them, he says, for Tylenol, the pain reliever he has graced with a fortune in free advertising.
"Why should they pay me when I'm giving it to them for nothing." Tylenol Tug said. "There are some things in the negotiating stage, so I'd rather not name names until they're firmed up."
Back to baseball biz. McGraw feels he has excellent leverage in the free-agent market despite his age.
"The big problem that I think I'm going to have is that the Phillies have never been in favor of investing a lot of money in a pitcher," he said. "They've always invested the money in the guys who play every day. They've never had a pitcher come along who's had them with their backs to the wall. Lefty (Carlton) signed before inflation hit and as inflation has developed they've adjusted his contract to some degree. But he's never been in a position to sit down and demand anything.
"Christenson had physical problems, Ruthven had physical problems, so nobody has been in position to really test them and see what they're willing to pay. In my opinion, the pitching is the only reason that we won. The offense has been a little bit off. There have been times when the offense was not a consistent factor. And they wouldn't have done bleep this year without the bullpen."
THAT COULD BE interpreted as a bitter statement by a pitcher trying to drive a hard bargain.
But McGraw tossed back his head and laughed when he said it. "I'm really a tough talker, aren't I?"
He junked a lot of his off-season business activities last winter to spend more time with his family and more time taking care of his body. His family life thrived and he did enough for his body to throw as hard as he did when he was a 25-year-old power pitcher with the Mets.
He won’t leave his fastball in the VIP bar at an awards banquet the way Carlton did after he won his first Cy Young Award in 1972.
"I'm going to be on that program the rest of my career in the off-season," Tug said. "As of the 18th of November this year anything I have to do in the way of any outside commitments will have to fit around my workout schedule and the things we have planned as a family."
He wants to stay in the Phillies family. But his name will go up on the big board at the Plaza Hotel next Thursday morning. And whether he pitches here again will depend on the capricious whims of the owners and how much they are willing to spend in an inflated market for what a Tug McGraw can do for a deflated bullpen.
Green Manages to Make It Official
Dallas Green, to the surprise of no one and to the delight of his accountant, is going to manage the world's champion Phillies again in 1981.
The official announcement was made this morning at a press conference in the Vet, but the agreement was reached last night when Ruly Carpenter, after day-long talks, agreed to pay Green's $150,000 asking price.
Green, who has said frequently that he prefers front office work to toiling in the dugout, said it had been decided yesterday that "the best thing is for (general manager) Paul ( Owens) up there and me down here."
He said he thought the Phillies had a chance to repeat as world champions and that he'd made that his goal. "It would be kind of fun to go through this again."
BEFORE SETTLING on his own contract. Green spoke of Larry Christenson and his chances of striking it rich as a free agent
"He's asking for the kind of money and the kind of years that a premier, healthy pitcher would ask for." Green said Tuesday night. "It's well known that he has a history of blowing out. What is it, five times on the disabled list the past three years? I'll take my chances on him in the short run because when he's healthy he's a helluva pitcher. Sometimes he's not too shabby when he's not so healthy, like some of the starts he gave us toward the end of the year when all he could do was throw the ball.
"BUT HE BLOWS out swinging at pitches, he blows out running and he blows out pitching. It's in his history and I doubt if he'll ever be able to put another full season together without blowing out. And sooner or later it’ll get to his arm. You can't continue to pitch on one leg and not have it screw up the arm.
"At the end of the World Series, Larry Christensen was a sore-armed pitcher. The elbow that was cut-on during the season was going south on him again. When he got lit up in the first inning of the fourth game, he was out there with a sore elbow. The next afternoon when we were fighting to come back, I wanted to use him for an inning if I needed him the way I did in the Houston playoff. He said, 'I don't think I can get it up.'"
It was hardly a vote of confidence. Which is why it came as a surprise when'the Phillies pried Christenson out of potential free-agency yesterday by signing him to a new contract. That the contract is only for the 1981 season comes as no surprise, however.
It probably reflects a compromise on the part of Paul Owens, an opportunity for Christenson to prove he can hold together for a full season, while still having the fruits of free agency available to him after the '81 season.
Though terms were not announced, of course, it is reasonable to assume that the Phillies will give Christenson a shot at the big money – the chance to make $400,000 next year is a guess – via a contract loaded with performance clauses. Innings pitched over 200 will probably put Christenson in tall cotton. He's proved that when he can string his starts together without medical interruption he's a winning pitcher.
IF CHRISTENSON can win the 15-18 games he's capable of winning when in good health, he'd be worth a big, one-shot payoff to the Phillies. From his end, Christenson would have the bargaining leverage he currently lacks due to his reputation as damaged goods.