Camden Courier-Post - March 16, 1980

Maddox move may lead other Phils to free agency


By Rusty Pray of the Courier-Post


CLEARWATER, Fla. – Al Hrabosky, a relief pitcher with more swagger than substance, signs a 35-year contract for $5.89 million with the Atlanta Braves. He will spend only five of those years actually pitching for a living. There's no telling what he'll be doing for the next 30 except enjoying a hearty laugh on the way to the bank.


Nolan Ryan, a 33-year-old flamethrower who often runs out of ammunition, is paid $4.5 million to bring his suspect right arm to the Houston Astros for four years.


Rick Wise, Ryan's elder by a year and a pitcher who can be counted upon to lose as many games as he wins, chips the San Diego Padres for $2 million over four years. Perhaps to insure Wise will not be the only double-figure loser in a Padre uniform this year, the club signs John Curtis to a five-year pact for $1.5 million. Curtis' lifetime record is 67-72.


Those are just a few of the more outlandish examples of the absurdities owners perpetrated on themselves after last November's free agent re-entry draft.


Since 1976, when free agency became a way of baseball life, players with six years experience have been able to sell their services to the highest bidder. And the bidding has followed such an insanely-upward spiral that now baseball has become the new American gold rush.


Not since some Arab sheiks got together to form the OPEC cartel have so few gotten so rich for so little in return. Free agency has removed the bonds of the reserve clause and made players wealthy beyond even their wildest dreams.


So it should come as no surprise that Garry Maddox likely will join the dash for cash next fall. Maddox, whose contract negotiations are at an impasse with the Phillies, has decided he will play this season unsigned, then throw his hat into the re-entry ring.


But to many people it IS surprising that Maddox would be willing to leave a team he likes and gamble on the future. Some people in turn wonder why Phillies Owner Ruly Carpenter simply does not meet Maddox' terms, a reported $1 million over five years.


Maddox' reasoning is straightforward enough. As the finest defensive center fielder in the game, he knows he can command a million or more in the auction atmosphere of free agency. He would like the Phillies to reward him, but wouldn't balk at changing outfields if they do not.


Carpenter's stand could be likened to Custer's. He knows that if he does not draw the line with Maddox, the club's treasury will be overrun within three years. He knows that if he meets Maddox' terms, every player on the team will measure his value against what Maddox is paid.


Imagine, if you will, what might happen: The Phillies sign Maddox for a million. Another player looks at Maddox' salary and says to himself, "I can play half as good defense, hit half as well and am a better baserunner than Garry. I guess that makes me worth $600,000 a year."


Carpenter wants to avoid opening a Pandora's Box of inflated demands. The problem is, the lid was lifted long ago by owners who failed to see the long-range effects of their generosity.


It would have been naïve to think the Philles would somehow have avoided it all. That they would have gone blithely along without a thought toward cashing in on the free-agent market, without an eye toward the amount of money some irresponsible owners were willing to pay even the most marginal of players.


Carpenter thought he made the correct move when he signed his prime players – Maddox, Greg Luzinski, Mike Schmidt, Larry Bowa, Steve Carlton – to long-term contracts back when salaries were counted in the hundreds of thousands, not millions. He had no way of knowing that those contracts signed in the 1970s would return to haunt him in the inflated '80s.


Larry Christenson and Tug McGraw, for instance, may join Maddox as free agents at the end of the season if the Phillies do not sign them. The contracts of Luzinski and Ron Reed expire at the conclusion of the 1981 season. Schmidt, Bowa and Pete Rose have their contracts come up in 1982.


Indeed, the case of Maddox' contract impasse is merely the first of what could be a series of salary problems for the Phillies. This is just the beginning of what could well become a parade of Phillies players to the free agent market. There's no reason to think they won't enter America's new gold rush.

Phillies’ trade for Billy Smith collapses again


By Rusty Pray of the Courier-Post


CLEARWATER, Fla. – The Billy Smith deal has had a way of dematerializing every time it appears the Phillies are on the verge of closing it.


The anticipated trade between the Phillies and the Baltimore Orioles yesterday died its second death in less than a month, this time because the two clubs could not agree upon whom the Phils would send to Baltimore in exchange for Smith.


While the team was here at Grant Field registering an 11-5 Grapefruit League victory over the Toronto Blue Jays, General Manager Paul Owens and Hank Peters, Baltimore general manager, were reaching a dead-end in trade talks. Owens reportedly was willing to deal rookie outfielder Orlando Isales and non-roster pitchers Dan Larson and Paul Thormodsgard for Smith, a switch-hitting utility infielder.


But Peters, who had presented Owens with a list of players that would be acceptable to the Orioles, apparently wanted more, if not in numbers, than in quality. Owens, .who is not completely convinced Smith would answer the club's infield needs, finally decided Peter's terms were too stringent.


Originally, Peters wanted outfielder Lonnie Smith in exchange for Bill Smith. Owens was willing to go along, but Manager Dallas Green vetoed the deal, saying, "Lonnie Smith is the kind of player I want on my team."


The latest impasse in the trade means the inter-league trading deadline passed last night at midnight with Owens making no moves. Owens may still deal with National League clubs until June 15. And, the Smith deal may not yet have been put to rest... It could be made if the Phillies and Orioles can get waivers on the players involved.


•  Del Unser drove in five runs with a double and a home run, and Mike Schmidt and George Vukovich both doubled and homered as the Phillies squared their exhibition record at 1-1.


Thormodsgard, who worked the middle three innings for the Phillies, picked up the win by shutting out the Blue Jays on one hit. Toronto got all of its runs in the first three innings off lefthander Randy Lerch, who allowed five hits, walked three, hit a batter and balked. Bob Walk and Tug McGraw hurled the final three innings.


The Phillies meet Toronto again this afternoon at Jack Russell Stadium in Clearwater, with Larry Christenson, Carlos Arroyo, Jose Martinez and Lerrin LaGrow scheduled to pitch. Jim Clancy is to start for the Blue Jays.