Reading Eagle - March 16, 1980

Opening Day… Players vs. Owners


Time Out by Tony Zonca


Dave Winfield, who plays the outfield and is not the chairman of the board of U.S. Steel, is seeking big bucks form his team, the San Diego Padres.


He wants $1.3 million plus cost-of-living raises for 10 years, which, with the current inflation rate, would total more than $20 million.


Those are marquee figures. Hey, that’s in the same league with Arab sheiks and people who manufacture computer games.


$20 million. Eight figures. Six zeroes. To play baseball. Ty Cobb must be rolling over in his grave.


“We don’t want to lose him,” said Ballard Smith of the Padres, “but we’re not going to pay anyone $2 million.”


Can we put this thing in proper perspective? Players are seeking astronomical amounts that too long ago purchased entire teams.


The game’s inflationary spiral has reached a point where a Bruce Sutter can threaten to turn down an arbitration grant of $700 thousand.


In 1972 the standard for a star was $125 thousand. Dick Allen broke $200 thousand the following year, and Reggie Jackson set an arbitration record with a $135 thousand award in 1975.


After the first round of free agents it was $300 thousand. Now it is $600-$700 thousand and soaring.


Big-Bucks Club


Nolan Ryan, Dave Parker and Phil Niekro are in the million-dollar bracket. Rod Carew ($900 thousand), Pete Rose ($745 thousand), George Foster ($700 thousand), Vida Blue ($700 thousand) and Sutter have scaled the heights.


Right below are Garry Templeton, Ted Simmons, Keith Hernandez and Rennie Stennett, up near $600 thousand.


Sure, Sutter is a Cy Young Award-winning relief pitcher, but what about Ryan, a guy with a lifetime record of 167-159, who stands 50th among the 90 active pitchers with 100 or more decisions?


Ryan makes $97,222 a month, $22,436 a week, $3,030 a day, $126 an hour, and $2.10 a minute – and that’s spread over 12 months.


Eight years ago the players walked out of 13 days. There is a real possibility of a strike again this year by the Players Association.


This time the stakes are much higher, and you, the fan, will be the one to pay in the end.


The players union wants a player to become a free agent in four years instead of six; it wants him to be able to demand a trade after three years instead of five; it wants him to be able to submit his salary to arbitration after half a season rather than three.


The Owners Side


The owners’ proposals include increased life insurance and pension benefits, and immediate eligibility after completion of one day of major league service.


The owners want to establish minimum and maximum salaries, set over six years, but how can they ask Pete Rose to take a substantial cut in pay after a season where he hits .320, etc., etc?


That is the crux of the argument presented by the players, which could have Mike Schmidt and Greg Luzinski and the others carrying picket signs around Broad and Pattison this spring.


To be sure, there are other issues, free agent compensation is not the least of them.


There has to be a point where the dam breaks, the destruction including exorbitant ticket prices, farm system cutbacks that reduce the product to AAA quality, and the end of such teams as Cleveland and Minnesota.


And you know what? The National Football League’s player union is watching these proceedings with interest. Its contract runs out after the 1981 season.


These guys better be careful. The next thing you know, there’ll be nothing to strike from.

Phils’ Finish, Not Award, Irks Bowa


CLEARWATER, Fla. (UPI) – Lrry Bowa has had the highest fielding percentage among shortstops in the National League five times in his 10 years with the Philadelphia Phillies, but has won only two Gold Gloves.


And even though Bowa set a National League record last year with a fielding percentage of .991 on the basis of six errors in 683 chances, somehow he did not receive his third career Gold Glove.


Bowa, never one to hold back on his feelings, seethed at what he and a number of baseball observers criticized as a gross miscarriage of justice.


Although he wasn’t particularly overjoyed by not winning the award, he was less concerned with that than he was with the fact the Phillies managed to finish only fourth in the National League East race after three straight division titles.


Looking to Rebound


This year, he’s anxious to see his team get back to the top of the standings.


“I think we just lost aggressiveness,” Bowa said in looking back on last year. “Now we’ve got to go out and establish it again.”


In that respect, Bowa is optimistic.


“Dallas (Green, Phillies manager) is running a real good camp,” he said. “We’re working on a lot of things and discussing a lot of fundamentals.


“That doesn’t mean just practicing, either. It means executing, not giving the opposition more than three outs an inning. You have to practice to execute, and the intensity is a lot better this year.”


Pitching, Hitting


The key to successfully rebounding from last season, as Bowa sees it, is going to be a combination of two things – a healthy pitching staff and better hitting.


“The injuries look good, they’re all responding to treatment,” Bowa said, speaking of a pitching staff hit hard by injuries last season. “I think whatever team gets the most out of its pitching staff in the National League East this year is going to win it.”


Bowa, who missed 16 games in May and June with a fractured thumb, batted .241 last year, which is the second-worst year he has ever gone through at the plate. He sees improvement this year in his own hitting and that of the team.


No Plan B


“Hitting was the most inconsistent part of our game last year,” he said. “It puts added pressure on the pitcher when you score only one or two runs, but we got into a trend of waiting for a big inning, waiting for Schmitty (Mike Schmidt) or Greg (Luzinski) to hit a home run. That doesn’t always happen. We’ve got to be able to go to plan B if Plan A isn’t working, but we didn’t have a plan B last year.


“I think under Dallas things are going to be wide open. Dallas is a firm believer in the unexpected, and will be doing a lot of things like hit and run, stealing and bunting. You might be surprised at who will be hitting and running, too.”


But don’t look for any surprises at shortstop. Bowa will be there, doing the job as usual.

Unser Hot


DUNEDIN, Fla. (UPI) – Del Unser, subbing for Pete Rose at first base, drove in five runs with a three-run homer and a two-run double Saturday leading the Philadelphia Phillies to an 11-5 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays.


Unser, who is being groomed for a utility rule in both the infield and outfield, drove in two runs with his double in the fifth inning and then capped the Phillies’ comeback with his three-run homer in the eighth.


Mike Schmidt and Pete (sic) Vukovich hit solo homers for the Phillies, who won their first Grapefruit League game against one loss.