by David Sisler

"The Big Pout said it was all a misunderstanding over a clause, not the actual dollar amount of the deal. He also apologized to his teammates, fans everywhere, and anyone who would listen" (Mike Ulmer, Toronto Sun).

Frank Thomas, identified above as the Big Pout, but usually known as the Big Hurt, is whining because Alex Rodriguez is making more money. He is also whining because of a clause in the million dollar contract he signed it's unfair, he says. It was fair when he inked it, to the tune of $9,927,000 a year, with $3, 827,000 a year deferred with interest. But it such a paltry sum compared to what other people are making. Other baseball players, that is.

Don't misunderstand. If I, your aging columnist, could hit a major league curve ball and some ninny wanted to pay me a gozillion dollars, I'd take it. My Daddy didn't raise any dumb boys. But there is one thing for certain and Melvin David Sisler, Sr., taught me this lesson as well if you give your word, you keep your word. If later on, reneging on your promise will make you more money, don't.

But Thomas is back in camp and all is well. I suppose.

The latest millionaire cry baby, as anyone who has been counting down the days until Opening Day knows, is Gary Sheffield. Poor underpaid, underappreciated Gary. He couldn't get along with anyone when he was playing for the Florida Marlins, and now the big mean Los Angeles Dodgers aren't treating him with respect. Boo hoo!

Sheffield's personal pity party started because the Dodgers won't give him a contract extension beyond 2004, so he wants to take his $10 million a year salary and play in someone else's sandbox. The Mets, Yankees, and Braves were smart. They just said no. Now Sheffield has lowered his standards well, he said only the Mets, Yanks, and Braves were good enough for him, and they said, "Phooey." So what would you call it?

Trade me to St. Louis, Cincinnati, the Chicago Cubs, Tampa Bay, Kansas City or Texas, he sang, whistling a new tune. If anybody in Sheffield's latest six pack has any guts, they'll keep the doors closed and their wallets in their pockets.

Sheffield told the press, "I'm not mentally 100 percent" with the Dodgers, and warned that if he stays there his performance might slip.

If I can't have my way, I'm going to collect my paycheck, but I'm sure not going to do anything to earn it. Well, Gary didn't actually say that, but what else does the announcement of his deteriorated "mental" condition mean? I can see me telling Stephen Cranford, my boss at The Jewelers Bench, "I'm not going to do my best for you. I want you to work out a deal with one of the boys up on Washington Road and until you do, I'm slacking out. But I still expect my full paycheck every Friday." Any bets on how long it would take me to be downtown standing in the unemployment line?

Owners bellyache about how much the players are costing them, while they continue to sign people to bigger and bigger contracts and guarantee them whether or not the signer ever steps back onto a baseball diamond.

Witness the case of the Baltimore Orioles and Albert Belle.

No criticism of Belle from this former Marylander who has never rooted for the O's. Belle is hurt and it is highly unlikely he will ever appear in another game. So Peter Angelos will continue to pay the wounded bird $13 million for each of the final three seasons of his $65 million, five-year contract. Don't cry too hard, because Mr. Angelos covered 70 percent of the salary with insurance. Bet those rates go up soon.

Then I read a few stories that actually make me want to continue to watch baseball even if they refuse to play by all the rules. Case in point: if it's between the letters and the knees, it's a strike. How hard is that?


In a day when a player waits to sign so he can test the free agency market, Mark McGwire is a real breath of spring this spring.

McGwire and the Cardinals agreed last to a two-year extension worth $30 million. McGwire negotiated the extension himself, opting not to go through his agent.

"If somebody's going to complain about making $15 million, there's something wrong with him," McGwire said. "I was telling my son the other day that I was going to sign this deal ... basically averaging $15 million a year and people are going to talk about how I'm going to be underpaid. That's pretty ridiculous."

"A guy like that could command a lot more money than he does," Cardinals pitcher Matt Morris said. "But he goes about baseball the right way."

"It's a lot of money," McGwire said. "I hate talking about it. I'm not out here trying to set precedents; I'm just doing what I think is right."

That is a really big Mac.

One more.

Quickly now, name the two players with the following 2000 stats: Player A hit .315 with 35 homers and 123 RBIs and Player B hit .315 with 41 homers and 132 RBIs.

Clue: Player B signed with the Texas Rangers for $250 million. Player A signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates for $45 million.

Give up? Player A was Brian Giles.

Looking to the future, seeing good things ahead for the Bucs, Giles knew that the small market Pirates could not afford to sign him and Jason Kendall at current market prices. So he agreed to the 6 year, $45 million dollar deal, one fifth of the Rodriguez contract, saving money for Cam Bonifay and Kevin McClatchy to sign Kendall for six years at $10 million per year.

"If I wanted to be a market player and get the kind of money guys get with my numbers, I would have held out," Giles said. "But I've got enough money, and we got some flexibility where we can go out and get some players."

Baseball will need more than few players with the heart of McGwire, Giles and Kendall in October. The National Pastime "is due to self-destruct after the World Series and every time a Frank Thomas or a Gary Sheffield moans about being underpaid, another block of hardwood is hacked away from under the players' platform. And that's even before Donald Fehr starts talking" (Mike Ulmer, Toronto Sun).

And from God's Rule Book, spoken by his personally selected Arbiter: "Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely, and be content with your wages."


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