Yankees look at medical reports, cure $2.4 million case of Bo-itis

BASEBALL

March 24, 1991|By PETER SCHMUCK

Sanity somehow prevailed in New York, where Bo-mania had reached the point where it almost seemed logical for the Yankees to spend nearly $2.4 million to claim a player who had little chance of showing up in their lineup this year.

Bo Jackson insisted that he would play baseball again in 1991, and the Yankees gave every indication that they were going to take his word for it. But after examining his medical records, even they were not fooled.

Give them credit for a rare attack of good judgment. This is the same team that spent $8 million to sign new-look free agent Mike Witt when it should have been obvious that he would take a couple of million less.

Claiming Jackson would have been another act of total desperation by a team that always seems to have too much money and not enough sense. It would have made for giant headlines in the tabloids, and it would have piqued interest in a hopeless team, but it would not have made the Yankees one game better in 1991.

No doubt, Jackson was hoping his positive outlook would persuade at least one major-league team to claim him and assume his giant salary, but the numbers didn't add up. The $2.4 million would have bought only Jackson's rehabilitation program, not the fruits of it. If he plays a game in 1991, it will defy medical science. The only justification for a waiver claim would have been to get him under contract for the future, but a comeback would have set him up for another big payoff for 1992.

The Yankees still can try to work out something more practical and sign Jackson as a free agent, but they would be better off spending their money on player development instead of public relations.

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Milwaukee Brewers manager Tom Trebelhorn is hoping his team can be competitive this year, even though the club recently lost pitcher Ted Higuera to yet another shoulder injury.

"We're conditioned mentally to Teddy getting hurt," he said, "but it's still impossible to minimize the impact of losing your No. 1 starter -- both on your own rotation and on how your opponents gear up to play you."

The Brewers made a number of changes after finishing sixth last season, but Trebelhorn is predicting only mild improvement.

"I think we're right in the middle of the division -- third or fourth with the people we have," he said. "We have to score the same number of runs without Dave Parker, get better pitching without Ted Higuera and definitely execute better on defense."

Greetings from sunny Tucson, Ariz.: The impending departure of the Cleveland Indians has left Arizona's second city desperate to bring in another major-league team for spring training, but it seems unlikely that the Baltimore Orioles will take the bait even if their deal with Collier County, Fla., comes apart completely. Tucson can't have a lot of appeal for the team that is spending the entire 1991 exhibition season on a bus. The nearest Cactus League opponent would be more than 100 miles away. The Arizona exhibition season also includes trips to Yuma, Ariz., (250 miles away) and Palm Springs, Calif. (about 350 miles). Nevertheless, Tucson officials keep mentioning the Orioles as a possible invitee, and Orioles officials keep saying they want to remain in Florida.

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Both of the principals in the Dave Parker/Dante Bichette deal appear to be happy with their new surroundings. Parker is talking pennant for the California Angels, and Bichette is talking playing time with the Brewers.

"From what I see, I definitely have a shot at another ring," Parker said. This lineup can match up with anybody. We can go blow-to-blow with Oakland."

Bichette, 27, is just happy to be somewhere where he'll get a fresh start after failing to fit into the Angels' fountain-of-youth movement.

"I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders," Bichette said. "I don't know what else I had to do to get into the lineup. It seems like the Angels are trying to win the World Series right now. After all, the Cowboy [owner Gene Autry] is not getting any younger."

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The New York Mets have a new infield alignment, and Kevin Elster isn't in it. He was the starting shortstop when he went down with a shoulder injury last August, but his job was not waiting for him when he came back from surgery this spring. Manager Bud Harrelson plans to go with Gregg Jefferies at third base and Howard Johnson at short, leaving Elster to wonder where he fits in. This probably would go down as a great injustice if it weren't for Elster's .207 batting average in 1990. Jefferies hit .283 with 15 home runs and 68 RBI last year. HoJo had 23 homers and 90 RBI. Second baseman Tommy Herr hit .261 with 60 RBI. Harrelson, who will be doing without Darryl Strawberry's annual 35-homer, 100-RBI performance, has little choice but to go with the biggest hitters he can get into the lineup.

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