It wasn't totally unexpected, but the first post-mortem from the 1991 World Series sent a message of stark reality to fans of the Minnesota Twins.
Less than 24 hours after pitching the game of his life and taking his hometown team to the head of the baseball class, Jack Morris filed for free agency. Yesterday was the first of 15 days that eligible players have to declare for free agency. Morris, through agent Dick Moss, didn't waste any time submitting his name.
The veteran righthander topped a list of 21 players who filed, and the timing of Morris' declaration undoubtedly caught a lot of people off guard. When he signed with the Twins last year, Morris took less guaranteed money than he had been offered by the Tigers, but with incentives that made the contract worth $11 million for three years. He also had a clause that gave him, not the club, the option for the final two years.
When the subject came up following the Twins' 1-0 win in Game 7 Sunday night, Morris deferred all speculation about his status so as not to detract from the celebration. But final plans for today's victory parade in Minneapolis-St. Paul had hardly been finalized before yesterday's announcement.
It had been expected that Morris, 36, and the Twins
would negotiate a deal, but general manager Andy MacPhail didn't have any sense of urgency about the situation.
MacPhail left yesterday for Florida, where the Twins will hold their organizational meeting at the club's Instructional League base in Fort Myers. "We'll spend a couple of days going over the players in the organization and try to come up with a plan for what we want to do for next year," said MacPhail. "[Manager] Tom Kelly will come now right after the parade. We'll assess our own team and the players in the organization who might be ready to help us."
Before he left, MacPhail talked about the adversari
al role he now has to play with potential free agents. "Last year we never thought that Jack would take less money and leave the Tigers," MacPhail said shortly after the conclusion of the final World Series game. "As it turned out, it worked out good for him -- and for us."
Morris had the right to exercise options for $3.5 million next year and $4 million in 1993 -- but his value is much higher now than it was a year ago, so it was expected he would take advantage of his bargaining power.
Since he opted to return home for less money last year, and said pitching the championship game Sunday was a dream come true, Morris most likely would prefer to remain with the Twins.
But by declaring for free agency at the earliest opportunity, he has indicated to the Twins that he'll check what offers he can bring to the negotiating table.
Others who wasted no time in filing included California's Wally Joyner, Kansas City's Danny Tartabull, Oakland's Mike Gallego, Pittsburgh's Bobby Bonilla, and the New York Mets' Frank Viola.
"We've got to get ready for another exciting offseason," said MacPhail, explaining his decision to pass up today's parade to attend the organizational meeting. "The offseasons are all exciting now."
MacPhail just didn't realize how fast this one was going to get exciting. Signing Morris is an obvious priority for the Twins, who now have to wait and see how many bidders there will be in the free-agent market.
This wasn't how MacPhail envisioned the early hours of World Series celebration to be.
The same could probably be said for the thousands of people who lined the Twins' parade route today.