Orioles, Davis OK 2-year pact, possible pay cut Slugger links move to his peace of mind

November 13, 1991|By Kent Baker

Glenn Davis stood by his word yesterday and accepted a new two-year contract from the Baltimore Orioles that could pay him less in 1992 than he earned last season.

"I wanted to give the organization the opportunity to know I wanted to work for more money, as a matter of principle," said Davis. "I don't think it would have been right to ask for a raise after what happened."

Davis' base salary dropped from $3.275 million to $2.815 million (plus a $100,000 signing bonus) for 1992 after a season in which he missed 105 games because of an injury to the spinal accessory nerve in his neck.

But the new deal is laced with incentive clauses, based on the number of games he plays next year. "If he's healthy, he's going to get a pay raise," said team president Larry Lucchino.

That compromise satisfied both sides on the day that Davis and his fellow free agents officially went on the open market, which could have launched a bidding war for his services.

"I know a lot of people in the baseball community are wondering why I did it, taking a cut in salary," said Davis. "There was a lot of other interest. I know for a fact I could have gotten far more dollars than I got here.

"But I don't think that was important to us. There were a lot of principles me and my wife [Teresa] stood on. We're happy with the peace of mind and we have a happy heart and jubilant spirit to be a part of this wonderful organization."

Davis has maintained since the end of the season that he wanted to return to Baltimore because of the treatment he received during rehabilitation from what was first feared to be a career-threatening injury, and because of an obligation to the Orioles.

"He showed understanding for the plight we were in," said general manager Roland Hemond. "But he also wanted a contract that would allow him to get a raise if he performs as he can.

"We had faith in the strong character and caliber of people we were dealing with, people who back up their principles with words and actions."

For 1993, Davis will make $3.75 million base and approach $4 million if he wins selected awards (MVP, for example). There are no games-played incentives in the second year of the contract.

Speculation had centered on a one-year deal for Davis, who had been in Baltimore since returning from a vacation in Israel last week. That way he could retain his free-agent rights.

A multi-year deal "was very important, he said. "I always played under a one-year contract. But I didn't want to go into a year thinking about what's ahead of me. I'd rather know I don't even have to think about that and concentrate on my duties on the field."

The Orioles have been talking with Robert Fraley and Mike Moye, Davis' representatives in Florida, for more than a month. The two-year idea "evolved" late in the negotiations, according to Lucchino.

Davis, 30, and the Orioles are as satisfied as they can be at this point that he is healthy.

"I do stand before you as a miracle in the baseball world," Davis began his remarks yesterday. "I'm totally healed of that [injury]. The doctors interpreted it pretty well.

"A lot of times people turn their backs on you [when a player is injured]. It's a certainty. But that didn't happen here and it motivated us."

Hemond said the Orioles undertook "extreme research and talked to doctors at length" about the possible affect-effects. "We were assured with this type of injury the chances of it occurring again were minimal.

"At the end of the season we saw steady progress ourselves in Glenn. When he hit one over the center-field flagpole at Fenway, you could see he had regained a lot of his original strength."

"All we can do is rely on medical advice," said Lucchino. "There are no guarantees."

Davis said the decision was his after "a lot of smoke was out there [in the market] for a couple days. But I couldn't find many negatives here to tell me why I would go somewhere else.

"One is the money. But it's like the cow grazing through the fence when the grass is better on the other side. Two is the possibility of playing for a championship club, and I feel as good about this ball club as anyone."

He said he would have preferred to sign the day after the season ended because "this contract needed to be answered. It was a very complex decision and deal on both sides."

Davis batted .227 with 10 home runs and 28 RBI in 49 games. He had six homers and 20 RBI after Aug. 19, when he returned from the disabled list.

"We're proud of the fact that our ownership made it possible for us to sign Glenn Davis," said Hemond. "Now it's time to move forward in other aspects of our program to try to improve."

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