Sandberg's $7 million contract has touch of smoke and 0...

BASEBALL

July 26, 1992|By PETER SCHMUCK

Sandberg's $7 million contract has touch of smoke and 0) mirrors

It hovers over the Orioles like a dark cloud. It is a number that must strike fear into the hearts of club officials in several cities. It is $7.1 million, purportedly the average annual salary that will be earned by Chicago Cubs shortstop Ryne Sandberg during the next four years.

It is, in the minds of the management types who have examined the particulars of the contract, a fraud.

Agent Jim Turner did a great job to negotiate a four-year contract extension for Sandberg, then he did a great job of selling it to the media as baseball's first $7 million per year deal. He did his job well, even if it took some creative mathematics to turn the Cubs second baseman into the $7 million man.

The Orioles remain mute on the issue of how that deal will affect the negotiations with shortstop Cal Ripken, but club president Larry Lucchino will say that there has been "a great misunderstanding" of the actual annual value of Sandberg's contract.

The total guarantee of $28.4 million for the 1993 through 1996 seasons includes a $3.5 million signing bonus that is payable this year and a $2.5 million buyout on the back end if the Cubs decide not to retain Sandberg for a fifth year (1997) at $5.9 million. The contract calls for a salary of $5.1 million for each of the next three years and a salary of $7.1 million for the final guaranteed season.

The $7.1 million figure for the fourth year includes $2 million as part of a separate agreement on off-the-field services that Sandberg may choose not to perform -- money that may not ever figure into the equation.

The way the contract was set up last spring, it became, in effect a five-

year deal with an option. The signing bonus, payable in December, would raise his take this year from $2.1 million to $5.6 million. The value of the deal then, when averaged over the five years without the 1997 buyout, would be $5.6 million per year, even with the $2 million side letter included.

If you factor the $3.5 million signing bonus into the four-year term of the extension and include the side letter, the average salary still falls well short of $7 million. That way, it works out to $6.48 million.

It's fine to include the 1997 buyout in the value of the total package, because it is money that Sandberg has been `f guaranteed, but it is ridiculous to add it into the average salary over the four years of the extension.

The Orioles have offered Ripken $30 million for five years, a deal that apparently works out to a legitimate $6 million per year. That offer reportedly was turned down in late March.

Not much has happened since, but here's a suggestion that could solve the whole thing. The club should offer Ripken four years at $24 million with an option for a fifth year at a $6,000,001 salary with a $6 million buyout and a possible $2 million post-career personal services guarantee. That, in effect, would guarantee the fifth year and agent Ron Shapiro could use the Jim Turner method of calculation to sell it as a four-year deal worth $32 million, making Ripken baseball's first $8 million man.

2& Now, that wasn't so tough, was it? All-time hit leader Pete Rose has always held out hope that his ban from baseball would eventually be lifted, and he is hoping that the upcoming reinstatement of suspended New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner is a positive sign.

"Obviously, I don't think the cases are similar," Rose told sportswriter Gordon Edes of the Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Sun Sentinel, "but if the situation with George shows that the commissioner [Fay Vincent] is a compassionate man, then there could be hope at the end of the tunnel."

Rose has been rebuilding his image the past year or so. He has a radio talk show in West Palm Beach and is preparing to open a sports cafe in the area. There also is talk that he will soon come out with a line of food products in partnership with a Dayton, Ohio, company. But he has not decided when he will apply to Vincent for reinstatement.

"What is more important are the positive things I'm doing," Rose said, "as a family man, a father and a citizen of South Florida. I've reconfigured my life."

A Florida ultimatum

University of Miami catcher Charles Johnson, the Florida Marlins' top draft pick, has told the expansion franchise to sign him by Aug. 23 or he'll play his senior year with the Hurricanes and go back into the draft next year. Johnson reportedly is looking for a contract similar to the $1.55 million deal signed last year by New York Yankees prospect Brien Taylor.

Johnson is represented by his father, but he's getting his advice from agent Scott Boras.

The making of a TV star

The soap opera "Santa Barbara" was shooting on location in Philadelphia the past couple of days, which wouldn't be noteworthy here if weren't for a certain member of the cast. Phillies catcher Darren Daulton will make a guest appearance, playing of all things, a baseball player.

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