NL playoff notebook

October 09, 1992|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Staff Writer

PITTSBURGH — For Pirates GM, signing Bonds like Ripken, with fewer dollars

PITTSBURGH -- So, how exactly does a general manager go about signing a proven superstar who has been a career-long fixture in the lineup, but isn't presently performing to his usual standards?

Pirates general manager Ted Simmons is roughly faced with that situation in trying to sign outfielder Barry Bonds to a long-term deal. Orioles officials confronted a similar situation earlier this season with Cal Ripken.

Simmons admits that Ripken and Bonds, each former Most Valuable Players in their respective leagues, present the same kind of problem for management in negotiations, but says that the relative wealth of the two teams makes the situations quite different.

"The players may be comparable, but the environment is not even close. It's night and day," said Simmons.

Simmons said Ripken's six-year, $30.5 million deal did not directly affect his talks with Bonds, but will serve as the mark by which the upper echelon of this winter's free-agent crop would shoot for.

In fact, Simmons, finishing his first year as the Pirates general manager, said Ripken, in an "auction environment, might have gone higher, but he seemed satisfied."

Simmons said negotiations with Bonds and his agent, Dennis Gilbert, have been ongoing, but he seemed resigned to the fact that the mercurial Bonds would test his value in the free-agent market.

"It's been clear from the very beginning that he wanted to see what the market was worth," said Simmons, who himself was an eight-time National League All-Star. "I've understood that from the very beginning. I have no problem with that."

Bonds was seen house hunting in Atlanta before Game 1 pTC Tuesday, and has mentioned that he could play for the Braves or the San Diego Padres, the team nearest his off-season home.

Simmons hailed management in Cleveland and Houston, where teams have slashed their payrolls and signed up younger players to longer term deals, rather than crash the free-agent market.

He said general managers in smaller markets would have to do a better job of developing young talent and moving it through to the big leagues sooner.

"If you're [in] a small market, you can't be naive about what the nature of what you're doing is. You've got to be right. If you're not right, you can be fired," said Simmons.

On another subject, Simmons was skeptical that an NBA-style salary cap would come to baseball.

"This industry is in a state of transition and with any transition, there's confusion. To suggest that salary caps or basketball models or anything of that nature is coming is foolish to predict," said Simmons.

Besides, Simmons wondered, how good can a salary cap be for basketball when the Los Angeles Lakers could sign Earvin Magic Johnson to a one-year, $14 million contract extension that exceeds the cap?

"If this is the model, then we ought to look long and hard at the model," said Simmons.

Will he or won't he?

The third leading topic du jour during yesterday's workouts after Bonds' postseason failure and Pirates pitcher Tim Wakefield's knuckleball was Deion Sanders.

More to the point, all hands wondered whether Sanders would play here in Game 5 Sunday night, if it's needed, or play cornerback for the Atlanta Falcons in Miami against the Dolphins, or both.

Sanders isn't talking to the media, and according to Atlanta general manager John Schuerholz, hasn't said what he'll do Sunday.

"I don't know. Neither does he, according to him," Schuerholz said.

Sanders reportedly is considering playing for the Falcons in the afternoon, then chartering a plane to Pittsburgh to arrive in time to play here Sunday night.

Sanders pledged to stay with the Braves exclusively through the postseason, but has spent most of his time with the Falcons the last month. He would lose about $118,000 if he did not show up for the Falcons game.

Name that tune

For those who feel that Orioles worship has gone too far in Baltimore, consider how loony Atlanta fans have gotten.

On the front page of yesterday's Atlanta Constitution was a story describing Braves fans' complaints that Carolyn King, the Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium organist, was playing the tomahawk chop chant in a different key than last season.

King said fans, for some unexplained reason, are "hearing the tonic key instead of the regular melody. That means they are singing about a fourth of a note below what I'm playing."

King said she raised the key to G for Wednesday's Game 2, but noticed that key was too high for most fans, so she dropped down to D, and still most fans missed it.

Kind of puts that "O" chant during "The Star-Spangled Banner" in a new light, doesn't it?

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