At today's salaries, few will minor in managing

BASEBALL

November 08, 1992|By PETER SCHMUCK

Newly hired Colorado Rockies manager Don Baylor has been a key figure in baseball's minority hiring controversy since he retired as an active player, but he also is a pioneer of a more economic sort.

Baylor is one of the first marquee members of baseball's big-money generation to work his way into a major-league managerial role. He probably won't be the last, but he concedes that there will be far less motivation for independently wealthy ex-ballplayers to pay the necessary dues to get into the managerial ranks.

"We're losing good guys," he told reporters in Denver recently. "It's not worth it for them to stay in the game. There are probably some guys like Andre Dawson who will give it a shot, but you really have to desire to do it, because you're talking about going from $4 million to $50,000."

Baylor was referring to the modest salary a player would have to settle for while he gains experience in the minor leagues. There are other ,17 former front-line players on the track -- longtime catcher Bob Boone is managing at the Triple-A level -- but the talent pool is expected to shrink as the average salary continues to increase. Even average players are in position to make lifetime fortunes in a short time.

Rockies general manager Dick Gebhard, who hired Baylor, sees the problem eventually being felt at every level of professional baseball.

"I've talked many, many times to baseball executives about that situation," he said. "In the years to come, where are we going to get our minor-league instructors? We've got an entire generation of players who aren't going to want to spend 10 hours riding a bus and then hop off and throw batting practice in 100-degree heat. You have to have baseball in your blood to want to be part of it."

They may be overstating the problem. Some of baseball's besmanagers had little major-league success. Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tom Lasorda was a journeyman minor-leaguer as was the Orioles' Earl Weaver. Detroit Tigers manager Sparky Anderson played just one inauspicious season in the majors. Gene Mauch, perhaps the best tactical manager in baseball history, also spent most of his playing career in the minor leagues.

There have been relatively few top-name players to graduate tmajor-league managerial positions during the past half-century, which probably is an indication that the top players in the game vTC always have managed to achieve a certain degree of financial independence.

Cal to third?

Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken inadvertently opened a can of worms when he referred to himself as "big and cumbersome" during his Gold Glove news conference Thursday. His comment led to a question about the possibility of his moving from shortstop to third base.

"I'm on record as saying that I'd do anything to benefit the club," Ripken said. "There was an experiment a few years ago where I moved to third and Juan Bell played shortstop. If that had worked out, I might be a third baseman, but I'm still concentrating on playing shortstop."

He also is concentrating on playing every inning of every game, but manager Johnny Oates has indicated he will try to find creative ways to rest Ripken without endangering his consecutive-games streak.

"I understand Johnny's point and it is his responsibility to think about those things," Ripken said. "As a player, it doesn't enter my mind because I want to take the same approach I always have. Something might happen in the future, but there's no reason right now why I can't go out and play. When the situation reaches the point where there is a need for a change, I'll deal with it. But I don't think it has reached that point yet."

Changing hats

Baylor has made the transition from labor to management, if some

of his recent comments on the economic state of the game are any indication.

"It can't keep going to $35 million and $40 million deals," he said. "We think we're popular, but we're not that popular. Everybody is trying to grab the entertainment dollar. Seasons are running into seasons. But yet, people are losing jobs left and right. I kind of fear what's going to happen in 15 years."

Bash brother in limbo

Free-agent first baseman Mark McGwire has been contacted by a number of teams since he filed for free agency, but the Oakland Athletics have been conspicuous by their silence during the filing period.

"I've been a little surprised that I haven't heard from Sandy [A's GM Sandy Alderson]," agent Bob Cohen said recently. "I'm surprised, but not disappointed. It's too early in the process to be disappointed."

There is a possible explanation. McGwire has made it clear he does not want to come back to an A's team that has been decimated by free agency. The A's have not made it clear whether they are going to retain enough quality players to be competitive in the American League West next year. The result: contractual gridlock.

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