Bob Milacki waits. So do Sam Horn and Randy Milligan, the two other remaining victims of the Dec. 18 Orioles roster reduction that also left pitcher Mark Williamson and utility man Mark McLemore temporarily unemployed.
Williamson and McLemore have re-signed with the club. Milligan and Horn apparently have been cut loose for good. Milacki waits, still holding out hope that he might rejoin the team at Twin Lakes Park next month.
"There still might be a chance, but I really don't know," he said Friday. "I think I'll be somewhere, because there is a need for pitching out there. Even though I didn't have a good year, I think I can help someone out."
Milacki wants one more chance to put his career back together. He was one of the most promising pitchers in the Orioles organization a few years ago, but a shoulder injury interrupted his progress in 1990 and inconsistency has hampered him since.
Last year, he won more games in nine minor-league starts (going 7-1) then he did in 23 games at the major-league level (6-8, 5.84 ERA), so he couldn't have been surprised when the Orioles chose not to renew the $1.18 million contract he won in arbitration last February.
"I wasn't surprised, because they made an offer a few days before that," Milacki said. "It was for less than half of what I made last year. Basically, they told us that they weren't going to offer a contract but would we take this [after Dec. 18]?"
He didn't accept it, which might have been a mistake. He had reason to wonder if the Orioles would give him a chance to win the fifth starter's job. He had no way of knowing whether the club was going to re-sign left-hander Craig Lefferts, which would have doomed Milacki to the bullpen or worse. He just wanted to see what was out there. He still doesn't know.
"A couple of teams have shown interest so far, but I don't have any offers yet," he said. "The biggest thing for me is, will someone give me the ball every fifth day? There's still a month to go before spring training. I think things will be heating up in the next few weeks."
The Orioles have not ruled him out, but the last contract talks between general manager Roland Hemond and agent Alan Hendricks produced only the impression that there was not much to talk about.
"At the price Alan Hendricks was talking about, I don't think there is much chance," Hemond said, "but we're not closing the door completely."
Milligan has kept a low profile since the team released him. He spent the past several weeks working on last night's charity banquet and has withheld comment on his contract situation.
Horn, faced with the stigma of being a one-dimensional player, is in Chicago taking part in a training and agility program aimed at turning him into a viable first baseman. He knows that he must be able to play the field to make himself marketable in both leagues.
There also has been little word on the status of second baseman Bill Ripken, who was released a few days before the others. He apparently is not close to signing with anyone but seems certain to open training camp with a major-league team. Critics of salary arbitration need look no further than the $1.95 million demand of Oakland Athletics utility man Jerry Browne to justify their opposition to the process. Browne wants a 520 percent raise after a season in which he had three home runs and 40 RBI. The funny thing is, he might get it, because the A's came in low at $625,000. The not-so-funny thing is, Browne could lose by winning, because the cost-conscious A's might cut him during spring training to save money.
From the home office in Arnold
With the usual apologies to $14 million-per-year talk-show host David Letterman, here are my top 10 reasons why the player compensation system needs to be reformed.
10. It's either that or watch Major League Baseball adopt a bunch of goofy changes to keep television revenues from declining.
9. Dennis Gilbert made more in agent fees last year than Cal Ripken made in salary.
8. Utility man Mike Gallego still is making nearly $2 million per year.
7. If something isn't done soon, the New York Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers will just keep buying pennants.
6. Melido Perez just filed for $3.8 million in arbitration and nobody laughed.
5. Small- and medium-market teams struggled to win three of past six world championships.
4. Revenue-sharing plan would lead to increased parity and put every team (except the California Angels) within three years of a possible pennant.
3. Barry Bonds not worth a penny over $38 million.
2. NBA-style salary cap would add to the mass economic confusion that makes baseball the great game it is.
1. Payrolls so high, sport can no longer afford a commissioner.
Left-hander Lefferts recently signed a one-year contract with the Texas Rangers that will pay him $1.1 million for the 1993 season. That is believed to be less than the Orioles offered him last October before the club declined to go to salary arbitration with him.