Gant no longer a short-term idea


June 25, 1994|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Sun Staff Writer

When the Cincinnati Reds signed injured outfielder Ron Gant, Orioles owner Peter Angelos left the distinct impression that he was upset with the "baseball people" in his front office.

Apparently, he has since come to grips with the fact that baseball isn't always played on a level field. Just as the foul lines are often tilted toward fair territory, the action away from the action is sometimes unbalanced.

Angelos has admitted to some frustration over not being able to sign Gant, whose career remains in jeopardy after a winter dirt-bike accident. But that may now be tempered somewhat by the realization that Gant is not likely to play a significant role, if any at all, this season.

"I don't know that 'upset' is the right word," Angelos said in discussing the Gant situation. "But I had expected we would have a chance to sign him. As it developed, we didn't get a full shot."

Every indication is that the reason the Orioles didn't get a "full shot" is because the Reds came up with a "take-it-or-leave-it" offer. It is a common negotiating ploy that is most effective in what might be described as desperate situations.

When the Atlanta Braves opted to buy out of their $5.5 million contract by releasing Gant at a cost of about $916,000, it created a stir. Would-be suitors, including the Orioles, Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox, reportedly were willing to give Gant as much as $2.5 million to play half a season.

But then reality set in -- on both sides. Baseball is threatened by a strike, which could render Gant useless for this year -- if, in fact, he is able to play.

The fact that no team, including Cincinnati, has been able to watch Gant work out is an indication that his rehabilitation is way behind his original prognosis. What the Reds did, and it is a relatively modest gamble, is buy a $609,000 insurance policy. They will pay Gant the minimum $109,000 (plus any increase negotiated if there is a labor settlement) and guarantee him $500,000 next year.

That's a far cry from the millions it was estimated Gant would get just to complete this season. Under Angelos, the Orioles' track record is that they had no interest in dealing for damaged goods, so medical assurances would be necessary before they entered the bidding.

But Angelos says he would have taken the same risk as the Reds because his interest in Gant was long and short term. "Our initial interest was for this season," he said, "but it was also for 1995 and beyond."

That message obviously got lost in communication, which has not been uncommon for the Orioles in this transition year. "Speculators can speculate all they want," said Angelos, "but I'm not finding fault with anybody."

The bottom line is that Gant now is nothing more than a long-term risk. Angelos, and the Orioles, will have many opportunities to buy into those in the future -- when Gant very possibly could provide a second chance. For now, it doesn't matter.

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