Before that happened, though, St. Louis general manager Walt Jocketty was ordered to tell Zeile that the offer was off the table. Naturally, Zeile was furious. He asked for $4.2 million in arbitration; the Cardinals offered $3.2 million. Earlier this week, the Cardinals called and asked if he would accept $4 million. No, Zeile replied, he would no longer sign any piece of paper placed in front of him by the Cardinals, on principle alone. Jocketty called Zeile again Thursday night and told him that he would be traded to the Cubs -- but only if Zeile agreed to sign for $3.7 million.
Zeile, desperately wanting to get out of St. Louis, agreed.
* It is very clear that the financial framework of baseball is changing. With perhaps one exception -- the Colorado Rockies -- every team has been giving some sort of sign that they're going to cut payroll.
The Orioles' decision to offer Mussina a two-year deal rather than three years came right after the owners' meetings in Minnesota. It makes you wonder whether they heard something that made them think the salary structure will be altered.
Since the start of the season, only two players -- Mussina and Florida Marlins outfielder Jeff Conine -- have negotiated a contract beyond 1995. Used to be you could move a player on a multi-year contract, but now there is almost no market for the likes of Danny Tartabull and Greg Swindell. Times are tough.
Minnesota Twins general manager Terry Ryan has three pitchers -- Rick Aguilera, Scott Erickson and Kevin Tapani -- who are coveted by other clubs, but he has annoyed other GMs with what they consider to be outrageous demands.
* Orioles general manager Roland Hemond apparently played some serious head games with Cincinnati Reds GM Jim Bowden during the Brad Pennington trade talks. Early in the week, he called Bowden and thanked him for his interest and said he was negotiating a bigger deal. There was some general talk within the organization about loading up and going after a No. 4 starter, ``TC but others say there was nothing concrete in the works. Hemond kept telling Bowden he had another deal brewing -- supposedly, he once mentioned he was pursuing San Diego Padres pitcher Andy Benes, which wasn't happening -- before finally getting two players from the Reds. Hemond may have been practicing some constructive deceit, to build Pennington's trade value, and if he was, more power to him: Bowden has been guilty of similar manipulation in the past.
* The Los Angeles Dodgers are privately preparing to dump Delino DeShields and bid for Toronto Blue Jays second baseman Roberto Alomar if he becomes a free agent after this season -- and it sure sounds as if that will be the case. "The chances of Toronto losing him are pretty big," said Jaime Torres, Alomar's agent. "We only have three or four months left [to negotiate]. Pretty soon, we're going to let other clubs have a shot at signing him." He'd be a wonderful fit with the Orioles, adding speed, power and defense. But Alomar may become one of the five highest-paid players in the game, and the Orioles may not want a double-play combination that earns $6 million a year apiece.
Quite a pitch
Dumbest comment of the week belonged to Benes, as he prepared for his arbitration hearing Thursday. Benes is represented by Scott Boras, who won Ben McDonald's case earlier this month, and Benes believed that given that result, he had a good chance of winning. "Statistically," Benes said, "I had a better year than McDonald." Better in many ways, except the one that really matters -- victories. Benes won six games, and McDonald 14. On Friday, Benes, who hasn't won since July 3, 1994, lost his arbitration case.
* The Milwaukee Brewers offered outfielder Darryl Hamilton ($2 million), pitcher Bill Wegman ($2.2 million) and nondescript middle reliever Mark Kiefer for New York Yankees doghouse tenant Tartabull, and asked the Yankees to pick up $4 million of Tartabull's $5 million salary in 1996. New York GM Gene Michael laughed at the proposed deal.
* Houston outfielder Luis Gonzalez went to a Rockets playoff game earlier this week and saw a young girl wearing an Orlando Magic T-shirt. When he teased her, she replied: "It could be worse. I could be wearing an Astros T-shirt."
* Pitching talk: Brewers pitcher Cal Eldred is facing reconstructive surgery of his pitching elbow. Pitching against the Yankees on Monday night, Tigers left-hander David Wells threw a whopping 157 pitches. Colorado is playing well, and its No. 1 pitcher has been Detroit castoff Kevin Ritz.
* Oakland first baseman Mark McGwire says he may turn down an All-Star invitation if he gets one. . . . The latest All-Star ballot results show David McCarty of the Twins is second, behind Frank Thomas. Just one problem: McCarty, a bit player anyway, has been traded to the Reds. . . . The starting rotation of the Chicago White Sox seems to be going through a rebirth, but it's too late to catch the Cleveland Indians.