Time is here to catch up on Niekro, Sutton

On Baseball

January 07, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

No names leap out at you from this year's group of newly eligible Hall of Fame candidates. Former Oriole Fred Lynn was a nice player, but no Hall of Famer. Bob Boone caught a lot of games, but his offensive numbers hardly are inspiring. Dan Quisenberry, Jerry Reuss and Frank White all were good major-leaguers, but don't exactly rank with the likes of Rollie Fingers, Sandy Koufax and Joe Morgan.

This gave the Hall of Fame voters the chance to honor a group of candidates who should be honored for their consistency (the results of the balloting will be announced tomorrow).

Pitchers Don Sutton and Phil Niekro, who will be among the last pitchers to win 300 games, should be inducted.

So should former Cincinnati first baseman Tony Perez; for him, 100 RBIs in a season was the standard, and he was a leader for one of the great teams in history, the Big Red Machine.

Ex-Chicago Cubs third baseman Ron Santo and former Boston Red Sox right-hander Luis Tiant had terrific careers. Statistically, their lifetime numbers overwhelm those of others already in the Hall of Fame.

Those five have failed to get enough votes for induction in the past, but perhaps that will change this year. Others passed over before who merit consideration: Steve Garvey, Graig Nettles and the late Vada Pinson.

Little wonder Orioles GM Pat Gillick called the representative for free agent Tony Phillips on Thursday night. The addition of free agent Phillips would improve the Orioles' lineup markedly.

Phillips, 36, who could be the DH, play third or play outfield for the Orioles, has scored 109 runs a year during the past four seasons. If he led off, he would give the Orioles three switch-hitters at the top of their order (along with Roberto Alomar and Bobby Bonilla), in addition to the left-handed hitting Rafael Palmeiro. He hit 27 homers last year.

The problem is dollars: Phillips wants a two-year, $5 million contract, which would push the Orioles' payroll to about $50 million for next year. Gillick told owner Peter Angelos on Friday that adding Phillips would help the team, but that the cost could be prohibitive.

* It's highly unlikely Ben McDonald will be back with the Orioles, which probably will cost him a lot of money. The Orioles offered him a one-year deal for $2.8 million, and who will pay him more than the Orioles? He had a history with them, and Angelos liked him.

On the open market, he's a right-handed pitcher with a questionable shoulder, coming off a season in which he won three games. And McDonald, at 28, is entering the middle ages of his career. But it would be hard to underestimate the guile of McDonald's agent, Scott Boras, who always seems to exploit the one or two teams who pursue his clients.

Nobody thought Kevin Brown could get more than a two-year deal, and Brown got a three-year contract for $12.9 million, a raise over the $4.225 million the Orioles paid him in 1995, from the Florida Marlins. Nobody thought Boras could get a four-year deal for Kenny Rogers, and he did, four years and $20 million from the Yankees. (Although some who know Rogers are in agreement he'll be challenged by the critical atmosphere of New York. "He sweated from nervousness before he pitched games in Texas," said a former teammate. "How do you think he'll handle New York?")

Boras got a two-year, $8.1 million contract for right-hander Andy Benes, from St. Louis -- about $2 million per year more than other executives thought Benes would be paid. Boras says he has a three-year offer on the table for McDonald. Maybe from Colorado, searching for pitching in the wake of arm injuries to Bill Swift, Bret Saberhagen and Marvin Freeman, or from Milwaukee.

* Speaking of consistency, the Orioles are lucky in that they have five players -- Cal Ripken, Brady Anderson, Palmeiro, Alomar and Bonilla -- who either never or rarely miss games. That quality cannot be underrated.

* The Orioles plugged the holes in their scouting department this week, hiring Logan White, 34, from the Padres to be West Coast supervisor. Mark Zeigler, 29, was named area scout for Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio and Michigan. Jim Robinson, 26, will scout Texas. Dean DeCillis, 28, is the new area scout for South Florida and Puerto Rico, and Gil Kubski, 41, will scout California. Gillick and scouting director Gary Nickels will hold three regional meetings during the next three weeks, beginning with the West region meeting in Los Angeles on Jan. 16.

* The San Diego Padres are expected to offer Frank Robinson a job as a special assistant that would enable him to work out of his Los Angeles-area home.

Miscellaneous

* The Cardinals are close to completing a trade with Oakland for right-hander Todd Stottlemyre.

* Colorado is looking at right-hander Kevin Tapani.

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