GMs waive goodbye to hands-off approach



Used to be that getting a player through waivers in August wasn't that big a deal. General managers worked with each other, with an unspoken agreement that went something like this: If you don't claim my player, I won't claim yours.

The wild card has changed all that. More teams are in contention, trades take on greater implications, and getting a player through waivers to trade him is far more difficult than it used to be.

The New York Yankees claimed Minnesota second baseman Chuck Knoblauch on waivers, fearing he would be traded to Cleveland. They claimed St. Louis left-hander Tony Fossas, so he couldn't be dealt to one of their competitors to exploit the Yankees' predominantly left-handed-hitting lineup in the postseason. The Yankees may have been the team that claimed the Orioles' David Wells and Bobby Bonilla, who cannot be traded now that their passage through waivers has been blocked. The Orioles, according to a league source, may have been active in blocking players this month.

The stakes have changed from those days of the gentlemen's agreement. The waiver wire, one major-league executive said last week, "is another way to acquire a quality player and another way to help your situation in the standings, either by doing something yourself or stopping somebody else from doing something.

"It's changed a lot."

The vast majority of players still get through waivers and are eligible to be traded. The whole Chicago Cubs team cleared waivers, as did the Los Angeles Dodgers. Florida passed right-hander John Burkett through waivers and traded him to Texas. Terry Pendleton cleared and moved from the Florida Marlins to Atlanta. "You have to be careful," said the executive. "You can't just go out and claim everybody, because you have to consider all that you're taking on."

Burkett is an example of this. The Yankees and Orioles certainly could have used a veteran right-handed pitcher like him. If they claimed Burkett they would've paid him $1.2 million for the rest of this year - and assumed the $3.5 million owed him next year. It's a large investment in a pitcher with very mediocre results the past two seasons.

But, as the world turns, the Orioles and the Yankees may wind up seeing Burkett in the playoffs. He has been solid for the Rangers, winning a couple of games before getting routed by Cleveland on Wednesday.

An AL executive said: "I think you may see even more action in waivers in the future. General managers are getting away from that [gentlemen's agreement] and being more competitive about which is the way it should be. No quarter."

Of IVs and HRs

San Diego third baseman Ken Caminiti is becoming a symbol of toughness in baseball. He has always played through injuries - trudges out to third every day with a badly hurt left shoulder that will require surgery after the season - but he outdid himself last Sunday, when the Padres and New York Mets played in Monterrey, Mexico.

Caminiti acquired what is commonly known as Montezuma's revenge, which raged through his body and kept him awake Saturday night into Sunday morning. In the hours before Sunday's game, Caminiti lay on the floor of manager Bruce Bochy's office, with an IV stuck into his arm, and San Diego

officials were growing concerned his sickness was serious. Team doctor Jan Fronek gave him a second bag of intravenous fluid.

But five minutes before the game, Caminiti stood and told Bochy he wanted to play. "No way," Bochy said. Caminiti badgered Bochy until the manager relented. Just before his first at-bat, Caminiti, who hadn't been able to eat anything without throwing it up, developed a sudden craving for a candy bar, and downed a Snickers.

Wobbling like Kirk Gibson did pinch-hitting in the first game of the 1988 World Series, Caminiti homered off Mets right-hander Paul Wilson, and hit a three-run homer in the fifth. The Padres' lead was prohibitive, and Bochy replaced Caminiti, who collapsed on the floor of the clubhouse. "What Cammy did," Bochy said, "I've never seen before. I've never been around anybody tougher."

Right fielder Tony Gwynn said: "We all started screaming for IVs and Snickers after that."

GM Kevin Towers: "Two IVs. Two homers."

Caminiti is a candidate for the NL MVP in a field that will include Colorado's Ellis Burks and Atlanta's Chipper Jones and John Smoltz. "If Cammy gets it," said San Diego hitting coach Merv Rettenmund, "he'd sure as heck deserve it."

Bochy has deftly juggled a potentially bad situation with his outfield. He has four established players - Gwynn, Steve Finley, Greg Vaughn and Rickey Henderson - for three spots, and is finding regular playing time for all of them. If Vaughn starts hitting, Henderson would be the odd man out, but Bochy has told him that and Henderson is adapting. "He's the one guy on the bench cheering for the other guys," said Rettenmund.

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