Johnson had tried to steer Reds fine Mitchell '93 situation similar to Alomar's

November 21, 1997|By Joe Strauss and Peter Schmuck | Joe Strauss and Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

Davey Johnson resigned as Orioles manager two weeks ago, at least partly because of fallout from his controversial decision to divert fine money to a charity that employed his wife as a paid fund-raiser.

Now, the Major League Baseball Players Association is looking into allegations that a large fine levied during Johnson's tenure as Cincinnati Reds manager may have been handled improperly.

Baseball sources indicated yesterday that Reds outfielder Kevin Mitchell was fined $19,230 in 1993 and Johnson attempted to steer the money to a charity of his choice. Johnson has denied doing anything improper and said there was no parallel with the situation involving Orioles second baseman Roberto Alomar last season.

A front-office official who worked for the Reds at the time confirmed the incident, but said the matter was handled in-house before the money was collected from Mitchell. Johnson apparently was informed that the diversion was against club policy, and the fine went through proper club channels.

Still, there are similarities to the incident involving Alomar. Alomar was fined $10,500 for missing an All-Star break exhibition game against the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings and an earlier club function. He was directed to pay the fine to the Carson Scholars Fund, the charity that employed Susan Johnson.

Alomar, citing the death of his grandmother as the reason for his absence, refused to pay the fine and turned to the players union for help. Owner Peter Angelos, outraged that Johnson had made a unilateral decision to direct club funds to his favorite charity, quickly made a deal with the union to put the fine on hold until the end of the season and avert a grievance that might have created a distraction while the Orioles were in the pennant race.

Mitchell, who told the Reds that he was late because his grandmother was ill, was fined the equivalent of one day's pay for returning late from the All-Star break, but -- unlike Alomar -- the outfielder did not contest the fine. His agent, Joe Sroba, confirmed the amount of the fine, but said he did not know how it eventually was distributed.

Johnson, reached at his home in Winter Park, Fla., said that nothing improper was done and no charitable contribution was involved.

"That stuff was handled by [Reds general manager Jim] Bowden," Johnson said. "In that case, Mitchell missed a couple of days, so he was fined. It was strictly between the general manager and Mitchell. No charity was involved."

Bowden, reached at the expansion draft in Phoenix this week, declined to comment on the incident.

Union officials said this week that they have no record of the Mitchell fine because he did not ask for their assistance in contesting it, but the union apparently intends to go back and find out whether the fine was levied improperly.

"I heard that was something that had been done with Kevin Mitchell," said union associate general counsel Gene Orza. "We're going to check into that. As far as we're concerned, the players association was not involved because there was no grievance filed, so we have no evidence that it has happened before, but we're going to look into it.

"We want to make it clear that it's an inherent conflict of interest for somebody to have an incentive to fine someone. That would have been the larger part of our grievance [against the Orioles], but, fortunately, Peter Angelos realized that."

Former New York Mets executive Joe McIlvaine said this week that Johnson did many things that put him at odds with club management when he was managing the Mets from 1984 to 1990, but did not recall any incident in which Johnson handled club fine money improperly.

"The only parallel I saw was that there also was a lot of problem with the Mets concerning the public airing of his contract difficulties," McIlvaine said. "And, in Baltimore, the public airing of his contract situation got him in trouble. That's what happened in New York. He did that constantly."

Pub Date: 11/21/97

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