Sele agent writes in praise of Angelos

Physical, failed talks showed `due diligence'

February 23, 2000|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Rather than experience a bitter aftertaste caused by the Orioles' aborted signing of free-agent pitcher Aaron Sele, the player's agent dispatched a conciliatory letter to majority owner Peter Angelos commending him for his handling of the situation.

Sele's lead agent, Tom Reich, yesterday confirmed that he wrote the three-paragraph letter after last month's four-day drama in which the Orioles extended a four-year, $29 million offer sheet to the 29-year-old right-hander then reconsidered when a team physical revealed "moderate wear" to Sele's right shoulder and elbow. Sele eventually rejected Angelos' modified proposal to sign a two-year, $15 million contract with the Seattle Mariners.

"We didn't lay a glove on the Baltimore Orioles then and we feel the same way now," said Reich. "Peter handled the situation with due diligence. We didn't want anybody to think anybody was piling on."

Reich said he wrote the letter, dated Jan. 13, in anticipation of a public backlash against the Orioles' handling of the matter.

Reich's partner, Adam Katz, called Angelos "a gentleman" after his client signed with the Mariners while Angelos, executive vice president John Angelos and vice president of baseball operations Syd Thrift never commented about the ordeal.

Peter Angelos could not be reached to comment last night.

Reich yesterday reiterated his opinion of Angelos as "a good guy" who was only acting upon the medical advice he received from team orthopedic doctors.

"They had every right to raise the issue," said Reich. "According to the terms of the offer sheet, nothing is in force pending the player passing a physical. We had a disagreement over their findings, just as the Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners came to a different conclusion. But we were continuing to work toward an agreement. It was never our plan to make them out as bad guys."

Sele, at one time only hours away from attending a news conference to announce his signing with the Orioles, eventually passed a physical administered by Anaheim Angels orthopedic doctor Lewis Yocum. A club source familiar with the recommendation of Orioles orthopedic doctor Michael Jacobs said Angelos' concern stemmed from the discovery of an atrophied nerve in Sele's right shoulder.

The volume of medical documentation forwarded by Sele's former team, the Rangers, also sent up a red flag, according to a source familiar with the process. An Orioles official and Reich each maintained that despite Sele's medical report, the club could have insured the contract for its entire term.

The Orioles attempted to restructure their offer to Sele by guaranteeing two years plus options for the 2002 and 2003 seasons.

When Reich balked, Angelos sought a compromise by offering a guaranteed three-year deal for approximately the same average annual value as stipulated in the offer sheet. The agent's letter says his client would have accepted Angelos' modified three-year offer had the Mariners not acted swiftly, according to a source. Reich confirmed that to be true.

The Orioles eventually filled their rotation by signing free agent Pat Rapp to an incentive-laden, one-year, $750,000 deal.

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