TAMPA, Fla. -- How would you like to be Pat Gillick?
OK, other than the salary, how would you like to be Pat Gillick?
The guy has rebuilt the Seattle Mariners into a legitimate American League West contender, and he is one deal away from becoming the most unpopular baseball executive in club history.
The Mariners are going to have to trade superstar shortstop Alex Rodriguez. Maybe not this week, but eventually. They can trade him now for a package of prospects that would help the club continue its competitive renaissance, or they can wait until midseason and deal him for help late.
It's not an easy call, but that's one of the reasons the Mariners hired Gillick to steer them through this turbulent organizational transition. He will be remembered as the guy who traded the two biggest stars ever to wear a Mariners uniform -- Rodriguez and Ken Griffey -- but it should be apparent to everyone by now that it isn't by choice.
Rodriguez recently repeated his pledge to wait out the season before signing a new contract. He hasn't ruled out re-signing with the Mariners, but the price figures to be out of the range of any middle-market club.
"I've told the Mariners for months, I won't sign a contract before next off-season," Rodriguez said this week. "I'm firm with that. To think of myself or my future now would be selfish. This year is about winning, about seeing where this franchise is headed.
"In a perfect world, we'll win the World Series this year and it'll be an easy decision to make in November. But I won't make a decision about my future before then."
Gillick knows what that means. The only question is when the next shoe is going to drop.
Delusions of adequacy
Poor Mike Scioscia. He's a good, young, capable, earnest guy who has pinned his managerial future on the proverbial donkey's back. Not that he had any real choice in the matter.
Scioscia, like most inexperienced managerial candidates, took the first major-league opening that came along. Now, he needs to work some kind of magic to turn the poorly appointed Anaheim Angels into a respectable team. Otherwise, he might not get another chance.
The Angels did almost nothing in the off-season, except lose pitching ace Chuck Finley to free agency. They've got a No. 1 starter (Ken Hill) with a chronicly arthritic elbow and another veteran (Tim Belcher) who won't be ready until May. They've still got a nice lineup -- and a front-line outfielder to spare in the right deal -- but that wasn't enough to make them competitive last year, so why should 2000 be any different?
So, if you're Scioscia, do you hedge your bets and try to keep expectations at a minimum? Apparently not.
"This is not a rebuilding year, this is a contending year," Scioscia predicted recently.
New general manager Bill Stoneman also is trying to keep things positive, even though he has come under fire in Southern California for doing virtually nothing to improve the team after he replaced Bill Bavasi.
"I know our pitching's been knocked," Stoneman said. "Let's wait to see what happens. If we knew what was going to happen, why would we bother to show up?"
Of course, that's easy for him to say. He doesn't have to pay to get in.
Mo won't go
Superstar first baseman Mo Vaughn adamantly denies that he wants out of Anaheim. He signed a six-year, $80 million contract last year to help revive the Angels' playoff hopes, and said he wants to stay around and complete the project.
"I still believe and I will always believe the choice I made to come here was the right choice," said Vaughn, who signed with the Angels before last season. "This organization took care of me. I don't want anyone to think it's time for me to leave. We'll fix it here.
"There's nothing I ever started that I didn't finish. We're going to get this stuff right here. I'm not about to jump ship when things don't go well."
It is becoming more and more apparent that the Arizona Diamondbacks will play in the American League West starting either next year or in 2002. Managing general partner Jerry Colangelo is hoping to persuade commissioner Bud Selig to erase the clause in the club's expansion charter that allows the D-backs to be moved to the AL without their approval, but he seems resigned to the likelihood that the team will soon move out of the National League West.
"Believe it or not, I think our early success works against us," Colangelo said recently. "If we have to go, we'll win over there too. That's my attitude."
The big-spending Diamondbacks would figure to dominate an AL West that is dotted with teams of more modest economic means -- since they likely would replace the well-heeled Texas Rangers -- but the third-year expansion club has forged popular regional rivalries with all their NL West competitors.
The new Barry
San Francisco Giants superstar Barry Bonds has a couple of new goals heading into this season -- he wants to improve his image, and he wants to make a run at godfather Willie Mays' Giants record of 660 career home runs.