Mussina keeps emotions in check

Wait-and-see attitude prevails despite progress in talks

March 20, 2000|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Orioles pitcher Mike Mussina said he isn't allowing an apparently productive weekend of talks between his agent, Arn Tellem, and majority owner Peter Angelos to raise his expectations of a contract extension being finalized before Opening Day.

"I don't want to be in a position that if it doesn't happen then I'm disappointed," Mussina said after yesterday's exhibition game against the Boston Red Sox was rained out. "I've come to the understanding that contract negotiations are not a three-day ordeal. They're longer than that.

"I'm going to let the process do what it's going to do. It may be three months. It may be next week. I don't know when it's going to be. But I'm not going to sit here hoping it's next week or the week after. Realistically, it may not be."

Tellem and Angelos spoke briefly yesterday after a longer meeting Saturday but plan more substantive talks after both leave town today. While a club source said Saturday "it's only a matter of time" before an agreement, the two sides remain apart on annual salary. The Orioles had offered an average of $10 million a year contrasted to Mussina's desire for about $14 million a season.

Angelos made an initial five-year, $50 million offer, but sources familiar with talks say he expressed a willingness this weekend to consider a six-year term along with a greater annual average value. Industry analysts believe a package similar to Pedro Martinez's six-year, $75 million contract might be close to what is necessary to sign Mussina.

"I really hope we can work something out. I don't want to take the Moose antlers down off the wall at the stadium. I don't want to move them. I know my family wants to stay," Mussina said.

Mussina spoke respectfully yesterday of third baseman Cal Ripken's ability to play his entire career with the Orioles. Mindful of the franchise records he might break and the franchise's significance within the community, Mussina said he values having the same opportunity.

"I'm sure if that happens, when my career is over I'll feel really good about it and be really appreciative I had the chance to do it," Mussina said. "I've always said it's my first choice to stay. Some people can go out and just say their first choice is to stay and they're trying to blow smoke. I've always said I'd rather play here than anywhere else and I really would."

These negotiations have become more challenging than when Mussina accepted a three-year, $20.45 million contract, a figure considered below market value.

Tellem and Mussina spoke about Angelos' modified proposal yesterday. Mussina withheld any comment about the latest proposal, saying, "You guys have talked more to [Tellem] than I have."

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