Trying to dock Kent over injury may be Giant pain

ON BASEBALL

March 24, 2002|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

The San Francisco Giants seem more than a little miffed at second baseman Jeff Kent, now that it has come to light that he may have fractured his wrist in a motorcycle crash rather than the truck-washing accident he reported to the club.

General manager Brian Sabean - citing mounting evidence that Kent fell off his motorcycle while popping a "wheelie" on a Scottsdale, Ariz., thoroughfare on March 1 - hinted that the team might even dock Kent's pay (about $37,000 per game) until he returns to the regular-season lineup.

Good luck with that.

Kent is sticking to his story - that he fell off the back of his truck while washing it on March 2. There are eyewitness accounts of him losing control of his motorcycle and even a recorded 911 call, but the Giants would likely end up in a bitter arbitration fight if they tried to keep some of his salary.

Players have been stretching the restrictions written into their contracts ever since teams have tried to prohibit certain risky activities, but it is almost impossible for a team to avoid paying guaranteed salary.

It probably wouldn't be a great idea anyway, if the Giants hope to re-sign the former National League Most Valuable Player when he becomes eligible for free agency at the end of this season.

Perhaps Kent's greatest sin, from a club perspective, was doing such a poor job of hiding the real nature of the injury - if that, in fact, is what he did. Some of his lost playing time might have been covered by insurance - depending on the terms of the Giants' contract protection policy and the length of time Kent is disabled - but no insurance company is going to pay off on an injury that happened while the player was in violation of his contract.

Selig: A's safe, for now

Commissioner Bud Selig told reporters at the Oakland Athletics' spring training camp that A's fans needn't worry about the team being an imminent candidate for contraction, but he jumped on the bandwagon for a new ballpark in the East Bay area.

"As good a job as [general manager] Billy Beane has done, as good as this club has done, no matter what the economic situation is, it's going to be an uphill climb in this climate," Selig said. "They lost Jason Giambi and other important players. When you talk about the permanence of a franchise, you can't be permanent over a period of years if you let players go because of revenue limited by your stadium situation."

Scary thought

Arizona Diamondbacks ace Randy Johnson has won three straight Cy Young Awards and put up numbers the past three years to rival any pitcher in the history of the game, but he still thinks he can do better.

"The last three years have been great," Johnson said. "I feel like they've been where I wanted to be, but there's always room for improvement. That's what I'm always striving for. If I was to be content with where I'm at, then I probably wouldn't get any better."

If he does get any better, they may have to find him a new league. He's 57-22 since 1999 with a 2.54 ERA and 1,083 strikeouts. That's an average of 361 strikeouts a year in an era when 200 is considered a pretty good season.

Fighting back

For Terry Adams, the best revenge is pitching well. Adams is convinced that his physical condition was misrepresented by the Los Angeles Dodgers last winter, costing him a chance to cash in fully on free agency.

"My No. 1 goal is stay healthy so I can prove those [guys] in L.A. wrong," Adams said Wednesday.

So far, he is doing just that for the Philadelphia Phillies. He has pitched well in five spring appearances (3.21 ERA, .170 opponents' batting average) and shown no sign of the suspected elbow problem that kept the Dodgers from trying to re-sign him.

The Phillies guaranteed him only $2.7 million - well below what he figured to get if there were no questions about his arm - but he could earn up to $19.5 million over three seasons if he stays healthy enough to be a full-time starter.

Cautionary thought

Phillies manager Larry Bowa says that he's "petrified" of the possibility of another baseball work stoppage and said the players and owners had better think twice about shutting down the game again.

"If the season is interrupted, baseball is done," Bowa said. "[Mark] McGwire and [Sammy] Sosa saved it the last time when it was in dire straits, but I don't see that happening again. And after the 9-11 tragedy, people don't want to hear about this stuff.

"The players and the owners are making money hand over foot. There are more important things in life than hearing about multimillionaires haggle over money."

Hanging on

It appears that 43-year-old Rickey Henderson has done it again. He has performed well enough this spring to persuade the Boston Red Sox to keep him on the 25-man roster and - it appears - start him in the leadoff spot against left-handed pitchers.

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