Owners Play Hardball With Longball Hitters Print E-mail
Written by Fred Mitchell   
Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Several of baseball’s all-time leading sluggers remain on the sideline, unsigned as spring training camps set to open in less than a month.

Ken Griffey Jr., Frank Thomas, Many Ramirez and Barry Bonds are among the top home run hitters of all-time. Yet the relative indifference shown by major league club owners may force some of them into retirement. Others might have to accept less than they set out to obtain.

The combination of a slumping economy and the realization that winning teams are not always the ones with the highest payrolls has caused some owners to re-think their methods. Exhibit A would be the Tampa Bay Rays, who went from worst to first in the American League in just one year while maintaining a very low payroll.

Tampa Bay fans had to endure many years of futility before realizing the dream of American League champions. Years of high draft choices paid off eventually, and the future looks bright for that franchise.

Of course, organizations such as the Yankees, Red Sox, Mets and the Cubs continue to spend lavishly in an attempt to assemble a champion.

Tampa Bay has done a great job,” said Cubs general manager Jim Hendry. “The difference in the situation, obviously, is that they went 10 years in Tampa where they came in last place, or second to last. If you are picking first, second or third (in the draft) for 10 years in a row…obviously you have to pay your dues. But they did a great job of scouting. With that being said, you don’t have the luxury to tear it down here (in Chicago) and say: ‘Hey, let’s blow this thing up and tear it down because later we are going to be real good.’ In our situation, you don’t have the luxury of coming in last place the better part of 10 years and relying on your scouting and development to build it back up.

“What Tampa Bay has done is admirable, but at the same time it took a long time at the bottom of the standings. Joe Maddon (Rays manager) has done a great job, but you can’t get to do it that particular way very often.”




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