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C’mon, Level With Us Buddy; Why Do You Really Wanna Leave the Texas Rangers?

Dallas Times Herald

Buddy Bell says he is tired of talking about his request to be traded from the Rangers. I can’t imagine why. Bell hasn’t said much other than he wants to move on. The driblets he did offer make thin soup.

So I’m tired, too, Buddy. I bet we have company. We’re tired of you not leveling. Why not come to the real reason you’ve had it with the Rangers? Or do you really know?

Here are some ideas you could have used. They sound better than the vague message you offered the other day: “It’s just time to go, that’s all.”

Say you’re tired of losing. Everyone can relate to that because they’re weary of watching it. Point out you’re almost 34 years old and this is your 14th big league season. The best team you ever played for, at least record-wise, finished only seven games above .500, even then an asterisk was attached to the 1981 Rangers because of a strike.

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Or say you’ve had it with playing for so many managers. Bobby Valentine is already your 10th. The first was Alvin Dark in Cleveland, and you were there when Frank Robinson became the first black manager in the majors in 1975. Note that in six-plus seasons with the Rangers, Valentine is your fifth skipper.

Another possible idea. Say you don’t like living in Texas. It gets too hot in the summer. Not even the natives would argue. Say that’s why you moved the family to Cincinnati during the last off-season.

In diplomatic terms, hint that your teammates are a pain in the hamstring. Complain that it is not a gentlemen’s club at all because someone keeps using your hair dryer. Why worry about burned bridges since you’re a goner?

Another potential approach. Disclose for the first time a bold and decisive nature. Be assertive and mercenary, which is what the game’s all about these days. Just flat out say your contract is a large crock of curds.

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A six-time Gold Glove third baseman, team captain and lifetime .286 hitter (.315 last year)drawing only $600,000 in today’s market:It’s sinful.

But whatever, say something that makes sense, Buddy. All we’ve heard is denials of what’s not behind the trade demand.

If a player says that he loves his teammates, doesn’t dislike the city where he performs, has no personal problems forcing a trade, respects management, isn’t eaten up with playing for a winner and doesn’t have a contract problem--Bell assertions all--then the real reason he wants to leave is . . .

One of the above. Which?

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It is not because Bell is at odds with the manager or management. Doug Rader, the manager he always feared would trade him, was purged. Why would the earnest and PR-conscious Valentine, a rookie with grandiose ambition, want to dump arguably his best everyday player?

Since the family moved before the season began, two questions become moot. It is not personal, and it is not the location that bugs Buddy. Only the cynical mind would sense a case of premeditation in setting up home base elsewhere before asking to leave.

The stupefying effects of losing? Maybe so, except Bell never mentioned it before. He didn’t yell to be let out after the Rangers lost 92 games last year. Or when they lost 98 in ’82.

If he left any impression, it was of an elite talent who was self-contained and self-possessed. Someone almost inured to defeat. Defeat hurt Bell, make no mistake, but he wasn’t what you called a sore loser. He didn’t rage and smash things. He went his way.

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It couldn’t have been a contract problem. Not after he had been re-negotiated three times in the past five years. Not when his stature was such that he didn’t deal with general managers, but went straight to owner Eddie Chiles.

Or could it?

Could these be the actual facts?That Chiles offered to sweeten Bell’s payday one more time by a reported $200,000 last spring. And with the negotiating door open, Bell’s agent, Ed Keating, countered with a proposal so outrageous that Chiles said, deal me out. And then Bell’s nose got red because his base salary--forget an alleged $995,000 signing bonus on the last contract--still didn’t top the club.

Keating sounds quite the dunce. His thrust is that Bell didn’t fit into Rangers plans and that is why Buddy wished to be dealt. Buddy alluded to the notion with a remark about the “uncertainty of being traded.”

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That is a pot of smelly stew. The example is pitcher Frank Tanana. He didn’t fit the long-range plan and, because of free agent status at season’s end, was traded to Detroit last month.

Therefore, if Bell wasn’t part of the foreseeable picture, why did the Rangers guarantee him so much security? His contract with them extends through 1987 with a 1988 club option. That seems a show of faith that the Rangers wished to ensure his future with them.

Hell, Buddy, if you just want more money via renegotiation with your new team, just say it. People can understand that. It might not fit your good-guy image, but until you get specific, there is a sense that your image is what your silence is trying to protect.


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