Dodgers Will Go Economy Route, So Forget Tim Raines
During the recent bore-a-thon winter meetings, Al Campanis woke up the baseball world and showed that reports of his death as a baseball executive have been greatly exaggerated.
In two daring moves, the Dodgers shipped out Greg Brock, who can’t hit lefties, and shipped in Matt Young, whom lefties can’t hit. Sweet deals.
Now it’s time for Al and Pete and Tommy and all the other good-hearted guys in Dodgerland to give their fans a grand Christmas present. It’s time for them to flex some Dodger muscle, spend some Dodger cash, and wrap up next year’s pennant.
It’s time to go out and get Tim Raines.
Tim Raines is an outfielder, a free agent who played the last six seasons for the Montreal Expos. He is very, very good. He is available. He would be a wonderful replacement for the current Dodger center fielder, whoever the heck he is.
The Dodgers won’t get Raines. They won’t even try. Too bad for them, because if they did, they would plunge a dagger into the hearts of the 11 other National League ballclubs.
“Tim Raines is not in our plans,” Fred Claire, Dodger executive vice president said a couple of weeks ago. “We haven’t stated a policy (on bidding for free agents), but we are just not planning in terms of getting into the free-agent market.
“Salary is certainly a part of it. The escalation in terms of our salary structure has been tremendous. We’re hoping Pete (Guerrero) and Mike (Marshall) come back with power years. . . . We’re going to, as we always have, build from within.”
How about, just this time, building from within the North American continent?
Dodger organizational pride is that the Dodgers don’t buy pennants. They grow their own stars, they don’t buy the ones developed by other teams. Farmer John doesn’t serve his dinner guests Oscar Mayer hot dogs, does he?
That’s an admirable philosophy.
But what about “Stangoltz,” the scandal of a few years back in which the Dodgers bought two expensive free-agent pitchers--Don Stanhouse and Dave Goltz--who were questionable goods even at the time of purchase? Not surprisingly, they both flopped.
Now the Dodgers use Stangoltz as part of the justification for shying away from free agents.
Raines, however, is no Stangoltz. This is a 27-year-old with six big league seasons and six All-Star game appearances. He is possibly the most consistent player in the national pastime. Last year, he had his finest season, .334, with 62 RBIs.
And wheels? He has averaged 75 stolen bases a year and had 70 last season.
On the plus side, Rock Raines kicked a drug habit in ’82 and has been Mr. Citizen since. He is one of the game’s most colorful and popular players, a showman who plays to the crowd.
On the minus side, his throwing arm is only average and his experience in center field is limited. But there aren’t many Duke Sniders around. Raines could play center.
He would be the ideal Christmas gift for baseball’s greatest fans. When things got tough for the Dodgers last year, Tom Lasorda and various executives and players talked about how bad they felt for letting down the loyal fans.
The Dodgers won 73 games and still drew 3,023,208 fans at home. That’s the sixth 3-million house this decade. It’s one thing to talk about feeling bad about letting down the fans. It’s another thing to act.
The fans act. Every year, good teams and bad, 3 million of them journey to the Stadium. They buy tickets, hot dogs, pennants and seat cushions.
When the fans go home, the Dodgers look at their money bin and see that it overfloweth.
But instead of gratitude, the Dodgers respond with arrogance. Given the chance to make the deal of the decade, they sniff about doing things the Dodger way.
Now there is talk that the team is on something of an economy kick. They’ll be looking for ways to cut costs. The richest organization in baseball is threatening to become the Supersaver Dodgers.
One great way to save money, of course, is to ignore Tim Raines.
Which they will do.
They have to, actually. Baseball’s owners are in the middle of a carefully orchestrated power play to snatch back some of the players’ free agency powers and stamp out long-term contracts.
Baseball owners can’t have a power play without the Dodgers, and the Dodgers won’t want to desert this unified effort to swing the salary pendulum back to the owners’ side.
But wouldn’t it be a wonderful present to their fans if the Dodgers were to go their own way on this one? Hire Raines and tell the other owners: “Hey, we’re the Dodgers. This is something we want to do, so we’re doing it. Every club that averages 3 million fans should buy Tim Raines. We want to do something nice for our fans, besides giving away a sailboat and matched bowling balls on Fan Appreciation Day.”
That’s the way it should happen. But don’t wait up on Christmas Eve.
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