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Pettis Strikes Out Again With the Arbitrator

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Times Staff Writer

Angel center fielder Gary Pettis, winner of Gold Gloves the last two seasons, has found victory in arbitration to be a far more elusive trophy.

Pettis is now 0 for 2 in arbitration after Thursday’s ruling by arbitrator Neil Gundermann in favor of the Angels. Pettis’ 1987 salary was established at $400,000, the figure submitted by the Angels. He had been seeking $550,000.

Last year, after winning his first Gold Glove, Pettis also lost in arbitration--receiving $300,000 after requesting $425,000.

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By filing for $550,000, Pettis was asking the Angels to nearly double his 1986 salary. He and agents Ray Anderson and Jack Sands built their case around Pettis’ sustained defensive excellence and increased playing time. Pettis appeared in 154 games last season after having played in 125 in 1985.

The Angels’ argument, presented by former Minnesota Twins executive Clark Griffith, focused on offensive output. Pettis had significantly improved his RBI production, from 32 in 1985 to 58 in 1986, but batted just one point higher, .257 to .258, stole six fewer bases and struck out 132 times, compared to 125 in 1985.

And although he successfully defended his Gold Glove status, Pettis’ defensive play slipped last season. In 1986, Pettis committed 7 errors and had 9 assists. In 1985, Pettis had 4 errors and 13 assists.

Such a performance, the Angels contended, merited no more than a $100,000--or 33%--raise.

“We don’t go about this vindictively,” Angel General Manager Mike Port said. “We go about it because we think we’re right and we’re not going to buy our way out of any situation.”

Anderson, speaking on behalf of Pettis, said “we’re gravely disappointed” and “still dealing with the shock” of the announcement.

According to Anderson, the ruling slights the contributions Pettis made defensively and on the base paths for the Angels. Pettis led the club in stolen bases with 50.

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“What concerns us is that the ballclub tells Gary Pettis he has one role and then, after he fulfills that role, they tell him in arbitration that he has another role,” Anderson said. “And that’s to hit home runs and drive in a ton of runs.

“They tried to lead the arbitrator to believe that Gary’s defensive contributions are not worth much money, that a Gold Glove is a standard $25,000 award and nothing more, and that everything else is based on offensive production.

“All that apparently matters is offense. They had the arbitrator believing that you pay players only when they hit home runs and drive in runs.”

Of Gundermann, Anderson said, “He heard four cases last year and split them down the middle, 2-2. This year, he had four cases, he ruled in favor of (Seattle outfielder) Phil Bradley and had two others settled before arbitration. This makes him 1-1, .500, just like last year. Make of that what you want.”

Port said he hoped Pettis harbored no bitterness over the decision.

“Although we sat across from each other (Wednesday), now we’re reunited,” Port said. “Both sides made a good presentation. (But) if a player cannot objectively look at his faults, then I don’t know if he’s the type of player we want standing at the plate in a critical situation.”

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