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Baseball Fans Could Go for the Incentive

How would you like your very own incentive clause? How would you like to pocket some big bucks during the 1988 baseball season, right around the All-Star break?

You would?

OK, here’s what we do, see:

Before next summer’s All-Star game, even before the ballots come out, the first thing we do is check around and find out which of major league baseball’s players have the most to gain by being voted to the team.

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For instance, let’s say Kent Hrbek of the Minnesota Twins would earn an extra, oh, $50,000 for making the American League All-Stars.

We call up Kent.

“Kent, here’s the deal. We get our hands on ballots all over the country. They’re easy to get. They’re free.

“We take them home and start punching the box next to your name. Every ballot: Hrbek, Hrbek, Hrbek. Tens of thousands of Hrbeks. Maybe hundreds of thousands of Hrbeks. We got people on this 24 hours a day. Anybody punches Don Mattingly or Mark McGwire or Wally Joyner, we punch them.

“We stuff that ballot box until we make sure you make the team. When they start counting the votes, we check the papers every few days, just to make sure. If you ain’t leading, we add a couple of people and punch another 10,000 ballots, overnight. We even rent a chimpanzee who knows how to punch ballots.

“Once we officially get you into the game, you send us a check for $25,000. Keep the rest for yourself. Buy yourself another car. You probably only got three or four. Of course, you gotta pay the taxes on the other 25 grand, but hey, man, you wanna make the All-Star team or don’t you?”

Incentive clauses are amazing things, aren’t they? Rocket Roger Clemens of the Boston Red Sox has one that gives him a six-figure check if he makes the All-Star team. Only, Rocket Roger cannot be voted to the team. Rocket Roger’s a pitcher. Rocket Roger’s got to be appointed to it, by the manager.

And, the manager of the All-Star team happens to be the manager of the Red Sox.

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John McNamara left his man off the American League pitching staff that will work tonight’s game. But, imagine if Rocket Roger’s record had been a little better, maybe something like 9-5. Something borderline. Not as fancy as Bret Saberhagen’s, but every bit as good as, say, Mike Witt’s.

Rocket Roger’s got to pitch for McNamara the rest of the year. And next year, too. And if Rocket Roger doesn’t pitch very well, McNamara’s going to be out of a job before Rocket Roger is.

As a result, Mike Witt probably spends the All-Star break fishing.

This is all hypothetical, naturally, because no way do we question McNamara’s integrity. Just the other day, McNamara said that the All-Star games should be a command performance. He said everybody named to the All-Star team should be obliged to come and play.

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Some guys, maybe the ones without incentive clauses, do not subscribe to that. They would rather have the time off. They have been playing since February and will be playing until October. They play nearly every day, and spend more time at airports than at home.

Some guys need the break. Second baseman Lou Whitaker of the Tigers is well enough to be in the lineup every day, but says he would rather rest his banged-up body in Detroit for three days than spend two days in Oakland just so he can play four innings of an exhibition game.

This is the same Lou Whitaker who was so thrilled about playing in the 1985 All-Star game at Minneapolis that he forgot to bring his uniform and had to play in an outfit that he bought at a Metrodome souvenir stand.

That same year, Joaquin Andujar of the St. Louis Cardinals elected not to attend the All-Star game because the manager wouldn’t let him be the National League’s starting pitcher. As it turns out, Andujar might have given up his last chance to be an All-Star. His career since hasn’t been worth spit.

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Kent Hrbek of the Twins, meanwhile, says he is never, never, never, waa, waa, waa, not-even-if-you-beg-me going to go to an All-Star game again.

You bad people didn’t vote him into the game. And that bad man McNamara didn’t name him a reserve. So, Hrbek says if you ever, ever, ever try to force him to play in an All-Star game after this, he will hold his breath until he turns blue.

OK, here’s what we do:

At spring training next year, we offer him our $25,000 pyramid deal. Hrbek promises us the cash, we vote him into the game.

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Don’t worry about his threat. Once we vote him in, he’ll go.

If, incidentally, he should decide not to pay after we make him the starting first baseman, we can do one of two things. We can go to Minnesota games around the country for the rest of his life and make horrible noises every time he is about to swing at a pitch. Or, for a small fee, we can hire two guys from Jersey named Rocco and Spike, who will go to Minneapolis and explain things to Kent.

If, by some chance, Hrbek refuses our deal, what we do is this:

We call the owners of all the major league teams. We ask them which of their players have incentive clauses that will pay them a lot of money for making the All-Stars. Andre Dawson, $50,000? OK. For $25,000, we vote in three other outfielders. Maybe three really crummy outfielders.

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Of course, if the manager of the National League team intends to name Dawson a reserve, we might have to cut in the manager for a percentage. Don’t worry. Managers don’t make much. They’ll go along with it.

Just remember, the All-Star game is our game. It belongs to us, the fans.

Incentive clause fever. Catch it.


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