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Orioles Appear to Be Losing Ben McDonald to an Invisible League

From Associated Press

The Orioles appear to be losing the race for Ben McDonald to an invisible opponent--a baseball league without franchises that has yet to play one game.

McDonald, the first player selected in June’s free agent draft, has declined the Orioles’ most recent offer and will decide in the next 10 days whether he will join the proposed league, in which play is supposed to begin in 1990.

“Ben has evaluated offers from the Baltimore Orioles and from the external market,” McDonald’s agent, Scott Boras, said in a telephone interview from his office in Pomona.

Boras declined to elaborate on what he meant by an open market. But he apparently was referring to the proposed league that was conceived by David Lefevre, a New York attorney and former minority owner of the Houston Astros and Cleveland Indians.

According to newspapers in Baltimore and Washington, representatives of the new league have offered McDonald a two-year contract worth $2 million. Boras and McDonald met with backers of the new league last week in New York.

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The Orioles have offered McDonald a package worth more than $600,000. The offer includes a signing bonus of $300,000, a guaranteed contract for 1990 and an option year for 1991.

“The Baltimore Orioles tendered an offer last Friday, and Ben McDonald has declined,” Boras said.

Reiterates Offer

“We made our offer,” Orioles President Larry Lucchino said. “We have reiterated our offer. It’s there for Ben McDonald. It’s an extraordinary offer for Ben McDonald.”

The deal is the second-biggest ever offered an amateur player, exceeded only by the three-year, $1.06-million contract given to Bo Jackson in 1986 by the Kansas City Royals. The Royals outbid the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who made Jackson the first pick in the 1986 draft.

Larry McDonald, who represented his son in early negotiations with the Orioles, said after the baseball draft that he was seeking a deal similar to Jackson’s.

Boras said McDonald would sign with the Orioles if they match the offer from the new league.

“Ben has not changed his demands from the beginning,” Boras said. “Even though an external market has put a value on him, he has not changed his original demand to the Baltimore Orioles.”

Larry McDonald said baseball is lagging behind other sports in its signing methods.

“Sooner or later, baseball is going to have to change its system,” McDonald told USA Today. “Troy Aikman gets $11 million for five years, and he hasn’t thrown a pass in pro football. Patrick Ewing got $6 (million) or $7 million for three years, and he had never shot a basket in the pros.

‘Looking for Security’

“The Orioles offered Ben a $255,000 signing bonus and $850 a month in the minors to see what he can do. That’s baseball tradition for the owners to put the money in their pockets. The new generation of players is looking for security.”

If the Orioles sweeten their offer, McDonald will listen, Boras said.

“The negotiations have been amicable and the lines of communication are still open,” Boras said.

McDonald was 14-4 with a 3.49 ERA and 202 strikeouts as a junior at Louisiana State this year. The Major League Scouting Bureau gave him its highest rating ever for a pitcher.


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