The big money takes a break at All-Star time. At least this year.
Eight of baseball's 10 biggest contracts belong to players who didn't make the 1990 All-Star team, including Don Mattingly and three pitchers who threw no-hitters this season--Dave Stewart, Nolan Ryan and Mark Langston (with an assist from Mike Witt).
In fact, the only two Big Ten players who made it to Chicago for tonight's game were Oakland's Jose Canseco, baseball's biggest earner at $4.7 million a year, and San Francisco's Will Clark, who pulls down a more modest $3.75 million.
"Is it a question of whether I'm an All-Star or not?" asked Stewart, who has won 20 games in each of the last three seasons for Oakland. "I'm not on the team, but that doesn't mean that I'm not deserving. . . . "
Stewart is, in fact, deserving enough to have negotiated a two-year contract last year that will begin paying him $3.5 million a year in 1991. At 11-7, he probably was deserving enough to be on the All-Star team this year too.
But Stewart's own Tony La Russa, AL manager by virtue of the A's World Series victory last year, said he discussed the situation with Stewart, and the decision was mutual. La Russa already had two Oakland pitchers on the staff--Dennis Eckersley and Bob Welch--and Stewart wanted to make his regular start Sunday.
Ryan, who will make $3.3 million next year, goes into the All-Star break at 8-4 with a 3.79 ERA and 116 strikeouts after leading the majors with 301 strikeouts last year. La Russa, however, assumed Ryan would like the break to rest an ailing back.
Langston, whose five-year contract averages $3.2 million, has a lower ERA than Ryan, 3.71, but a 4-9 record. His pain has been a little lower this year.
"It's not as if I'm going out there and getting beat up," Langston said. At one point this spring, he lost four consecutive decisions, giving up two runs in each. Shouldn't that be good enough to win? "In some instances it is," Langston said. "For me, it hasn't been."
The other Big Ten pitcher, Kansas City's Mark Davis, can barely make a case for staying in the major leagues after winning the Cy Young last year with 44 saves and a 1.85 ERA for San Diego. With a $3.25 million contract at Kansas City this year, he has five saves and a 5.66 ERA.
The Royals are so desperately seeking solutions that they gave Davis his first start in three years Sunday, to no avail. He gave up four runs in 3 1/3 innings.
Mattingly and Robin Yount are having years so ugly they would make Quasimodo shudder.
Mattingly's problem, too, has been in his back. Earning $3.86 million a year from the Yankees, he's batting .253 with five homers and 33 RBIs--his worst start ever. He hasn't homered since May 20. Last year, Mattingly earned the big contract with a .303 average, 23 homers and 113 RBIs.
Yount, who makes $3.2 million a year, had one of the worst slumps of his career this year and, after hitting .318 with 21 homers and 103 RBIs in 1989, just can't get over the hump in '90. He's hitting .239 with seven homers and 36 RBIs at the halfway point this year.
"I may end up with a few more toys," Yount said when he became baseball's first $3 million man. "But other than that, I don't think it will have any effect."
Cincinnati's Eric Davis and San Diego's Joe Carter have the ninth- and 10th-biggest contracts at $3.1 million and $3,066,667 per year, and neither is on the All-Star team.
Davis is hitting .233 with 11 homers and 35 RBIs, although he missed nearly a month with a sprained right knee. But Davis also missed time because of injuries last year and wound up with 101 RBIs and 34 homers in 462 at-bats.
Carter had 105 RBIs and 35 homers with a .243 average for Cleveland last year before being traded to San Diego in the deal that sent Sandy Alomar Jr. to the Indians. This season, he has 13 homers and 59 RBIs but is hitting .220.
For some of the guys whose teams are struggling--such as Carter, Mark Davis, Yount and Mattingly--the No-Star break is a welcome change of pace. Three blissful days without baseball, without the pressure of questions such as: What did you do to earn your pay today?
"We need not to think about all that stuff during the break," Mattingly said. "We need to get away from this for a few days. We need to make a fresh start."