Insanity Over Wages at High-Water Mark

You have watched the rain and you have splashed through the rain and, in truth, you probably have prayed for the rain.

But have you tasted it?

Try it.

If you find it a bit salty, you too will know the secret.

Yes, San Diego has been inundated with teardrops rather than raindrops. It is crying time for the Padres. These were desert storms we have been experiencing, sweeping in from Yuma with the tears of impoverished Padre players destined to spend the summer on food stamps.

For heaven’s sake, how can Benito Santiago possibly get by on the token $1.65 million he was awarded in arbitration?

That, after all, was what an obviously ignorant arbitrator gave him. Santiago, undoubtedly taking note of rising food prices and the volatile oil market, had asked for $2.5 million.

And how can Eddie Lee Whitson manage to survive on $1.225 million?


His circumstance is a bit different than Santiago’s, in that he signed a contract calling for such a stipend. However, he now is disenchanted to be earning what in baseball is a blue-collar wage.

Both Santiago and Whitson, simply stated, want to share in the fiscal lunacy that baseball has become. Huge chunks of money are all around them, and here they are in contractual straitjackets.

It’s enough to make grown men whimper and whine.

You know, for different reasons, I cannot seem to get my tear ducts exercised on their behalf. I’m not sure anyone can. I can’t imagine a couple of guys eating peanut butter sandwiches out of lunch pails lamenting the misfortune of guys bringing home monthly checks upwards of $100,000.

It isn’t just Santiago and Whitson, to be sure. This entire generation of baseball players is totally out of touch with reality.

Santiago is an unhappy camper because he was subjected to the ignominy of going to salary arbitration for the second year in a row. He desperately wanted to avoid this gut-wrenching experience. His hope was that the Padres would show their appreciation for him and love for him with a multiyear contract and thus render arbitration unnecessary.

To show him this love and appreciation, the Padres need only have offered him a guaranteed four-year contract worth a mere $17.5 million. This, he felt, would make him feel wanted and respected.

We’re talking waaaaaaaay out of touch with reality here.

Benito Santiago has produced average offensive numbers, not bad and not exceptional. He is skilled at throwing out base runners, but prone to throwing errors and passed balls. He is improving in terms of handling pitchers, but hardly the “coach behind the plate” the best of catchers must be.

All of this undoubtedly contributed to the arbitrator’s decision in favor of the Padres’ $1.65 million offer as opposed to Santiago’s $2.5 million demand. Had Santiago asked for maybe $2.1 million or even $2.2 million, he might have won . . . but we’re talking neither sensibility nor reality.

As a result of this insulting experience, Santiago now steadfastly maintains he will be gone when he is eligible for free agency after the 1992 season. He has had it, period.

Here is a guy who cannot get $2.5 million for one year in arbitration, but rails at organization which will not guarantee him more than $4 million for four years.

Reality, call home.

Ed Whitson is approaching this a little more sensibly. He is guaranteed his $1.225 million this year, and he is not asking to renegotiate. It gets stickier next year, however, because the Padres have the option to bring him back for a mere $1 million.

Whitson’s unrest manifests itself in his demand for a guaranteed extension past this year and beyond next year. Arguing that he is underpaid this year, he seems to be saying that a guaranteed contract down the road will heal some of the hurt.


In retrospect, the Padres took a gamble in mid-1989 when they guaranteed Whitson through 1991. He was near the top of the scale when the Padres assured him of this year’s $1.225 million, and they would have been stuck with paying him even if he had been 2-16 with a 6.72 earned run average in 1990. This gamble paid off because he was 14-9 with a 2.60 ERA in 1990.

Good luck for the organization and bad luck for the player. Any time you get a situation like this, you have an unhappy player. Reverse the situation, and the player takes the money and runs.

Understandably, the Padres are reluctant to look down the road and make another such gamble on Whitson. He is 35 now, turning 36 in May. They have to deal with the law of averages as it relates to a player’s longevity. It might also be called reality.

It is a nasty word, isn’t it?


Baseball players may be out of touch with it, but they seem to know what it means.

It does, after all, make them cry.