Padres Made No Error Worth This Whining

Baseball players, or maybe I should say professional athletes in general, never cease to amaze me.

Amaze me?

Stun me.

Here come the Padres this week, announcing that they were wrong in renewing pitcher Andy Benes' contract for $375,000. Joe McIlvaine, the general manager, made the announcement. Benes would instead make $475,000.

"Yes!" said the fans.

"Yes!" said the media.

"Yes!" said Benes.

"Yes! Yes! Yes!"

McIlvaine had blundered in initially renewing Benes' contract for less than the $425,000 he had offered. Maybe it was stubbornness or an immature way of trying to make a point. However, the general manager made good and was to be congratulated.

And everyone would live happily ever after.

Right?

Wrong.

"No!!!!!" said Benes' teammates.

This little gesture--yes, a $100,000 raise is a little gesture in today's baseball world--has apparently turned the Padres upside down with dismay. It has opened a can of worms the size of George Foreman, for heaven's sake.

Just listen to these guys ...

Pitcher Larry Anderson: "There's a whole lot of unhappy guys around here, believe me."

Outfielder Tony Gwynn: "It's a bad situation right now."

First baseman Fred McGriff: "There's no question it has created some problems, big problems."

To hear these guys talk, it would appear that the Padres' morale has been shattered. The season is over before it even gets under way. PhoeniX marks the spot. That was where the ill-fated raise was offered and accepted.

How can a bunch of grown men recover from a blow such as this one?

A blow?

I was astounded by the seeming unanimity and chagrin of the Padre players' reactions. If anything, I expected to learn that Benes' teammates were pleased with what McIlvaine had done.

Am I naive or what?

"It's their ballclub," Anderson said. "They have the right to run it the way they want."

And this was not the right way?

The crux of the players' complaints, as I understand them, is that the Padres had broken their policy against renegotiating contracts to appease an openly disgruntled player.

Of course, Benes was disgruntled. He had been royally shafted when his contract was renewed. He had refused $425,000 and then had $375,000 shoved down his throat. Again, remember that all of this is small change in baseball.

Disgruntled?

He was mad. Everyone knew it.

So Andersen, the philosopher, noted: "The squeaky wheel gets the grease."

This man, one of the Padres' squeakiest wheels, should not be talking. He makes considerable noise, be it funny or philosophical, but has accomplished little athletically to merit the $4.3 million he is earning over three years.

If Larry Andersen is making $1.5 million this year, Benes should be at $3 million . . . at least in terms of likely production.

Benes had every right to squeak and squeal.

McGriff asked how Thomas Howard and Jerald Clark, two young outfielders, feel about Benes getting such a raise.

Bad question. Howard and Clark are probably going to share left field this year. The Padres should be very apologetic about the left field situation. They really have no one there, except for bodies to occupy the space and names to fill the lineup card. No one so involved should utter as much as a whimper of discontent.

Benes? He may be the Padres' best pitcher. He was 15-11 with a 3.03 earned run average.

What's more, all this stuff about the Padres "renegotiating" Benes' contract is absolute garbage. It is absolutely impossible to renegotiate a contract that does not exist.

Andy Benes neither agreed to nor signed the $375,000 salary. He was simply told that was what he would be paid. From his standpoint, and in a legal sense, he was not party in any way to the conclusion of negotiations.

Consequently, McIlvaine's determination that he would offer an additional $100,000 was merely sequential to previously inconclusive talks.

It was then that the real squeaking began. Veteran players, many of whom draw Benes' annual salary in the form of monthly paychecks, squealed even louder than Benes squealed in the first place.

Their squeaking grates on both my senses and my sensibilities.

Maybe I just don't understand.

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