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Bowden Tries to Deal With Sign Language

The question confronting National League general managers has been: What did they know and when did they know it?

Consider: Fox executive Chase Carey completed the Mike Piazza trade to the Florida Marlins without the knowledge of Fred Claire, then the Dodgers’ executive vice president; Tom Lasorda, Claire’s successor, deals for closer Jeff Shaw without realizing Shaw, as a player traded with a multiyear contract, can demand a trade at the end of the season; now it turns out that Cincinnati Red General Manager Jim Bowden, while still negotiating trades with other clubs regarding Pete Harnisch, learns from the pitcher himself that he has been re-signed by the Reds.

“I’m glad we got the deal done,” Harnisch said to a shocked Bowden when the Reds were in Los Angeles this week.

The contract that took the most coveted of the available pitchers off the market less than two weeks before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline calls for Harnisch to receive $3 million next year and $3.25 million in 2000. The club has an option for 2001 at $3.75 million, or can exercise a $750,000 buyout. There is a no-trade clause through Sept. 30 of this year.

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Bowden, looking to continue a youth movement by dealing Harnisch for prospects, had not wanted to include a no-trade clause during his talks with agent Gregg Clifton and had wanted to limit the buyout to $500,000, but Clifton went to managing executive John Allen, who completed the deal and left a voice mail telling Bowden about it. Unfortunately, Harnisch got to Bowden before Bowden got to his messages.

Allen called it a communications mix-up and said he wasn’t usurping Bowden’s authority, but as in the Claire scenario it clouded the lines of responsibility at a time when the Reds are still trying to trade Barry Larkin and others.

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With Harnisch out of the picture and the Seattle Mariners still insisting they won’t trade Randy Johnson, the San Diego Padres seem likely to retain Joey Hamilton, who has reestablished his status by giving up only five earned runs in the 27 innings of his last four starts, including Thursday’s 3-0 shutout of the Arizona Diamondbacks and a 2-1 win over Harnisch and the Reds. The Padres, having added Jim Bruske to the bullpen, are looking to make one more move in that area and have been talking to the Minnesota Twins about Rick Aguilera, who recently bought a home in San Diego. The Twins are saying they won’t trade Aguilera, but that may be a hardball position heading into the final week before the deadline.

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The sudden emergence of the Philadelphia Phillies as a wild-card contender may take two other pitchers off the market: Mark Portugal and Mark Leiter. On the other hand, acting General Manager Ed Wade said he can’t lose sight of the long-range task.

“Last year at this time we were somewhere south of Purgatory,” Wade said of a team that finished 68-94. “We’re better than that now. But I’m not sure we’re looking at any Pearly Gates yet.”

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Jerry McMorris, owner of the Colorado Rockies, has maintained he won’t make a decision on the future of General Manager Bob Gebhard and Manager Don Baylor until the season is over, but he delivered a stinging indictment this week, saying he was embarrassed by the players’ “erosion in attitude” and that Gebhard and Baylor had to be accountable. Said Baylor, insisting his players are still trying: “Obviously, I’d like to be in better position than worrying about [being caught by] the Diamondbacks.”


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