© St. Petersburg Times, published February 24, 2002
On behalf of Mets fans everywhere, the doorman stopped Sandy Alderson in his midtown-Manhattan apartment building to offer an opinion.
"This is crazy," he said. "This has gotten completely out of hand. The Yankees win everything."
Alderson, vice president of baseball operations for Major League Baseball, shared the anecdote to make a point: Even Mets fans, particularly after Jason Giambi signed a $120-million contract with the Yankees, are displeased over a competitive imbalance in baseball.
The solution, Alderson said Thursday, is to narrow the gap between the haves and the have-nots through an increase in revenue sharing and payroll restraint. Clubs currently share revenue from industrywide contracts, including national television contracts and licensing agreements, but keep most local revenue. The Yankees, whose payroll was $121-million last season, generated nearly $218-million in local revenue in 2001. By comparison, Montreal had a $31-million payroll and generated a league-low $9.8-million in local revenue.
"How many clubs benefit from the current system? Maybe two. Probably just one," Alderson said. "Ten years ago there might have been 10 or 12 teams."
Five teams with payrolls in the lower half advanced to the postseason from 1995-2001. And of the 224 playoff games in that span, the lower-half teams won five games.
None advanced past the division series.
"The problem now is that a lot of clubs at the bottom end of the revenue scale are disengaging and saying, "Look, I don't care what Jason Giambi gets. I can't pay my first baseman anything close to that,' " Alderson said. "We've got clubs pulling away. They're spending less money."
Owners propose to increase the amount of revenue shared from 20 percent to 50 percent to even the field. The players union, however, favors 22.5 percent.
The sides have five weeks to reach an agreement before opening day or roll over the previous labor agreement, which expired after last season.
"Just because we say that currently the union doesn't have any interest in making changes, (that) doesn't mean that changes can't come about irrespective of their point of view," Alderson said. "But eventually we have to have mutuality. That doesn't mean a work stoppage is coming or a lockout or any of that sort of thing."
Don't hold your breath.
NOW SHOWING: Jim Morris has The Rookie. John Rocker has The Greenskeeper.
The Rangers reliever plays a homicidal maniac in the soon-to-be-released, low-budget movie produced by Kevin Greene.
According to the movie's Web site, Rocker will play "a killer dressed as a golf course greenskeeper who shows up to wreak havoc on promiscuous teens" with golf course tools.
Rocker, who told Greene this might not be his last foray into motion pictures, co-stars with Playboy model Christi Taylor and Steve Rickman, an Atlanta radio personality.
SKINNY ON SCOUTS: The Marlins hired one person, Jim Fleming, to do the job of three when he was hired as assistant general manager, scouting director and farm rector.
And it appears the Marlins will use only two scouts, who have been directed to stay out of New York, Chicago and Los Angeles for financial reasons, to watch 29 other teams this season.
"If we owned the largest-market team in all of professional sports, it would not change our philosophy," team president David Samson said. "Because that's called throwing away money. You don't do that. ... You put money to where the revenue is."
IN SPIRIT: No. 88 on the Orioles spring roster belongs to Albert Belle, who retired last year because of a degenerative hip condition.
As part of a previous arrangement, Belle must be included on the active roster until opening day, when the O's can transfer him to the disabled list.
Why? So Belle can collect his $13-million salary and Baltimore can continue to get reimbursed 70 percent by an insurance policy.
ODDS AND ENDS: White Sox manager Jerry Manuel said he plans to bat Frank Thomas fourth against right-handed pitchers this spring. ... Astros manager Jimy Williams informed players they will be expected to travel together on buses this spring and, when the season begins, they must wear slacks and sport coats when traveling. ... Colorado residents paid 8.4 percent of their wages to property, sales and investment taxes, lowest among any state with a major-league team, according to a recent study by the Tax Foundation.
THE LAST WORD: "That's okay. I'm a medical redshirt anyway." -- Dodgers pitcher Darren Dreifort, who has spent the past eight months recovering from elbow surgery, after discovering the name on the back of his Dodgers jersey was misspelled (Driefort).
-- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.