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Steinbrenner stewing, silently

By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times
published September 1, 2002

Friday's last-minute labor agreement left many unanswered questions. But before you try to determine the phase-in percentages of the revenue sharing and algebraic formulas for the luxury tax, consider these:

How flipping mad is Yankees boss George Steinbrenner about the deal?

And when will he let us know?

Steinbrenner was said to be working on his Ocala horse farm when Friday's agreement was made, a deal that could jack Steinbrenner's contributions to his competitors from $30-million to around $55-million next year, and even more in the future.

Steinbrenner declined interview requests Friday, letting more even-tempered team officials speak, and speak blandly, for him.

"Winning is very important to Mr. Steinbrenner," chief operating officer Lonn Trost said. "As far as the deal goes, we are still trying to find out what the implications are."

Some of his players, though, had a better sense of what was really going on.

"Now George is probably going to scream even more," pitcher David Wells said. "I feel for him."

As one team executive told the New York Post, "This is driving him crazy. It eats at him that he built the franchise back up, increased revenues and now he feels like he's paying the debt service of other owners not trying as hard."

There has been talk that Steinbrenner is prepared to fight Bud Selig and Co., and that he retained high-power lawyer David Boies -- the guy who took down Microsoft but couldn't get Al Gore in the White House -- for the battle.

But the popular opinion is that though Steinbrenner may curtail some of the excessive spending -- say, only having six front-line starting pitchers instead of seven -- he will be more determined than ever to win, proving the system, no matter how it gets rigged, isn't going to beat him.

"I'm sure this might cause George not to do some things," third baseman Robin Ventura said. "But I'm also sure there's a certain point where he'll just do whatever he wants."

CORY STORY: At the time, Cory Lidle wasn't much more than a throw-in, the greater of two lesser options.

When the A's chose to take him from the Rays instead of Bryan Rekar as part of the three-team January 2001 deal headlined by Roberto Hernandez, Ben Grieve and Johnny Damon, there was barely a ripple in either camp.

And now, as Lidle took a string of 38 innings without allowing an earned run and a 5-0 August record into Saturday night's game?

"Look at the numbers, they don't lie," A's manager Art Howe said. "He's been the best pitcher in baseball (during the stretch), not just for us."

The A's have been a pretty amazing story overall, winning 16 straight to take charge of the AL West race.

"I haven't even seen college teams do what we're doing," Scott Hatteberg said. "It's an amazing feeling. Everyone in here feels like we'll win every day."

SAYS WHO: Rookie Rockies manager Clint Hurdle didn't appreciate Mets counterpart Bobby Valentine complaining that Colorado pitchers Denny Neagle and Kent Mercker were going too far in throwing behind Timo Perez.

"If Bobby Valentine said that, it's the gospel," Hurdle said. "I'm not good enough to manage two teams. Hopefully one day I can get to that level."

LESSON PLAN: There may have been some grumblings of dissension among the players, but Dodgers player rep Paul Lo Duca said they were fully behind union chief Donald Fehr. "I understand the public perception, but if you've ever heard (Fehr) talking to Bud Selig, it's like a college graduate to a kindergartener," Lo Duca said. "(Fehr) is not blindly leading us. He's awesome. There's no better person we'd like to have on our side."

MISCELLANY: If the Rays are waiting for the Pirates to sign top draft pick Bryan Bullington, it may be a while. Bullington wants $5-million; the Pirates are offering $3.5-million. ... Colorado's Larry Walker went into play Saturday with 712 walks, tied with Jack Graney for most by a Canadian-born big-leaguer. ... Padres owner John Moores truly was prepared for a long strike. After what could have been the Padres' last home game Aug. 25, he had his staff collect the scorecard, bases and pitching rubber for a display case in the team's new stadium, which opens in 2004. ... Houston's Roy Oswalt, who just turned 25, has a career record of 31-9 with a 2.83 ERA.

HE SAID IT: The season has been a little tougher than expected on Mariners manager Lou Piniella, who celebrated a birthday Wednesday: "Fifty-nine years old ... going on 80."

-- Information from other news organizations was used in compiling this report.

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