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Ramirez wish rings a Belle for Indians

By JOHN ROMANO

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 12, 2000


AMELIA ISLAND -- Cleveland's counteroffer to Manny Ramirez was barely half of the $200-million contract proposal the rightfielder's agent is seeking. It is a wonder the Indians were willing to spend even that much.

The Indians have experience dealing with the contract demands of a one-dimensional outfielder. And they've had success ignoring those demands.

After the 1996 season, Albert Belle filed for free agency and was seeking the biggest contract in baseball, much like Ramirez. Belle might have been the game's best hitter, but the Indians decided the entire package was not worth the cost. So they spread that money around to several other players.

The result? The Indians have won three division titles and one pennant since then. In the four years since his departure, Belle has yet to play on a team with a winning record.

The situation with Ramirez is similar. He may be the game's most dangerous hitter, but he is not a complete player. His defense is below average, his baserunning is awful and he has zero presence in the clubhouse. (The only difference is Belle had a negative clubhouse influence.)

This is not a matter of economics. It is common sense. Would the Indians be better off committing $120-million or more to Ramirez, or should they try to sign Mike Mussina and another hitter (Mark Grace and Ellis Burks have been mentioned) for less combined money?

A BRAVE MOVE: The Braves have talked to Chipper Jones about moving to the outfield next season, which would open a spot for Triple-A third baseman Wes Helms. The original plan had been to move Jones to first base, but the Braves now want him in the outfield with B.J. Surhoff moving to first. Ideally, the Braves would like to unload rightfielder Brian Jordan, but are having a hard time getting teams to take an $8-million salary for an injury-plagued player. If Jordan goes, Jones could move to right. Otherwise, he'd be in left.

GOLDEN TRIVIA: Cleveland became the first team in 25 years to have three infielders win Gold Gloves in the same season when second baseman Roberto Alomar, shortstop Omar Vizquel and third baseman Travis Fryman won awards last week. Can you name the three infield teammates who won Gold Gloves in 1975?

BUT THE BEER IS ONLY $6: For Cubs fans eager to see the team sign Sammy Sosa to an extension, consider this: Bleacher seats at Wrigley Field are being raised to $20 next year. In 1987, those seats were $4.

RED TAG SALE: The Reds have so many arbitration-eligible players, general manager Jim Bowden is beginning to auction them off. With 12 potential arbitration cases, Bowden cannot possibly keep the payroll in the $45-million range. That explains why he was willing to ship left-hander Ron Villone to the Rockies for two minor-leaguers to be named. TRADE RUMORS: The Padres and Brewers have been talking about a Phil Nevin-Jeromy Burnitz swap. Burnitz is entering the final year of his contract, but is a San Diego native. ... Agent Scott Boras said Johnny Damon probably will not sign a contract extension if he is traded. That could hamper Kansas City's efforts to trade the leadoff hitter going into his final year before free agency. The Dodgers and Yankees have called about Damon. ... Boston GM Dan Duquette acknowledged he had lunch in New York with Nomar Garciaparra, but disputes a Newsday report he promised the Red Sox shortstop that he would try to trade centerfielder Carl Everett. The Sox picked up Everett's option Friday for 2003. NO FEAR: Considering his job security was questioned by the end of the season, some might find it surprising that Rays manager Larry Rothschild surrounded himself with two former managers (Hal McRae and Terry Collins) and an aspiring manager (Darren Daulton) on his coaching staff. Rothschild said his only concern was getting the best staff possible. "I look at it as a positive," Rothschild said. "If I shied away from somebody just because they've managed before I'd be making a big mistake. The people I've hired are very good baseball people and they're very loyal."

HOO RAYS: General manager Chuck LaMar will receive Tampa Bay YWCA's Humanitarian Award at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club on Wednesday. LaMar is being recognized for the Rays Career Initiative Program, which provides front office opportunities for minorities. LaMar and his wife, Cheryl, also will be hosting a Home Run fund-raiser for the Suncoast Family YMCA at their home Saturday. Last year's event raised more than $30,000.

GRILL THE BOSSES: LaMar and Rothschild will hold a question-and-answer session with season-ticket holders at 7 p.m. Thursday at Tropicana Field.

TRIVIA ANSWER: Baltimore's Brooks Robinson (third base), Mark Belanger (shortstop) and Bobby Grich (second base) won Gold Gloves in '75.

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

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