Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on July 31, 1991 · Page 21
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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania · Page 21

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Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
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Wednesday, July 31, 1991
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Page 21
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JJUtsburat) JosHOazcttc Sport WEDNESDAY, JULY 31, 1991 21 Traitt starts exodus to Miss. Stl c 3 rc:j cocii Bonilla and Pirates reach end of the line ontract talks between the Pirates I and Bobby Bonilla have ended. Bon-V 4 ilia will finish the season and help J the team win a division championship, maybe a pennant and a World Series. Then he will take his services elsewhere. It is just as well. It makes sense for Bonilla. He is within a few months of free agency. He would be foolish not to listen to offers on the open market He almost certainly will get a better offer than he has received here. It also makes sense for the Pirates. They have made their last, best pitch to Bonilla It is not good enough. They will not go higher. They should not go higher and risk bankrupting their future. It is believed the Pirates made two offers to Bonilla during the past three weeks. One was a three-year contract for considerably more than Andy Van Slyke's three-year, $12.6 million deal. The other was a four-year package for a figure approaching $17 million. . Bonilla said no to both. He is not interested in a three-year contract. He wants significantly more money for a four-year deal. He would prefer five years. Both positions are understandable. Bonilla could be perceived as greedy, but this isn't about money with him. Well, it is, but it isn't It is more about pride, ego, principle. Ballplayers are competitive beasts. They measure themselves against each other and the way they do it is by comparing paychecks. Bonilla thinks he is among the top handful of players in the game. It doesn't matter if the top players are being paid $1 or $20 million, he wants to be paid accordingly. Bonilla knows Darryl Strawberry is making $20.25 million for five seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He sees the statistics and knows he is much more productive than Strawberry. He can't understand why he should sign for less money or fewer years. He won't sign for less as long as he thinks some team will pay him as much or more. And he isnt going to know otherwise until he tests the free-agent market Bonilla knows what he has here. He, his wife and daughter love Pittsburgh because it's a big city with small-town ways. He likes the fans, who have made him a hero. He likes that the Pirates, as they are constituted now, have a chance to win several championships. He loves his manager, Jim Leyland. All that is worth something to Bonilla, but it isn't enough to keep him here. He gives the impression he would play in Cleveland if the Indians offered him $1 more than other teams. (Fortunately for him, that won't happen.) It's the principle, you understand. He believes in it more than most players. He believes in it so much he probably won't ever be happy no matter what his new contract is worth because someone always will be making more. The Pirates desperately want to keep Bonilla. That's why they went against their better judgment and offered him the big four-year contract They had hoped to avoid that by tempting him with a three-year deal that would have paid him more per year. The Pirates are worried about what's going to happen to baseball after its television contract expires after the 1993 season. They are worried what Bonilla, a big man, will weigh in 1994 when he will be 32. They know how risky long-term contracts are. They have been blistered by them to the point the franchise almost was destroyed in the early '80s. That's why the Pirates are wise for not pursuing Bonilla further, why they are smart for not even considering offering him a five-year deal. They should take the money they save with him and use it to sign Barry Bonds, who is the best player in the National League. Last spring, when the Pirates offered Bonilla a four-year, $16 million contract Bonds said he would take it in a second. His price undoubtedly has gone up since then. He is putting together another monster season. But maybe Bonds isn't interested in going through the ugly arbitration process again next February. Maybe the Pirates could get him for the $17 million they offered Bonilla Maybe they could get him for a little more.- If they can, they should do it They should begin negotiations immediately with Bonds' agent Rod Wright and find out It is going to be an expensive off-season for the Pirates. Besides Bonds, Jay Bell, Jose Land and John Smiley will be eligible for arbitration. The team must try to re-sign free agents Mike LaValliere and Bob Walk, especially LaValliere because of its weak minor-league catching situation. It must decide if it wants to make a long-term offer to Doug Dra-bek, who, this season, has not pitched like a $4 million-a-year pitcher. He will want at least that much in his next contract "The way baseball is now," Pirates President Carl Barger has often said, "you almost can't afford to win." The Pirates have learned that painful lesson with Bonilla They could have traded him last spring for a gaggle of young players, but they wisely decidedagainst that strategy. They kept Bonilla because they thought he could help them win and because they thought they could re-sign him. The first part of the plan is working wonderfully. It's unfor- ' tunate the second part has failed. Now, the Pirates face losing Bonilla with nothing more than an amateur draft choice as compensation. It will be a devastating loss, but one that can't be avoided. It is time the Pirates put the Bonilla situation behind them and look to the future without him. . By Chuck Finder Post-Gazette Sports Writer As many as five current and former Pitt football players may be headed to Mississippi State, including receiver Olanda Truitt, who was released from his scholarship yesterday by Coach Paul Hackett so he could transfer there. Hackett said he also met yesterday with Ricardo "Tinker" Harris, who is considering transferring to Mississippi State as well. Hackett characterized their discussions as "ongoing." Should the sophomore comerback decide to leave, he will become the ninth starter the Panthers have lost since February. Linebacker Terrance Wheatley, dismissed from Pitt last month, said he also will attend Mississippi State, where former Pitt assistant Bud Ratliff works as recruiting coordinator for former Pitt coach Jackie Sherrill. Ratliff headed Pitt's recruiting efforts three years ago when it signed Truitt Wheatley and two other former Panthers currently contemplating a move to Mississippi State: fullback Jimmer Bundy and quarterback Gary Clayton. "Mississippi State was one of the first schools that wanted me to come after my first suspension. " Ex-Pitt linebacker Terrance Wheatley Bundy played as a freshman at Pitt then withdrew from school last semester. Clayton was prohibited from playing at Pitt in 1989 due to an invalidated test score and is attending a junior college. Truitt, Pitt's eighth all-time leading receiver with 1,288 career yards, must sit out this season under NCAA rules, but now that he has secured a release he can be put on scholarship. "As far as I'm concerned, the situation is resolved," Truitt said, declining further comment . Hackett said in a statement, "We feel very badly that things did not work out for Olanda at the University of Pittsburgh, and we wish him well." Harris, a starter in six games last fall as a true freshman, didn't return messages. At least one of the players contacted former Pitt assistant coach Frank D'Alonzo before transferring, which could be construed as a violation of NCAA rules, an NCAA official said. If D'Alonzo assisted Mississippi State or was asked to help it lure a player, the NCAA would consider it an illegal recruitment by a school representative, said Rick Evrard, director of NCAA legislative services. D'Alonzo, who is no longer a coach, said he was neither asked by Mississippi State to talk to the players nor did he try to steer them there. Wheatley said he telephoned D'Alonzo last month seeking advice about transferring. "He expressed his feelings," Wheatley said. "He basically said it was a pretty good deal." SEE PITT, PAGE -:23 Mark MurphyPost-Gazette file photo Pirates reliever Bill Landrum got the loss in last night's nightmarish outing in Atlanta. v Jiasini litoocl .Reversal of f OTttiraie Braves pound Landrum in late rally; Bucs lose, 10-3 By Paul Meyer Post-Gazette Sports Writer ATLANTA Paul Miller, making his major-league debut, gave the Pirates what they needed for five innings last night But Bill Landrum gave them what they've seen far too often recently, and Atlanta embarrassed the Pirates, 10-3. The Braves hammered Landrum, the sacrificial lamb for an overworked bullpen, for eight hits and seven runs in two innings to deal the Pirates their fourth straight loss their longest losing streak since a six-game, spin last September. Miller, who weathered a 1 '4-hour rain delay in the third inning, held the Braves scoreless on three hits and a walk for five innings and had a 3-0 lead. But he walked Otis Nixon and Terry Pendleton around Jeff Treadway's single to begin the sixth, and Landrum relieved. The rout was on. "I'd rather give up six or seven home runs in a row than walk people," Miller said. "That's terrible to put a manager in a situation like that. It ain't fair to him." Landrum walked Ron Gant to force in the first run. Lonnie Smith singled for the second run. Jeff Blauser's sacrifice fly tied the game. Brian Hunter's single put the Braves ahead before Landrum got a double-play ball from Greg Olson to end that inning. But Landrum's ordeal was far from over. He got the first out in the seventh, but seven of the next eight Braves reached base on six singles and a walk. Six of them scored, and Landrum's earned run average ballooned game that Landrum and Bob Patterson would be the only relievers he'd use. "I dont want to kill the kid Miller, but I'm not going to kill my bullpen, either," Leyland said. "I think well be fine. We'll get straightened around shortly. We're out of sync, and weVe got to get back in sync. The Braves are hot They're going on all cylinders. And we're out of sync. That's as simple as it is. This is what a full run from 2.06 to 3.06 in one 30-minute nightmare. Miller was the Pirates' 53rd and last pick in the 1987 draft " dont want to kill the kid Miller, but I'm not going to kill my bullpen, either. " Jim Leyland "I joke a lot with the guys who got the big bonuses to sign and have their cars paid for," said Miller, 26. But the Pirate pitching situation was no joke entering last night's game. Manager Jim Leyland wanted to rest his bullpen so badly that he decided before the happens when you have a detour. Somebody breaks down disabled Bob Walk and you have a double-header." Pirate pitching coach Ray Miller thought Miller had a chance to give the Pirates some innings. "A first-time guy will be all right up here if he throws the ball over the plate," Miller said. "The other team doesn't know his stuff." The Pirates last night had two pitchers in their clubhouse who could empathize with Miller. Rick Reed and Randy Tomlin also made quick trips through the minor leagues to make major-league debuts in the last three years. Reed made his in 1988 after beginning that season as the 10th pitcher on the Class A Salem staff. But on Aug. 8, he pitched eight shutout innings, allowing three hits, against the Mets ana won, 1-0. Reed's advice for Miller? "Do what he's been doing," Reed said. "This the major leagues is no different. Well, it is a little different. The guys up here are a little more consistent But they make outs just like anybody. You can't say, 'There's Ron Gant' or 'There's Darryl Strawberry. I'm going to give in to him' Huh-uh. You can't do that." Tomlin began last season with Class AA Harrisburg, but he made his major-league debut Aug. 6 in Philadelphia and came within one out of pitching a shutout before settling Tonight's game: Reed vs. Smoltz, 7:40 p.m. Doughty seeks bargain, Page 22. for a 10-1, five-hit victory. His advice? "Just to pitch the way he has," Tomlin said. "Don't change anything. Don't let the hitters dictate the game. Just trust catcher Tom Prince to know the hitters. And be confident" The Pirates gave Miller a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning, which began with John Wehner's second single. Bobby Bonilla's single to center sent Wehner to third. Barry Bonds' fielder's choice bouncer to second scored Wehner. McClendon drew a walk, and Bonds stole third for his 30th stolen base. But Prince struck out and Jose Lind flied to center. The Pirates added a run in the fifth inning but again wasted a good chance for more. With one out Gary Redus walked and stole second. Jay Bell's double into the left-field comer made it 2-0. Blauser made a diving stop of Wehner's hard bouncer headed for center field, robbing him of an RBI, but the Pirates still had runners on first and third. However, Pendleton turned Bonilla's hard ground ball into an inning-ending double play. The Pirates scored again in the sixth on Lind's infield bouncer that drove in Bonds, but Bell bounced into a fielder's choice with the bases loaded to end the inning. The roof began caving in soon after. NOTES The Toronto Blue Jays are rumored to have interest in Bob Kipper, who can be a free agent after this season To make room for Miller on the roster, the Pirates returned infielder Carlos Garcia to Buffalo. Today, they'll send Miller back to Buffalo and replace him with Reed, who's scheduled to start tonight's game. . . . Andy Van Slyke, out with irritation in his left rib cage, probably won't start again until the Pirates are in SL Louis, beginning tomorrow. . . . Nixon's 58th stolen base in the seventh inning broke the Braves' club record. Ralph Myers stole 57 for the Boston Braves in 1913. Stealers' top pick breaks a thumb By Ed Bouchette Post-Gazette Sports Writer On second thought rookie linebacker Huey Richardson might have been better off holding out until September. He became the earliest top draft pick to report to the Steelers' training camp since Aaron Jones in 1987, and what does he have to show for it? One broken nose and, now, a broken right thumb. The Steelers learned yesterday that Richardson broke the tip of his thumb when he got it caught between helmets in practice Monday. Richardson did not complain about the injury until later. X-rays taken yesterday morning showed the break. "It's no big deal," he said. "It's just a thumb." Coach Chuck Noll also downplayed the injury and, although Richardson did not practice yesterday, Noll said he will probably play Sunday night in the Steelers' exhibition opener against Washington at Three Rivers Stadium. "It shouldn't be a problem," Noll said. It is, however, another setback for Richardson. He only returned to practice Friday after he broke his nose July 20 during a walk-through in shorts. He signed a four-year, $2.8 million contract on July 15, just five days after training camp opened. Richardson has been a man of few words in training camp. What little he says to reporters has almost always been without elaboration. His response yesterday to questions about his early bad breaks followed form. "That's the way it goes," he said. Last year, the Steelers did not sign their top pick, tight end Eric Green, until after the first regular-season game, and he did not play until the fourth game. But he went on to have one of the best seasons of any rookie in the NFL, catching 34 passes and scoring a team-high seven touchdowns. This time, the Steelers made a concerted effort to get their No. 1 pick into training camp early, and they did so, only to watch him pace the sidelines for the most part Their plans to teach Richardson the inside linebacking position and also have him play defensive end have been limited by his lack of practice time. Richardson was a defensive end and outside linebacker at Florida. "He hasn't been practicing, so there's no way of assessing his progress," said defensive coordinator David Brazil. Richardson also would not do so. "That's a judgment call. I haven't gotten any action yet" Brazil said Richardson's injury isn't a setback perse for the Steelers because they weren't counting on him. "We never plan on anybody's help in any way until they've proven they belong on the starting team," he said. "We haven't even had a chance to look at him. We never expect to alter our season's plans for a rookie." With veteran David Little out and making no progress on a new contract the Steelers will start Hardy Nickerson and Jerry Olsavsky at inside linebacker and have only two others as backups there Rob Mc-Govern, a Plan B free agent from Kansas City, and rookie Randy Hol-leran from Kentucky and McKeesport Richardson's injuries reflect the early problems the Steelers have with many of their draft choices. They have not signed No. 2 pick Jeff Graham nor No. 3 Ernie Mills, both wide receivers, and may be cutting Mills out of their plans because they no longer think he can become one of the four wide receivers they want to keep on their roster. SEE STEELERS, PAGE 23

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