Don Mattingly, it may be recalled, reacted to the vote that gave the American League's Most Valuable Player award to Boston pitcher Roger Clemens by saying that it should have gone to an everyday player, specifically himself.
The New York Yankee first baseman got his award Tuesday.
Arbitrator Arvid Anderson delivered it after reflecting on evidence submitted in Monday's hearing with Mattingly and the Yankees. Anderson awarded Mattingly the $1.975-million salary he was seeking, choosing it over the Yankees' figure of $1.7 million.
The $1.975 is the highest award in the 13-year history of arbitration, breaking the record of $1.85 million, set Friday by Detroit Tiger pitcher Jack Morris.
Mattingly is the highest-salaried player in Yankee history and one of baseball's highest salaried. Based strictly on guaranteed salary, only Baltimore Oriole first baseman Eddie Murray, at $2.3 million, and Philadelphia Phillie third baseman Mike Schmidt, at $2.094 million, will earn more in '87.
Yankee owner George Steinbrenner, reached at his American Shipbuilding Co. in Tampa, Fla., was asked if Mattingly is worth $1.975 million.
"I don't think any player is worth $2 million a year," he said. "I don't think any player is worth $1.5 million a year.
"But I wasn't surprised by this because I've been dealing with unions and arbitrators for 35 years and they love to get a big case like this. They love to make a name for themselves and to set precedent.
"Salaries are starting to come down now, but arbitration is still the cancer of baseball."
Steinbrenner insisted that he wasn't bitter over the decision, only disappointed.
"Don and I were close to a two-year ($3.5-million) agreement on Jan. 8," Steinbrenner said. "But he then told me that he couldn't accept my offer or even make a counter offer to it because the union was putting pressure on him (to pursue it in arbitration).
"Don Mattingly is a great kid, but he's no longer just a little Hoosier from Indiana. He's no longer Frank Merriwell or Jack Armstrong. He says money isn't important to him, but he walks away from the two-year contract that he had been wanting because the union tells him he can make more in arbitration.
"Now the union's got him just like it's got every other player. But am I bitter? No.
"All this does is put the monkey on Don's back. Reggie (Jackson) got the big contract from us and took us to a championship almost every year. (Gary) Carter comes in, gets that big contract and takes the Mets to a championship.
"Now it's up to Mattingly. He's got to have a hell of a year. He's got to lead us. I think he can. I still think he's a hell of a kid.
"He's just not that little Hoosier anymore."
Mattingly could not be reached at his home in Evansville, Ind. Agent Jim Krivacs acknowledged that they had rejected a two-year offer but said it wasn't because of pressure from the players' association.
"We felt confident about the arbitration and believed we could do better taking it a year at a time," Krivacs said.
"I don't know how George feels now, but there were no darts thrown by either side and no hard feelings at any time. I think the Yankees felt there was nothing really critical they could say about Don's season but that they had to support their salary position.
"Don recognizes it as part of the business. He's obviously pleased with the results and happy to have it behind him. He's just as anxious now to have a great season as George is for him to have one.
"He recognizes all of that as part of the business, too. He's spent four years with George now."
Mattingly, 25, has climbed the tax brackets in rapid fashion, from $45,000 in 1983 to $130,000 in '84 to $325,000 in '85 to $1,375,000 in '86, when he enjoyed one of the finest seasons in Yankee history.
Mattingly set club records for hits, 238, and doubles, 53, hit 31 home runs, drove in 113 runs, had a league-leading slugging percentage of .573 and tied for the league lead in game-winning RBIs with 15. He batted .352, finishing second to Boston's Wade Boggs.
For his three full seasons, Mattingly has averaged 219 hits, 30 homers and 123 RBIs a year. His cumulative batting average during that span is .340.
But despite the record awards for Mattingly and Morris, it has been a rough winter for the union. Besides the owners' apparent conspiracy in regard to the signing of free agents, the clubs have now won 14 of 21 arbitration decisions.
LARGEST ARBITRATION AWARDS
Player Team Year Award Don Mattingly N.Y. Yankees 1987 $1.975 million Jack Morris Detroit 1987 $1.85 million Wade Boggs* Boston 1986 $1.35 million Tim Raines Montreal 1985 $1.2 million Orel Hershiser Dodgers 1985 $1 million Wade Boggs Boston 1984 $1 million Fernando Valenzuela Dodgers 1983 $1 million
*Boggs lost his hearing in 1986. He was seeking $1.85 million.