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MIKE DOWNEY

What Andre Might Tell Pen Pal: Just Sign

March 09, 1987|MIKE DOWNEY

Tim,

It's me, Andre.

Haven't seen you since we were in the Expo outfield together.

How are you? I am fine.

Not any wealthier, maybe, but happier and healthier.

In case you haven't heard, I signed with the Cubs the other day. Yeah, the Cubs.

I know, I know--they're not much better than Montreal was. But at least they're in America.

I'm still trying to get rid of that play money they gave us in Canada. I have to get my taxes done by April 15, but the U.S. government wants 40%, and the Canadian government wans 40%, and that leaves me almost enough money to take a cab from O'Hare to Wrigley Field.

Tim, I know you're still trying to find a team for yourself, same way I did. Being a free agent isn't easy, is it? I felt like a puppy in a pet-shop window.

Let me tell you about this deal I made with the Cubs. You've probably read about it in the papers and you're probably wondering what got into me. You must think I went to a hockey game at the Forum and got hit in the head with a puck.

Listen, buddy. I'm all right. I know what I'm doing. I haven't been out in the sun too long, although Lord knows I will be, as soon as I spend a few months with the Cubs.

Tim, I just got sick and tired of all the haggling, all the waiting, all the arguing. I got tired of wondering where I was going to play this season--or whether I was going to play this season. And, I got tired of people saying Andre Dawson was greedy.

See, I picked my team right away. The Cubs needed a right fielder. I liked Chicago OK. And the ballpark was made to order for me. I can check-swing 15 homers there.

Better yet, the Cub players wanted me. They weren't going to resent me for bumping somebody out of the lineup. Rick Sutcliffe, the pitcher, offered to pay $100,000 out of his own pocket if the club would sign me. Pretty cool.

So, I swallowed my pride a little. I wanted to show everybody that I had scruples, that I was a man of principles, that I had some class. My agent asked me what it would take to sign me, and I told him: "Let the Cubs decide. Leave the amount blank. Tell them to fill in the contract with whatever number they think is fair."

Well, Timmy, you probably think they gypped me. I'm going to get $500,000 guaranteed, and another 150 grand if I can stay off the disabled list until the All-Star break, and even more money if I can make the All-Star team.

You're probably saying: Hey, Andre, the Expos offered you twice as much as that, man. You crazy?

Listen, little buddy. I'm older than you, so pay attention.

You've got to have some priorities in your life. Maybe money is the only priority in yours, I don't know. But the way I see it, I can be real picky, hold out for more bread and be miserable for the next couple of years, or I can go where I want, and go where I'm wanted, and feel real good about myself.

That is why I'm writing you today, my friend.

You are absolutely one of the best players in the game today--Tim Raines, young, strong, fast, good glove, good bat. Any team would be glad to have you. You deserve to be in demand.

But since so many of the teams in the majors seem to be holding back, afraid to make you the kind of offer that'll knock their whole payroll out of whack, you've got a tough decision to make.

You can be stubborn and stay on the sidelines and wait for somebody to get desperate. Or, you can do what I did. Pick yourself a team. Talk to that team. Be reasonable. Remind yourself how much fun you could have with that team. Meet them halfway. Meet them two-thirds of the way. Whatever.

For example, I understand you would like to play for the Dodgers. But the Dodgers don't want to dive headfirst into the free-agent pool. They don't want to get crazy with long-term contracts for multi-millions.

Tim, do you honestly think they would rather open the season with Ken Landreaux or Ralph Bryant or Jose Gonzalez in center field than open the season with an outfield of Pedro Guerrero, Mike Marshall and Tim Raines?

Get serious.

You call that team, Tim. Get your finger on that telephone.

Tell them you'll knock off some of those zeroes you're after. Tell them you're having a blue-light special--everything half-price.

You think about it. Sunshine. Beautiful ballpark. A good team that you could make a whole lot better. Lasorda will feed you Fettucine Alfredo in the dugout after every stolen base. He even lets movie stars come into the locker room, no matter what Ueberroth says.

Hey, I got an idea. Call Fernando. Since Sutcliffe offered $100,000 if the Cubs signed me, Valenzuela ought to be able to cough up at least 150. Hershiser can't afford it any more, but Valenzuela can.

I'm serious, Timmy.

Even better, call the Cubs. Ask for Dallas Green. The only starlet in their locker room is Oprah Winfrey, but what the heck.

Your pal,

Andre

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