PALM SPRINGS — Kirk McCaskill and Wally Joyner would tell Roger Clemens that he is not out there alone, that he has their support, that every successful young player who was not eligible for salary arbitration considers Clemens a flag bearer.
That's McCaskill's description.
He and Joyner waged their own salary battles with the Angels before reaching agreements they still consider unsatisfactory.
Now Clemens, who pitched the Boston Red Sox to an American League pennant as he won 24 games and the league's Cy Young and Most Valuable Player awards, remains out of camp and seemingly determined to have the Red Sox meet his salary conditions before reporting.
If the owners' game plan calls for collusion in regard to free agents, as it apparently has over the last two years, a key part of the strategy has included the squeeze play on young players.
McCaskill, who was 17-10 in his second season, returned from a six-day spring walkout to sign for $232,000 after the Angels had come up from $225,000 and told him that he would have to take the $232,000 or they would cut the $225,000 offer to $220,000. His agent, Marvin Demoff, called it a bribe.
Joyner, coming off a stunning rookie season, signed for $165,000. A $15,000 bonus for playing 140 games and $15,000 more for playing 150 can get him closer to where he wanted to be.
"When a baseball player talks about principle, it's hard to get sympathy," McCaskill said. "It's hard for people to understand because of the money."
Clemens made $340,000 with incentives included last year. Now, after initially seeking $2.4 million for two years, he wants $950,000 for one.
The Red Sox have offered $500,000, with another $350,000 in incentives, all based on league, playoff and World Series awards rather than appearances, starts or innings pitched.
"How can Roger Clemens be only the fourth- or fifth-highest paid pitcher on that staff?" McCaskill asked. "How can he be only the 13th- or 14th-highest paid player on that team?
"Instead of paying him on the basis of what he and the team accomplished last year, which is the way it has always been in baseball, they're saying he has to duplicate last season, that he has to do it with incentives. It's ridiculous. How can he be expected to duplicate that season?"
Said Joyner: "I think what Roger is doing is right. If he doesn't deserve what he's asking for, who does? I think what the owners are doing is illegal. They keep saying that they'll take care of the players who performed well for them, but there's not one team--I mean, not one team--doing it.
"There's guys on this team who worked hard, played hard and didn't get paid what they deserved," Joyner said of the Angels.
"The owners just aren't worried about winning, about having the best team out there. Go down the list. Show me where I'm wrong. Take the Dodgers. Look at their outfield situation. You mean they don't need Tim Raines? Sure, they may have to pay him $1.8 million, but he'll bring in $2.5."
Neither McCaskill nor Joyner figured he had the leverage to do what Clemens is doing.
"I'm a one-year player who doesn't have that kind of weight," Joyner said. "He's a two-year player who won a pennant for them. If you can't congratulate Roger Clemens and pay him what he deserves, who can you?
"All I can do is work hard, play hard and hopefully get rewarded next year. I don't even know if you can hope to be treated fairly anymore.
"All you can really do is hope to be treated decently."
Said McCaskill, of his own signing: "I still say the numbers are wrong, but it was either quit or come back. Once I had the final meeting with Mike (General Manager Port), I put it behind me.
"If Roger comes back without it being totally resolved, it wouldn't be very smart. He's got to come back free and clear. I mean, the guy's too good to have to go through this.
"It's not right. It would be a shame if he had to sit out the year. But he's got to push it all the way and he's the right guy to do it."
The right guy, McCaskill said, because of his credentials and obvious determination.
"I agree with what he's doing 1,000% and I support him more than that," McCaskill said. "I hope every player in baseball supports him like I do."
There are those who contend that the Major League Players Assn. has only itself to blame for the owners' hardball approach to young players.
In the collective bargaining negotiations that led to a two-day strike and eventual settlement in 1985, the union agreed to change the eligibility requirements for salary arbitration. Instead of needing only two years in the majors, a player now needs three.
According to the owners' player relations committee, there were about 80 players who had between two and three years' major league service at the end of the 1986 season and were not eligible for arbitration because of the change.
Why did the union agree to it?
--A partial trade-off for increased pension benefits.
--A way of appeasing the owners and avoiding the financial and public relations fallout from a prolonged strike.
Joyner said he did not know enough about that to comment.
McCaskill said no one could have predicted that the owners would take the course they have.
"At the time, nobody knew what would happen or the ramifications," he said. "Everybody felt we had to give up something to settle the strike.
"You can't look back and be upset. It's just the way it was."