The Dodgers, in an unsuccessful last-minute effort to make a deal with free-agent pitcher Dave Righetti Saturday, either botched the negotiations or simply bowed out because they thought they were being used.
It all depends on who's talking.
In any event, Righetti will remain with the New York Yankees, since he accepted their offer of arbitration Saturday.
Meanwhile, the Angels' Mike Witt, the Detroit Tigers' Jack Morris and the St. Louis Cardinals' Jack Clark remained free agents by rejecting arbitration.
Witt's agent, Steve Kay, said he will have an announcement "in the next couple of days." The Yankees and the Oakland Athletics have made offers to Witt, but the pitcher is expected to sign again with the Angels.
Righetti's agent, Bill Goodstein, said from New York that he called Dodger Executive Vice President Fred Claire about 3 p.m., PST, to tell him that Righetti had decided to accept arbitration.
"I initiated the conversation," Goodstein said. "Suddenly, they reversed field and said that we should not rush to accept arbitration.
"When I said I wasn't prepared at that precise moment to give a proposal for three years, Claire expressed surprise. Since I had not even a wink for a three-year contract since we had started this odyssey, I told them I did not have figures at my fingertips. Their response was that I had 10 minutes.
"I called David at his home, and the line was busy. I called the Dodgers back and was told I had eight minutes. I called David back, still busy. I called the Dodgers back. They said four minutes. I called David, still busy.
"At one minute, I told them they could keep their proposal if it was for three years or for 30 years under conditions like that. They had weeks to formulate their proposal."
Asked why the Dodgers took such a hard-line stand, Goodstein said: "I think they thought I was calling the Yankees rather than trying to call David."
Said Claire: "We continued to have negotiations with Bill Goodstein throughout the day, but it became clear to us that Dave Righetti wanted to remain with the New York Yankees.
"Throughout our discussion with Mr. Goodstein, which encompassed many days, and despite frequent requests, at no time did we ever receive any proposals from Mr. Goodstein.
"In light of the foregoing, we concluded that Mr. Goodstein sought only to use the Dodgers as leverage in his negotiations with the Yankees, and we would not allow that to happen."
Goodstein earlier had said: "The most prevelant reason for David accepting arbitration was his inability to secure a three-year contract."
The deadline for accepting arbitration was midnight, EST, Saturday.
If a player accepts arbitration, he returns to his previous team. If he rejects it, he remains a free agent and his previous team has until Jan. 8 to re-sign him or lose that right until May 1.
Even if a player accepts, he can still negotiate a new contract until an arbitration decision is made in February.
Righetti earned $837,500 from the Yankees last season and is expected to seek in the neighborhood of $1.75 million through arbitration. Righetti had 31 saves and a 3.51 earned-run average last season.
Reportedly, the Yankees have offered Righetti a two-year contract worth $1.35 million a year.
Goodstein said Righetti plans to become a free agent after the 1988 season.
"David wants to be a leader in the movement to thaw the free-agency freeze," Goodstein said. "There is something wrong with the system when no players are being offered more than two-year contracts."
"Here's an established player like David, who is anti-drug, anti-alcohol, pro-team and pro-apple pie, and he can't get a contract of three years or more.
"David is very involved with the community here in New York, and it would be the same in Los Angeles if he went there. He wants the security of a long-term contract so that he can obtain a home and establish himself in the community."
Other free agents accepting arbitration Saturday were the Tigers' Frank Tanana, the Kansas City Royals' Jamie Quirk and the Chicago White Sox's Dave LaPoint.
Tim Laudner of the Minnesota Twins and Bill Almon of the New York Mets accepted last week, and Tommy John reached an agreement with the Yankees Saturday on a one-year contract for $375,000.
Besides Witt, Clark and Morris, also rejecting arbitration were the San Francisco Giants' Atlee Hammaker, the Houston Astros' Dave Smith, the Milwaukee Brewers' Paul Molitor and the Royals' Charlie Leibrandt.
Other free agents who have rejected arbitration are Gary Gaetti and Juan Berenguer of the Twins, Thad Bosley of the Royals, Danny Darwin and Larry Andersen of the Astros and John Candelaria of the Mets.
Clark, Molitor, Gaetti and Leibrandt are all expected to re-sign with their teams.
Bill Gullickson, another Yankee pitcher, earlier rejected arbitration.
Morris, the winningest pitcher in the 1980s, explained why he rejected arbitration.
"I've done the arbitration thing before," he said. "I'm not really interested in going through that again. There isn't anything to be gained by it."
Morris accepted arbitration last year five minutes before a similar deadline. He won a $1.85-million salary in the process. Morris now wants a two-year contract worth $4 million, and the Tigers have offered about $3.9 million.
Molitor said: "By rejecting . . . you have the right to withhold service until you're satisfied with the contract offer."