In the brief major league baseball career of Wally Joyner, contract disputes have become as common as 100-RBI seasons--one every year.
For the second time in as many Februarys, Joyner and the Angels are at odds over money--"We're miles apart," Joyner says--and after negotiations broke off Monday, the 25-year-old first baseman said he is considering holding out once spring training begins in two weeks.
"We had a meeting with (Angel General Manager) Mike Port that started off as a shouting match and ended with them giving us their proposal, take it or leave it," Joyner said in a phone call to a Times reporter Monday evening. "Right now, there are no negotiations of any kind going on.
"My only option now is not going to camp. That's the silver bullet I have in my pocket. I'm thinking about it. I have to figure out if it's in my best interest."
Last spring, Joyner reported to camp, unsigned, after batting .290 with 22 home runs and 100 runs batted in as a rookie. After nearly two weeks of bitter haggling, Joyner reluctantly agreed to a one-year contract worth a base salary of $165,000.
Joyner considered walking out of camp during negotiations but said he didn't because "the Angels had always treated me fairly in the past and I felt they would again. But they didn't. They put the screws to me."
After surpassing most of those rookie numbers in 1987, batting .285 with 34 home runs and 117 RBIs, Joyner says he is not willing to give Angels the benefit of the doubt again.
"This year, I let them know early that I'd like to go to spring training with my contract signed," Joyner said. "I don't want to go through that again. But right now, everything's stalled. We have two weeks left to negotiate . . . but my feeling after today was, 'This is it.' "
According to Joyner, the Angels tendered him a 1988 contract for $185,000 in December before making a new proposal of $281,000 on Monday--less than half of what Joyner and his agents, Michael Watkins and Barry Axelrod, are seeking.
"A slap in the face," Joyner called the Angels' offer.
Watkins and Joyner said they presented Port with one- and two-year contract proposals, basing their strategy on a comparison with New York Yankees first baseman Don Mattingly. In 1984, Mattingly's second season with Yankees, he batted .343 with 23 home runs and 110 RBIs. For 1985, the Yankees increased Mattingly's salary from $130,000 to $450,000--an increase of about 350%.
Joyner would not publicly discuss the specifics of his proposal, but by using the same formula, an increase of 350% would place Joyner's 1988 salary at about $600,000.
"Overall, my statistics outweighed Mattingly's (in 1984)," Joyner said. "I'm just asking to be treated the same."
The Angels' response to such a proposition?
Said Joyner: "Mike Port looked at our proposal and said, 'OK, cut that in half and then take three-fourths of that and then we'll talk."
Port, who declined to discuss what happened during Monday's meeting, was asked about the possibility of Joyner holding out.
"I think very highly of Wally Joyner," Port said, "but at the same time, we must realize that as a team, we must mount a united effort. . . . And that means everybody being there (in camp) appropriately."
Port has set a March 3 deadline for contract negotiations. At that time, any unsigned player's contract can be automatically renewed by the club--at up to a 20% pay cut.
"Honestly, it looks like a renewal situation right now," Joyner said.
Both sides say no further meetings have been planned.
"We've done everything we can do," Watkins said. "The ball's in their court."
Said Port: "We have nothing specifically scheduled at this point."