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Hershiser Asks for a Record $2.425 Million : Dodgers Counter at $2 Million, Another Arbitration High-Water Mark

January 20, 1989|ROSS NEWHAN | Times Staff Writer

Dodger pitcher Orel Hershiser, who earned $1.1 million last year, Thursday submitted a salary arbitration figure of $2.425 million, the highest since the process began in 1974.

"The numbers and the earthquake arrived at the same time," Fred Claire, the Dodgers' executive vice president, said Thursday, stretching the truth by several hours.

Hershiser was among 109 players who exchanged salary figures with their clubs Thursday morning. A total of 136 players had filed for arbitration, but 27 reached agreements with their clubs between Monday's filing deadline and Thursday's exchange date. Of the 109 still pursuing arbitration, 23 submitted salary figures of $1 million or more, including who are bidding for $2 million or more.

In addition to Hershiser, whose $2.425-million proposal was countered by a Dodger offer of $2 million, the highest offer by a club in the history of arbitration, those seeking $2 million are:

--Pitcher Roger Clemens of the Boston Red Sox, who made $1.5 million last year and filed at $2.36 million. The Red Sox countered at $1.9 million.

--Center fielder Kirby Puckett of the Minnesota Twins, who made $1.09 million last year and filed at $2.15 million. The Twins countered at $1.9 million.

--Pitcher Dwight Gooden of the New York Mets, who made $1.4 million last year and filed at $2.079 million. The Mets countered at $1.675 million.

The highest arbitration award, of $1.975 million, was received by New York Yankees first baseman Don Mattingly in 1987.

The highest figure any player previously submitted was $2.105 million, by George Bell of the Toronto Blue Jays last year. Bell reached an agreement with the Blue Jays before his arbitration hearing.

The highest figure any club previously submitted was $1.85 million, by the Chicago Cubs, who went on to win their 1988 arbitration with Andre Dawson, who was seeking $2 million.

Dawson, of course, didn't exactly lose. His $1.35-million raise represented an arbitration record that Hershiser, seeking a raise of $1.325 million, could almost match.

So could Jose Canseco, the American League's most valuable player. Canseco is seeking a $1.285-million raise from the $355,000 he was paid in his third season with the Oakland Athletics. Canseco came in at $1.64 million. The A's countered at $1.3 million.

The arbitration hearings will be scheduled between Feb. 1 and 20. A player and club can continue negotiating until an arbitrator makes his decision.

For Hershiser and the Dodgers, however, the lines seem drawn.

Robert Fraley, the pitcher's attorney, said Thursday that a compromise from $2.425 million was out of the question.

"Unless we can work out a long-term deal, I believe we'll go to arbitration," he said. "We did not file that number to compromise. We believe it's representative of Orel's value. We believe that on the basis of what he accomplished last year and on the basis of what the Dodgers draw in attendance and what they will earn from the new television contracts, it's a reasonable number."

If Hershiser receives it, only Eddie Murray, his new teammate, and St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Dan Quisenberry will earn more in 1989. Murray and Quisenberry, both under multiyear contracts, are scheduled to receive $2.5 million, though some of Murray's is deferred.

Fraley would not call it an impasse, but he said that major differences remain in his negotiations with the Dodgers concerning a multiyear contract and that he hadn't spoken to Claire in 2 days.

"I didn't feel we were making enough progress to continue talking," he said.

It is believed that Hershiser has informed the Dodgers that if he emerges from the current situation with only a 1-year contract, he will leave as a free agent after the 1989 season. Hershiser was not available for comment Thursday.

Neither Fraley nor Claire would discuss the specifics of their negotiations or comments made by Hershiser on a KFI radio show Tuesday night.

Hershiser said then that he wasn't optimistic about the prospect of a multiyear contract, that he felt the club had misled him in certain unspecified ways and that he wasn't excited "about what the future holds, other than the fact that we're going to arbitration."

It is believed he is seeking a 4- or 5-year contract between $10 million and $12 million.

The Dodgers are unlikely to go beyond 3 years, and Claire implied Thursday that the club's $2-million arbitration offer is also the basis of its multiyear proposals.

"We'll continue to explore and do what we can to reach an agreement, short of handing over a contract and saying, 'Pick your number,' " Claire said.

He added that he can't be governed by the possibility of Hershiser's departure after the 1989 season and that he wasn't shocked by the $2.425-million figure in the light of baseball's current economics.

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