The Toronto Blue Jays used to laugh at those who criticized their $50-million payrolls. They ignored the ridicule of their rent-a-player strategy during pennant drives. They gloated when they won the World Series.
Now, perhaps there's no finer example of baseball's struggling times than the Blue Jays.
They have become just like the rest of the poor stiffs they took advantage of throughout the years.
They're the ones who now are willing to dump high-salaried veterans for prospects.
You want an outfielder? Joe Carter can be yours for $6.5 million this season and $6.5 million next.
You prefer a first baseman? John Olerud and his $5.25-million salary this year and $6 million in 1996 with an option of $6.5 million in 1997 can be yours.
Looking for the best second baseman in the game? Roberto Alomar, who is earning $5.5 million this year and is a free agent at the season's conclusion, is available.
A leadoff hitter? How about center fielder Devon White and his $4-million salary?
How about a D.H. and possible Hall of Famer? Paul Molitor and his $4-million salary with a $4-million option/$1-million buyout is being shopped. The Blue Jays even have bargain-basement deals available for potential free agents Al Leiter, Duane Ward, Danny Cox, Danny Darwin, Lance Parrish and Candy Maldonado.
"It's become more likely that we'll move players rather than hold onto them," General Manager Gord Ash says. "Every player is available if the deal improves our club for the present and future."
This is why Mr. Ash and not Hideo Nomo will be focus of the All-Star break, when there could be a whirlwind of activity. Teams are making plans for the pennant stretch, and there are going to be an abundance of moves before the July 31 waiver deadline.
The San Diego Padres, who believe they can be legitimate contenders down the stretch, want Carter or Alomar and are willing to part with outfielder Melvin Nieves and first baseman Eddie Williams.
The New York Yankees want starter David Wells from the Detroit Tigers and are willing to part with third baseman Russ Davis. The Milwaukee Brewers want outfielder Danny Tartabull ($5 million this year and next) from the Yankees.
Entering the week, the Minnesota Twins wanted someone to take closer Rick Aguilera and his $4.2-million salary (with a $4-million option) before he became a 10-and-5 player on Thursday. They also have starters Kevin Tapani ($3.6 million) and Scott Erickson ($1.862 million) available.
The New York Mets will listen to offers for outfielder/third baseman Bobby Bonilla ($4.7 million this year and $4.5 million next year) and starter Bret Saberhagen ($4.05 million in 1995 plus $4.3 million next year with nearly $1 million deferred in interest). And soon, the St. Louis Cardinals' Ken Hill ($4.375 million) might become available.
The cream of the trade crop appears to be Saberhagen, who has acknowledged that it may be best that he leaves.
"I love New York, and I have a home there," Saberhagen says, "but I want to win. I've been miserable over the last month. I don't want to be miserable. I'd rather be happy someplace else.
"Right now, I'm pitching good, but the team is playing bad, and that does not make me happy. I keep wondering why there are no people in the stands. But with the way we're playing, I wouldn't want to come to the ballpark. If I were going to pay to see a baseball game, I'd pay to watch a good team.
"It's not embarrassing, but it's not fun. Nobody wants to lose. I'm tired of losing. I'm sick of it."
Says Bonilla: "Everyone is sitting around waiting for the bomb to drop. Not just here, but all around baseball."
Who knows, this just may be what baseball needs.
Bring back those good old-fashioned trades. Well, at least the post-strike variety.
His followers chant his name before the national anthem. They unfurl Japanese flags and proudly wave them. They pack the Dodgers gift shop and will buy anything with his name on it.
You'd better believe it.
"I never thought I'd see anything like Fernandomania again in my life," Dodgers broadcaster Jaime Jarrin says. "But it's coming. Believe me, it is coming.
"This is the closest thing I've seen to Fernandomania, and it's bringing back very sweet memories of 1981. Fernando was shutting everybody out that year, and Nomo is striking everybody out."
That $2-million signing bonus the Dodgers shelled out to Hideo Nomo? They have already made that up in ticket sales and memorabilia sales. Of course, it helps when you sell Nomo Dodgers jackets for $150, Nomo sweatshirts for $50, Nomo T-shirts for $25 and $18, Nomo baseballs for $15 and $10, Nomo pennants for $5 and Nomo pins for $3.