Jan. 4, 1998

"Itís the Moron Tabernacle Choir."

-- Overheard in a bar as pictures of the baseball braintrust
of Bud Selig and Don Fehr flashed across the TV screen.


OK, the bowl games are over. Now itís time to get down to the important stuff. Itís only six weeks until pitchers and catchers report.

But before we put the bowl games to bed, did anybody else hear this from the supposedly impartial Rose Bowl announcing team of Keith Jackson and Bob Griese? Right after Michigan scored to tie the game at 7, Griese said something about both teams drawing blood and how now it was time to play some football. Then Jackson said, "Twenty?"

Itís been awhile since the last newsletter, and Iíve got lot to cover. Thatís why youíre holding a stack of paper similar in size to what I give my accountant at tax time. There are five different parts to this packet. The first is this newsletter. The second is an up-to-date roster for all CRL teams. Then thereís a new address and phone list for CRL owners. Finally, the last two sections are a copy of the Constitution and a list of all the changes we have made to the Constitution over the years by either vote or practice. More on these other four sections later, now itís time for the news.

Incidentally, Iím sitting here watching the Green Bay - Tampa Bay playoff game and I donít know about you, but Iím getting damn tired of these "Playoff History" reports. Canít someone at Fox just tell the people at McDonaldís that there are not any other games going on right now so there is no need for any McDonaldís game breaks? Think the people at McDís will send me a check for this newsletter break?

We have a new owner. This yearís expansion team will belong to one of Spencerís friends. His name is Dan Croix, and his number is on the address and phone list.

Draft Day is Saturday, April 4. Thatís the week before Easter and five days after Opening Day (Tuesday, March 31).

Stay tuned for info on pizza, golf, Olympic Gardens and possible Dodger or Stars outings.

To give everybody at least a week to prepare, Roster Freeze Day will be Friday, March 27. Most of the cuts should be done by then. As usual, cut-off time for calling in is Midnight, Central Time.

Donít forget to have $200 to Glenn by Feb. 15. Just like last year, this will ensure that our stat fees and the bulk of everybodyís league fees are out of the way well in advance of the draft, and the expenses associated with going to Vegas.

Greg wanted to thank the league for the flowers. He said he assumed that they were for Holly and "not condolences for having such a pathetic team and still not getting Mark McGwire."

Proving the hot stove league is still alive and well, CRL owners closed out 1997 with a couple of trades. Sanford traded Mark Lieberthal and Dmitri Young to Kerr for Rondell White, and upon hearing that Daryl Kile had, in fact, signed with the Rockies, Ken immediately picked up the phone and traded Kile to me for Shane Reynolds. A couple of weeks later, Ken was kind enough to point out that someone had written in to Baseball Weeklyís John Hunt to ask him what to do with Kile. According to Ken, Huntís advice was something like, "Trade him to Jim."

Before we get to the expansion draft, hereís some additional things I picked up from various media outlets and wanted to pass along so I could get them out of my files.

At some point during September, I heard some baseball announcer say that Tony Gwynn could go 0-for-1028 (thatís something like zero-for-two years) and still be batting over .300 for his career.

From Baseball America: A lot of players had incentive clauses in their contracts last season for winning various awards. Among some of the better ones: Roger Pavlik (Texas pitcher) $25K for winning the Silver Slugger. Paul Wagner, (pre 1997 record 26-40) $50K for being named Comeback Player of the Year. The word "comeback" assumes the player was at least decent at some point in the past. Marks Leiter and Portugal would have gotten $50K if they were World Series MVP for the Phillies. Greg Swindell had an incentive clause for winning the Cy Young and Bobby Bonilla and John Vanderwal each would have gotten extra bucks for winning a Gold Glove. But you really want to know how to cash your incentive bonus check? Bob Horner once had a $100K incentive clause tied to weekly weigh-ins. He paid the trainer $20K to fake the weights and collected his money.

Yet another reason the National League brand of baseball is superior: (Also from Baseball America) On the same day last season, the Expos beat the Giants 19-3 and the Brewers edged the Aís 1-0. The NL game, which featured a 13-run inning by Montreal, lasted 3 hours and 19 minutes. The AL game took 3:20. Letís hope Milwaukee doesnít bring that brand of baseball to the NL.

Now, hereís a brief expansion refresher. I havenít talked to Dan yet, so I donít know how much time he is going to need, but hereís an overview:

Each CRL team may protect a maximum of seven players from expansion. Dan can select no more than 15 players in the expansion draft, which is the maximum he can protect on Roster Freeze Day. Contracts and salaries are completely transferable. Players on a farm roster are not eligible to be drafted, but they may be traded during normal trading periods.

In the first round, Dan can select no more than one player from each existing team, although he doesnít have to select a player from every team. After this round is over, those teams which lost a player will then get to protect one additional player. Dan can then select one other player from those teams that already lost a player, or select a player from any team that he did not select one from before. Again, he cannot select more than 15 players total, so if he takes one player from each of the 12 existing CRL teams in the first round, he can only select three players in the second round. Although Dan may select a total of 15 players, he is not required to keep all of them on Roster Freeze Day (March 27).

Now hereís a tentative timeline. Everybody needs to have their seven roster protections to me by Sunday, March 1. Again, I donít know how much time Dan will need, but Iíd like to have the entire expansion process over by March 15. What I would like to do is give Dan about five days to make his initial selections. Then those owners who lose players will get a few days to decide who to protect next. Then Dan will get a couple of more days to make his second round selections.

All CRL teams, except the expansion team, are free to make trades through Feb. 28. During the expansion process, no trading will occur. Once the expansion draft is completed, an until rosters are frozen on March 27, all teams, including the expansion team, are free to make trades.

Speaking of Dan, I wonder if heís ever met Dave Rosellen? Hey Dan, donít take it personally if people start using the words "Spencer" and "farm team" in the same sentence, thereís some history there.

Oh yeah, one other thing guys. If Spencer or Cordova ask you to go along with them on a vacation in August, say you have to do yardwork or paint the house or something. On Saturday August 23, while I was out drinking and camping at Lake Havasu with those guys, my team was only 1/2 game behind theirs. Maybe it was heatstroke from the 112-degree temperature, but for whatever reason, my team proceeded to crumple like an empty beer can and I finished 15 games back and closer to fifth place than first.

Of course we knew the Commissioner wasnít going to repeat. Especially not after Wilton Guerrero got busted for using a corked bat. Without the cork, Wilton couldnít even hit the ball out of the infield. Wanna bet Ken and Greg donít protect Guerrero?

Speaking of rosters and protections, and as Iíve already mentioned, enclosed youíll find updated CRL rosters. These include the two trades Iíve already told you about and the results of the November linked-player protections. Hereís some things you need to know about the lists:

I have already deleted those players who played out their option or long-term contract. Players are listed with the National League team they finished the season with. I know some of them are no longer in the league, but they could possibly end up on an NL roster before March 27, and thus be kept. Those players who have the letter "S" following their salary were drafted last year and can be kept at the same salary. "L1" means this year will be the last year of a long-term contract. Oddly enough, all existing long-term contracts will expire after this season. Players with and "O" after their salary are those players who are entering their third year and, if kept, must either be kept for an option year or signed to a long-term contract. Now hereís our annual dissertation on long-term contracts. Those of you who understand how they work can skip the next paragraph.

When a player is signed to a long-term contract, his new salary becomes the sum of his current contract and $2.50 for each additional year he is signed to. Looking at the attached rosters, letís use Greg Vaughn as an example, since he is the first player on the list with an "O" behind his name. Should Ken, or any other owner acquiring Vaughn through either a trade or expansion, elect to sign Vaughn to a two-year contract his new salary is $7.50 ($5.00+$2.50). A three-year contract would mean Vaughnís new salary would be $10 ($5.00+$2.50+$2.50). Additionally, the owner signing a player to a guaranteed long-term contract would pay a signing bonus into the prize pool (which would not count against the $130 Draft Day limit) of 1/2 the total value of the contract. Again using Vaughn as an example, a two-year contract would cost the owner a $7.50 signing bonus (1/2 of 2 X $7.50), while a three-year contract would cost the owner $15 (1/2 of 3 X $10).

One final note on long-term contracts, and this also goes for those of us who have players already signed to one. A player with a long-term contract cannot be dumped during the regular season. If a player with a long-term contract is not kept on Roster Freeze Day, unless he is in the American League or out of baseball (thank you Todd Worrell), his owner must pay into the prize pool an amount equal to twice the remaining value of the contract. Iíll use Brian Jordan as an example, since he has the first long-term contract on the list. If Jordan is not kept for the 1998 season, Otis, or any other owner who acquires Jordan through a trade or expansion, would pay a penalty of $29 into the prize pool ($14.50 X 2). This penalty would not count against the ownerís $130 draft-day limit.

One final note on roster protections. Spencer and his buddies can protect no more than 11 players, not including players on a farm roster, on March 27. Fraser gets to protect 12 players, I can save up to 13 and Johnny can protect no more than 14. Everybody else can save up to 15 players. If you decide to save your farm guy, itíll cost you five bucks.

All the teams on the roster pages are listed with last yearís names. We will probably have our usual name changes for the coming season. You can count on Ken and Spencer changing their teamsí names. And Glenn probably will, too, because the Lost Boys did.

As usual, Iím not perfect, (Shock! Disbelief!) so if you see any mistakes on your rosters, please let me know ASAP.

Please also check your entry in the address and phone list. If youíve got corrections, or would like to add work or fax numbers or e-mail addresses to your contact info, or would like to let everybody else in the league know who that other voice that answers the phone belongs to, let me know and Iíll send out an updated version next time. Incidentally, throw your old list away because Otis, Farabee and Hutcheson have all moved, and have new phone numbers. Plus, we do have a new owner.

Now we get to the Constitution. I donít know if all of you had a copy of it or not. You do now. One thing about the copy you now have is that it has numbers in the margins. Each of these numbers represents a deviation from the Constitution that we have made by either vote or by precedent. The numbers are explained in the CRL Constitutional Addendum. Each number is on the line containing the text in question, or the line where the text begins. What Iíve done in my copy, and what I suggest you do, is highlight the corresponding words or phrases in the Constitution for easy reference. I promised Kerr a couple of years ago that I would get this out. Never let it be said that I donít follow through. Now that Iíve got all of the changes on my hard drive, itíll be easy to update in the future. Again, if you see any that I missed, let me know.

Procrastination was not the only reason that it took me awhile to finish this project. As I dug through the Constitution, I realized that we had made a few changes. Like 63. Now I donít know about you guys, but 63 seems like an inordinately high number for something that is supposed to be a game. Some are pretty simple and deal with halving dollar values and adding runs scored and such. Some are good ideas, like changing the waiver period from one week to two weeks to give everybody an extra chance to spend money.

But there are some others I have a question about. (Yes, what follows are proposed rule changes to be voted on before this yearís draft.) I think it would be a good idea if we voted to revert to the Constitution as written in the following cases:

Change # 30. We say that if a team doesnít get at least 1000 innings pitched, they finish last in all pitching categories. The Constitution says only that they finish last in ERA and Ratio. If you can put together such a strong team that you can win by getting two total points in ERA and Ratio, more power to you.

Change # 39. We say that if a player fails to appear in a game for two consecutive reporting periods, he can be dropped from the roster and replaced. Our reasoning is that, no matter how big a stiff a player may be, he will always find some way to get into at least one game every two weeks, even as a pinch runner or defensive replacement, and thus not be eligible to be replaced. But it did happen this past year. Twice. And it may have happened to other teams, but the owner just didnít know about the rule. The constitution says you canít replace players languishing on the bench. In fact, the NOTE which is deleted by change # 42 says you canít replace "your other corner man ... who hasnít had an at bat in six weeks." I think we need to get rid of this change. If you draft poorly or make a bad choice on a pick up, too bad. Thereís always the waiver wire.

Change # 58. The Constitution says that if a protected farm player makes the opening day roster, he must be waived or added to his CRL roster, and another player dropped to make room, if necessary. It says he may not be retained on his CRL teamís farm roster. We changed this last year. I think we made a mistake. What I can tell you is, if this rule is not changed back, and if things go as they are supposed to in Houston, Iíve effectively got $134.50 to spend at this yearís draft, while everybody else will have only $130. I have Richard Hidalgo on my farm team. He is supposed to be the starting center fielder in Houston. If we donít change the rule back, Iíll use my last 50-cents to draft some bum outfielder, hopefully one with a homer or stolen base, just to dump him and replace him with Hidalgo, who should count as $5 of my $130.

Thereís more, but Iím already on page six, and Iíve got some other league business to take care of. Needless to say, if any of you see anything you think we need to change, let me know and Iíll put it on the Draft Day agenda. The three things I just mentioned already are.

Here are a couple of other things folks want us to vote on.

One owner, realizing that the cost of picking up a free agent doubles after the All-Star break, said he would like to see the cost of trades double in the seasonís second half, also. He says that this may make some owners think twice before engaging in a dumping trade where the returns are minimal.

Before I introduce this last topic, let me preface it by saying that nothing you are about to read is intended in a derogatory fashion towards any owner.

Itís getting damn crowded in that hotel room. With expansion, we are now up to 19 owners. And some people even bring guests to the draft, although Iíve yet to fathom why anyone would want to spend five hours crammed in hotel room with us.

To solve this overcrowding problem, some owners have suggested that we use the back room of some bar or restaurant to hold the draft in. If everybody came to Vegas, that would be fine. But letís face it, not everyone goes to Vegas, and those party rooms usually donít come with a phone jack.

Several people have tossed out the idea of getting a conference room in whatever hotel we stay in. Some owners checked into that and said it was way to expensive.

So we have a proposed solution: One team springs for a suite each year, even if itís at the Imperial Palace. There are two problems associated with getting a suite. They are more expensive than a regular room, and whoever gets one would have to get it for both Friday and Saturday night. As to how we determine who gets a suite, maybe we draw straws to see who goes first, or maybe we just start with Team 1 and move through the list.

To help defray the cost of a suite, it has been proposed that each owner chips in an additional $10 with their stat fee. Thatís each owner, not each team. We have 19 owners in the league, thatís $190 that goes to the host owner each year to help cover the cost of the suite. The fee would be imposed of all owners, whether they go to Vegas or not, because the rest of us all have to cram into the suite for the conference call. Any owner who has a guest attending the draft (not wives or girlfriends, but somebody as sick as us) would also be assessed $10 per guest.

Once we have settled on an order, if the owner who is scheduled to host decides not to go to Vegas, we only ask that he inform us early so the next owner in line can make arrangements for a suite. Again, this is not set in stone, it is merely a proposal for consideration. But I think itís a good idea.

Gee, I feel like itís the 17th inning. Iíll get back with you after I talk to Dan and establish a time line for expansion. Until next time.