After the 1991 season, Commissioner Fay Vincent used his annual State of the Game address to declare: “The present salary situation is out of hand and small-market franchises cannot compete in this environment.” This in a year when the Minnesota Twins won the World Series, the Pittsburgh Pirates won their second of three consecutive NL East titles, and the Yankees finished 20 games under .500! In fact, of the four division winners, only Pittsburgh had even the third-highest payroll in its division. Toronto and Minnesota ranked fourth, while Atlanta ranked fifth.
He still had a fantastic career–you can make an argument that Mantle was the most valuable player in the American League for at least 10 years (he was first or second in runs created/game in 1952-1958, 1960-1962, and 1964, while playing a key defensive position), but many, including Stengel, were left wondering what the boy with the power of Ruth and the speed of Cobb would have done had he been completely healthy for even one season. His 1957-1958 performance, 358/.487/.686 in a league that hit .266/.343./.404, seemed only to scratch the surface. No one will ever know if their expectations were too high. Once Mantle’s knee was damaged the opportunity to find out vanished. Earlier this week, 20-year-old Twins rookie catcher Joe Mauer tore medial meniscus cartilage in his left knee sliding after a foul ball on the hard Metrodome turf. It is said to be a minor injury, though it still required surgery to repair. The catcher will be back on the field in about a month, and there are not expected to be any lingering consequences to Mauer’s assumedly glorious future. Yet, any sudden disruption of a young player’s career can have unanticipated consequences.
Stan Conte sounds like a politician when he discusses timeframes and prognosis for Robb Nen. Could be this week, could be this month, who knows? Could be fine, could be terrible, who knows? Actually, Stan’s simply being cautious and doing the job of getting Nen back right. While uncertainty is never fun, no one really knows until the task–in this case, pitching in the big leagues–is actually performed. My guess? We’ll know in the next two weeks, but seeing him throwing off the mound before Sunday’s game has to be a good sign. The Giants should get Jason Schmidt back late this week, but a final determination will be made after he throws a bullpen session Monday. A rehab start at Visalia went extremely well, as Schmidt lasted five innings and struck out seven high-A hitters.
Bud Selig is singing the same old tune. Mike Mussina is just happy to get a win. Chuck LaMar is happy to be employed. And everyone in Queens is expecting great things from Kazuo Matsui. All this and many more quips in your Monday edition of The Week In Quotes.
The Marlins’ Hee Seop Choi is a burgeoning star. Paul DePodesta made his biggest pick-up of the year in Milton Bradley. Mike Mussina finally won No. 200. And the Pirates have tied themselves to Lloyd McClendon and Dave Littlefield, despite a lack of on-field success. All this and much more news from Florida, Los Angeles, New York, and Pittsburgh in your Monday edition of Prospectus Triple Play.