|Free agents are looking for the right fit|
By Eric Neel
Page 2 columnist
Every year at free agent filing time, it's the same story: The Yankees want this; the Dodgers are looking for that; the Red Sox need this and that; and the Padres, well they have no money to speak of, but if they did, they'd be looking for this, that, and the other thing. Every year we talk about it like it's a shopping spree, like the teams are just strolling the aisles and throwing guys in a cart.
Enough about the teams. Enough about fat-cat owners and scheming GMs loading up for the next run. Free agency is about the players, remember? It's about what the players want, about their right to choose, about their needs. And yeah, sure, they want money -- we all want money -- but that isn't all they want. Their wish lists are more subtle and complicated than a pile of green.
Take Rod Beck, for example, who is fresh off a big comeback year with the Padres. Rod told his agent he could live with a little less than his market value if a team would be willing to make space in the lot for his mobile home, and if they were cool with the whole post-game grilling-and-pitching-clinics thing. It's an outrageous demand, but a year in Des Moines will spoil you.
Vlad Guerrero, who's on everybody's wish list, has just one item on his: butts in the seats. Word is those playoff pictures of the frenzied crowds on Waveland have him thinking 'City of Big Shoulders.'
Things are a little more particular for Kevin Millwood. One, he needs a manager who doesn't look like maybe his head is going to pop clean off his shoulders and go screaming through the air like a deflating balloon -- nobody needs that I-might-cause-the-guy-to-have-a-massive-heart-attack thing running through his head just before a 3-0 delivery. Expect Kevin to consider offers from the Yanks, the Dodgers and the Cardinals, and don't be surprised if the Red Sox are immediately out of the running if they sign Whitey. Two, he's in search of a more flattering uniform. The baggy, striped-jammies look in Philly had him napping in the dugout between innings, which was no big deal; but when he had the urge to bring a teddy bear to the park, he knew it was time to move on. The don't-call list includes Cleveland, Florida, Toronto, and the Cubs (can't do that little bear-head thing).
Royce Clayton isn't so picky. He's willing to entertain offers from any team that thinks his braids are a good idea. It's a bonus if the team has deluded itself into thinking he's a major-league-caliber shortstop, but he's not going to press the point. (He and Fiona Apple are waiting by the same phone, by the way, doing each other's hair.)
Rickey Henderson? He wants to play with that guy who he used to play with, the one who wears a batting helmet in the field? You know the guy. Rickey doesn't know the guy, but you do. If you've got him, call.
Greg Maddux. What could Greg Maddux possibly want? He's got CYs, he's got dough, he's got a great pitching coach and good golfing buddies. He wants for nothing. Except maybe that moment about ten years back when he passed on the Yankees offer and signed with the Braves -- a fistful of Series rings hung in the balance of that moment. It would be nice to go back and get 'em. Short of that kind of "are you the kind of man who can grant a wish like that, Ray Kinsella?"-magic, maybe you just show him a coupla new pairs of glasses, something a little sleeker, a little more 'now'?
Ugueth Urbina? Wherever Pudge goes.
Miguel Tejada wants a cozier ballpark, a short, high fence in left, the Sports Guy's blessing, and a debilitating but not life threatening injury to befall Nomar Garciaparra. Other than that, he's pretty open to whatever.
Mike Cameron is looking at Colorado for the same reason everyone looks at Colorado: thin air, beautiful skyline, nice brew pubs, friendly people, the chance to wear a purple hat at a slight off-angle, and, well ... thin air.
Gary Sheffield's just looking for some place where he'll get the respect he deserves, some place where he feels wanted, some place where he's treated like a man. Short of that, you know, cut him a huge check, and he'll deal with the heartache on his own.
LaTroy Hawkins would like to see the light of day, please.
For Scott Spezio, it's all about the indie rock scene, and the hair gel. In other words, only L.A. has a shot at taking him away from the Angels.
B.J. Surhoff has decided to stand pat with the deal with the devil he cut a few years back, thanks. Same with Jesse Orosco.
Carl Everett will tell you straight-out: He misses Pedro and the guys, misses the camaraderie, the fellowship, the sense of calm that always surrounds the park.
Jose Lima, Joe Randa, and Raul Ibaņez know that things were nearly perfect last year in KC, and they know they shouldn't mess with things, and they're well aware that the baseball gods will come down on them with the fury of Pedro losing his stuff in the third if they get too greedy. But the thing is, they've had their fill of bar-b-q, and the I-80 nightlife is kind of losing its charm, and they hear from players on other teams that there are these magical places called metropolises, where a guy can stay out all night dancing and come to the park hungover and bleary-eyed the next day, and they just can't resist.
And last but not quite least ... if you want to woo Shane Halter out of Detroit, you gotta know right up front that it's going to take at least 44 wins.
Eric Neel is a regular columnist for Page 2.