News - Andruw Jones's next victim

Can Terry Pendleton get through to the Braves latest millionaire?

Andruw Jones drove the silver Ferrari to the ball park the other day. He walked through the players' lounge past the five remotes on the coffee table and into the clubhouse. Normally, he doesn't venture into a media knot, so his appearance could mean he can't wait to get started with the Braves' latest hitting instructor, Terry Pendleton. Or it could mean that Jones had no idea TP would be there surrounded by a good portion of the Braves usual press contingent. (Tip: Always bet on Andruw being oblivious to what's going on. And to be late.)

No, Jones didn't speed all the way downtown to greet Pendleton. He came in to sign his $75 million six-year contract extension. Only nobody knew it yet. Not even GM John Schuerholz, who, apparently caught off guard cried, "You're sure about this? You're sure about this?"

There is no chance Jones signed out of the goodness of his heart. None. And given that his agent is the notorious Scott Boras, one wonders why Jones signed now rather than go to salary arbitration this spring and become a free agent at the end of the 2002 season.

Did he think his poor batting average this season would hurt his arbitration award? That baseball will have a salary cap by the time he is eligible for free agency? That he might be traded if his demands were too high? (Hey, the Gold Club isn't the only place in town, you know. Just ask all the NBA players at Magic City.) That he might find himself playing for a manager who wouldn't put up with his lack of concentration at the plate?

Speaking of which, Pendleton said the magic words as far as Jones in concerned: "Guys hit .330 every year because they're mentally prepared. The physical aspect of it, all the guys have that. It's the mental aspect. You can see, as a defensive player, certain guys walking to the plate and know you have a good chance to get them out. Pitchers know it, too."

TP returns reluctantly to baseball — he was willing to sign only a one-year contract. He was carpooling and cooking breakfast for his kids. (Eggs and pancakes, in case you were wondering.) "I think," he quipped, "I need a job to get some rest."

He watched maybe four Braves games on TV last season. And only parts of those at that. But he did manage to see some at-bats against Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling in the National League Championship Series. Talk about lousy television. Anyway, he is certain he could have done something to change the outcome of those futile trips to the plate. That conviction and prayer — he didn't say which was the more compelling — lured him back to the Braves.

Ironically, it was just as Pendleton was discussing the postseason offensive impotence that Jones waltzed into the clubhouse. Perfect timing, no?

"I'm not going to comment on that," TP said. "And lay off my hitters."

We will if you can get Andruw to lay off those high fastballs.

And while we're in the Braves clubhouse, here's the list of totally empty or might-as-well-be-totally-empty lockers:

Cleaned out — Julio Franco, Jesse Garcia, Jose Cabrera, Rudy Seanez, Steve Karsay, Rey Sanchez, Kerry Ligtenberg.

Pretty much cleaned out — Rafael Furcal, Kevin Millwood, Odalis Perez, Steve Torrealba, Dave Martinez, Steve Reed, B.J. Surhoff.

All of Javy Lopez's stuff is boxed up in front of his locker, except for two sets of catcher's gear. Those are in his Braves duffel bags.

How like Bud Selig to kill the euphoria of a riveting World Series by trying to pull a fast one on the taxpayers who have declined to fund new stadiums for his billionaire team owners. This "contraction" vote is extortion, period.

If the commissioner and his cohorts really cared about the fiscal health of the game, they'd have instituted revenue-sharing years ago. I mean true revenue sharing as it is practiced in the National Football League. The football owners realize that such storied franchises as the Green Bay Packers, for example, give the NFL a rich history not duplicated in any other sport. That goes a long way to explaining football's dominance over the other pro sports.

Does baseball learn anything from that? Ha! Instead of revenue sharing, baseball has that idiotic luxury tax. So George Steinbrenner squeals about forking over a few million bucks to Montreal. And who can blame him, when Expos ownership uses the money to post a modest profit instead of using it to retain the star players they continually develop and then just as continually cannot afford to keep.

Baseball clings to the paternal, plantation-owner ways it's had since the 1920s. The owners call the shots, someone else pays, whether it is the players with their health or the fans with their dollars and their hearts.??

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