Baseball Vets Looking for Employment

By Grupp, John | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 2, 2008 | Go to article overview

Baseball Vets Looking for Employment


Grupp, John, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


The ranks of the unemployed in the U.S. still harbors some of the biggest names in baseball history.

And we're not just talking about Reggie Sanders and Rondell White.

Among those without a job as the season reaches its fourth week include the all-time home run king, the game's No. 5 home run hitter, a seven-time Cy Young award winner, a 12-time all-star catcher and the only two players in baseball history to reach the post-season with six different teams.

Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza, Kenny Lofton and David Wells are just some of the free agents who still haven't found any takers this year.

An owner with a blind-eye toward the Mitchell Report and a tolerance of past-their-prime, 40-something former all-stars could piece together a big-name roster.

Here is a potential lineup using available free agents -- CF Lofton, LF Bonds, RF Sosa, C Piazza, DH Preston Wilson, 1B Julio Franco, 3B Corey Koskie, 2B Neifi Perez (serving 80-day suspension), SS Royce Clayton.

The pitching staff could include Clemens (354 career wins), Wells (239 career wins), Freddy Garcia (17-game winner in 2006), Russ Ortiz and closer Bob Wickman (267 career saves).

The bench would be outfielders Sanders (305 career home runs) and White (all-star as recently as 2003) and catcher Damian Miller.

Bonds, 43, is stuck at 762 career home runs and hasn't moved closer to his 3,000th career hit (2,935). He is unemployed despite having the top on-base percentage in baseball last season and hitting 28 home runs with a major-league leading 132 walks.

He won't command anywhere near the $19.3 million he made last season, but even a discounted Bonds doesn't seem worth the baggage. (Donald Fehr said the players' union will look into possible collusion because Bonds drew such minimal interest). Only the Tampa Bay Rays sniffed.

Piazza, on the other hand, might have a job soon. The Reds are reportedly interested in a right-handed bat off the bench. Piazza, 39, declined arbitration last season after a lackluster season as a designated hitter with the Oakland A's.

Here is what Reds manager Dusty Baker told reporters last week when he was asked about a 12-time all-star with more home runs than any catcher in MLB history (427):

"That's the first time I've heard Piazza's name," Baker said. "I thought he was retired, although I know he can still hit."

Clemens is busy watching his son, Koby, the starting catcher for the Salem (Va.) Avalanche, a high-A affiliate of the Houston Astros. Roger Clemens, also listed in the Mitchell Report, purchased a suite in the 6,300-seat stadium (at $250 per night) for the season and has an apartment for Koby in Salem.

"He's nothing more than a proud dad who is trying to watch his kid become a major leaguer," team CEO Mike Dee told the Boston Globe.

The T-Bones, an independent league team in Kansas City, Kan., is planning a Michael Vick "Welcome to the Neighborhood" promotion May 28. Vick is serving a 23-month sentence at Leavenworth, about 15 miles from the T-Bones' ballpark.

Officials want to line the field with rubber barbed wire. The T- Bones will wear black-and-white prison stripes on their uniforms and the visiting Gary Southshore RailCats will wear orange jumpsuit tops. They'll also have spotlights and escapee sirens. Some players may enter the field in shackles.

Ideas that were scrapped included players entering the field in a paddy wagon or having dogs rip apart a Vick jersey-wearing dummy.

Laughs aside, the game is for a good cause. …

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