- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 23, 2002

A show of hands, please. How many of you picked Brady Anderson for your rotisserie baseball team this year?
Not many, huh? That's interesting, because the Cleveland Indians picked Brady for their team. Or at least they did until Tuesday, when they decided they'd made a big mistake and put the Luke Perry of center fielders on waivers.
Think about it: While rotoheads stayed away from Brady in droves, the collective brain trust of the Indians general manager Mark Shapiro, manager Charlie Manuel et al. opted to sign him to a one-year contract with options for '03 and '04. This for a 38-year-old collapsed star who hit .202 last season and had eight homers in 430 at-bats.
If you're wondering why baseball is in trouble, why "six to eight" teams are on a respirator (according to Bud Selig) and another strike looms, look no farther than Brady Anderson. Lucky Brady stood to make $4million this year even if no team had hired him; that's how much he was owed from the guaranteed deal he signed with the Orioles after the '97 season. But then the Indians came along and put a $1.2million cherry on top of that $200,000 in salary (the major league minimum) and an additional $1million to buy out Brady's two option years. Now there's money well spent.
Let's do the math on this one, shall we? In his 34 games with Cleveland, Brady batted .163, slugged .250 and struck out 23 times in 80 at-bats. By my calculations, the Indians paid him:
$57,142.86 for every start (21);
$92,307.69 for every hit (13);
$240,000 for every RBI (five);
$300,000 for every run (four);
and $600,000 for every sideburn (two).
Who else besides Alex Rodriguez, maybe figures to be so well compensated this season? And we're not talking about bad luck here. We're not talking about a team signing a player and then he suddenly gets hurt or unexpectedly grows old. All of Brady's parts are reportedly in working order; indeed, he has four stolen bases in as many attempts. And as for him growing old, there's nothing the least bit unexpected about it. He hit .236 in '98 and .257 in '00 before sinking even lower last year. If that doesn't scream "buyer beware," I don't know what does.
But the Indians, in need of a center fielder to replace Kenny Lofton, chose to ignore the warnings and signed Brady anyway. Soon enough, though, it became clear that last season's drop-off was no aberration. A slow April (9-for-41, .220) was followed by an even slower May (4-for-39, .103), and finally his struggling club ran out of patience with him. (Ironically, the beginning of the end was probably the game at Camden Yards on May 7, when Brady whiffed on all four trips to the plate.)
"It got to the [point] where it was hard for him to catch up with a pitch," Manuel said the day Brady was let go.
Truly a story for our times, don't you think? Good-but-not-great player has a magical 50-homer season. Drops off to previous levels the next year (18 dingers, 73 RBI, .288 average), but the team still rewards him with a five-year, $31million contract. Team releases him before the deal is up at a cost of $4million but another club eagerly hands him $1.2million for what turns out to be two months' work.
And the owners have the audacity to blame the players for the game's financial woes. The biggest problem, of course, is that baseball doesn't know the value of a dollar. It eats $4million salaries like so many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, hands out $1million buyouts as if they're lollipops. And each time it does this, it distances itself from the fans a little further.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer ran a poll on its Web site yesterday, asking readers how they felt about Brady's dismissal. Fifty-seven percent said the Indians "never should have signed him." Another 32 percent thought "he should have been cut a month ago." A ringing endorsement for the team's front office not that anyone's listening.
In an interview some years ago, the following question was put to Brady: What would you do if your house caught on fire?
"I would stand in the middle of my weight room with a fire extinguisher," he replied. "The antique furniture can burn, but I will stand in the middle of my gym until the very end."
That's kind of how I see all of baseball at the moment, not just Brady standing there with a fire extinguisher, house aflame.

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