Bill Stoneman's scorched-earth approach to salary arbitration once led Moises Alou to suggest that if the then-vice president of the Montreal Expos "pitched the way he arbitrated, he'd be in the Hall of Fame." When Jeff Fassero's agents, the Levinson brothers, beat Stoneman, they were so happy that they offered a copy of their presentation to reporters.
Alex Anthopoulos is aware of Stoneman's reputation, but with tomorrow's deadline for teams and arbitration-eligible players to exchange salary offers, the Toronto Blue Jays general manager said his pledge not to negotiate with players after this date was not his version of stoney silence.
"It's not intended to be adversarial," e-mailed Anthopoulos, who has six pitchers - Shaun Marcum, Casey Janssen, Brian Tallet, Jason Frasor, Shawn Camp and Jeremy Accardo - eligible for arbitration.
But there will be no "court-house steps settlement" just minutes before the two sides walk into a hearing room. Under J.P. Ricciardi, the Blue Jays seldom went to a hearing because Ricciardi had little interest in the guts of the process, preferring to let it meander. Not Anthopoulos, who for the past three springs received observer status in hearings when they were held during spring training in Florida. One of those, involving Ryan Howard and the Philadelphia Phillies, was of particular interest because Howard and his representative, Casey Close, were known for aggressiveness.
The withering of the free-agent market means the arbitration process is a more significant means of raising salary levels across the board. The case to watch this year will be that of Tim Lincecum, the San Francisco Giants' two-time Cy Young Award winner who is expected to break the $10-million (U.S.) barrier in his first year of eligibility. Folks in Jesus Land are thrilled that Florida's proselytizing quarterback prospect, Tim Tebow, and his mother will plug a pro-life message in a $2.8-million (U.S.) Super Bowl television commercial footed by Focus On The Family. The story is that Tebow's mother, Pam, was counselled to have an abortion due to illness on a mission to the Philippines. She decided against it; that child was Tim. There are lessons here but not the ones put out by some right-wing Christian group. But isn't that the Super Bowl? The U.S. at its worst. Simeon Jackson update: Canada's soccer player of the year was linked this week with an imminent transfer move to League One side Leeds United. But with the incumbent striker at Elland Road, Jermaine Beckford, now apparently unwilling to let the club sell him, Leeds's interest is less certain. With money seemingly tight in England's top divisions, Jackson's bargain prices (less than £3-million) might open the door for a more substantial move for the Gillingham striker. Garbage Time: "Free Alex Burrows" continues to be the call from the grassy knolls on the west coast, with The Province running an article wondering why NHL asylum superintendent Colin Campbell didn't interview Vancouver Canucks backup Andrew Raycroft, "a key witness," because Burrows apparently told him about referee Stéphane Auger's alleged threat. Campbell, rightly, said he didn't consider a teammate to be a neutral party. … The Blue Jays will have a scout at tomorrow's workout by free-agent pitcher Ben Sheets, but he's all but signed by the Chicago Cubs. … Look, the Mike Danton thing is easy: if the Canada Corrections stuff is sorted out and Danton is good enough to play for St. Mary's University and meets whatever academic criteria are necessary, he has the right to play. The whole age issue? Please. That's no more relevant than it was with the University of Manitoba's national championship football team. Just because this involves hockey, it doesn't make it complicated. … The list of franchises mismanaged by Tom Hicks will decrease by one shortly now that baseball commissioner Bud Selig has directly interceded to speed up the sale of the Texas Rangers to a group fronted by Pittsburgh lawyer Chuck Greenberg and Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan.