Thursday, April 7, 2011

Nationals Star Pitcher Walter Johnson Holds Out; Shipped Home

Washington's star pitcher, Walter Johnson, has been shipped from the National's training camp in Atlanta after failing to come to terms with team management on a new contract.  The pitcher won 25 games last season with a 1.36 ERA, making him far and above the best player, let alone pitcher, in what is otherwise a rather lackluster team that finished with a 66-85 record last year and finished next-to-last in the American League.  With hopes dimming that the two sides can come to an agreement before the start of the season and Johnson headed back home to Coffeyville, Kansas, it is unlikely that the Nationals will improve on last year's record.

The news that Nationals manager Jimmy McAleer had sent Johnson home came as a surprise to Nationals team president Thomas Noyes.  He told the Washington Herald that he had not spoken with McAleer about the Johnson situation and that he was confident that Johnson would accept the team's offer as it is the best in the American League.  McAleer believes that Johnson was encouraged by other players in the league to reject the Nationals offer.  Said McAleer at the team's spring training camp in Atlanta:
I have ordered Johnson to quit my club at once.  I do not want him around.  I have tried to reason with him about signing his contract, but he absolutely refuses to come down to the terms the club has offered.  I have never been held up by a ball player in my life, and do not propose to start in now.  The salary we have agreed to pay him--$6,500--is greater than that of any pitcher in the American League.  The club cannot afford to pay more, and Johnson has been plainly told so.  I gave him one more chance this afternoon, and he continued his dogged determination to hold out.  I will make no more advances.  Johnson will have to come to me if he wants to continue in organized baseball.
According to the Herald, while the club has offered a contract of $6,500 for one year, Johnson has demanded $7,500 for one year and has told Team President Noyes that next year he will ask for a three-year, $27,000 contract.  This is the same salary that the best player in baseball, Ty Cobb is currently earning with the Detroit Tigers.  Johnson told the Herald that he "considered his services worth more than the club saw fit to pay."

The Washington Times canvassed fans in Washington about their feelings about the Johnson hold out.  Fans are standing with management in this case:
The news of this action by McAleer startled Washington fandom this morning, and then if the friends of the ball player expected an outburst of sympathy they were sorely disappointed.  Almost to a man the baseball enthusiasts of the city denounced Johnson for his stubborn attempt to get more money, and the management of the team was applauded for the stand it has taken.
Opening day for the Nationals is April 12 when they play at home against the Boston Red Sox.  Walter Johnson was expected to be the opening day pitcher, though that is obviously up in the air now with the pitcher making his way back home to Kansas.  The game will hopefully be played at the new steel-enforced National Park.  The wooden stands at the stadium were destroyed in a fire on March 17.

Link: Nationals Star Pitcher Ordered to Leave Club [The Washington Herald]
Link: Johnson Blamed by Fans for Row Over his Salary [The Washington Times]

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