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Sheldon Ocker’s The Write Stuff


I’ve been reading you for years and was shocked by this. Is it really true?

Michael Pordan

Dear Michael:

What you are referring to is my statement that former Indians General Manager John Hart low-balled Albert Belle in contract negotiations, knowing that another team would offer more and Belle would no longer be the Indians’ problem.

This happened when Belle became eligible for free agency after the 1996 season. As I recall, Hart offered $40 million for five years, which was a below-market offer.

Belle ended up going to the White Sox for $40 million plus a signing bonus and other incentives. When that deal ultimately expired, it had paid Belle more than $56 million.

According to Baseball Reference, Belle earned more than $97 million in his career, and the Tribe continued to have success without him, including playing in the 1997 World Series. That made it a win-win situation.

Sheldon Ocker


I think your article on Chris Perez is pretty much spot on, with one big exception: Your comment about John Hart low-balling Albert Belle.

Go look it up. His offer was the highest free-agent contract offer in baseball history, I believe $43.5 million over five years. The White Sox offered $55 million over five.

Any offer that is the highest in the game at the time can’t be considered low-ball.

Stuart Davidson

Raleigh, N.C.

Dear Stuart:

I don’t recall whether Hart’s offer was the highest ever to that point in time, and it doesn’t matter.

Hart knew it was less than market value for arguably the No. 1 slugger in baseball, and he knew that at least one team would top it. That’s the definition of “low-ball” to me.



Watching Ubaldo Jimenez walk off the field, I noticed something in his gait that prompts this note. Being someone whose own need for orthotics was not discovered until the plus-50 side of life, I am wondering whether he is flat-footed and a need for orthotics has yet to be determined. Orthotics do wondrous things for one’s balance and stability.

Bill Bradley

Dear Bill:

I thought orthotics was a technique used to keep sportswriters from putting their feet in their mouths.



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