Paul Hagen: Young MLB players seem to lean toward secure deals

AROUND THE Texas Rangers, it's known simply as The Talk.

Talented young second baseman Ian Kinsler heard it from All-Star shortstop Michael Young. Young got it from veteran outfielder Rusty Greer. The gist of it is simple: When you approach contract negotiations, take care of your family first. Show a little loyalty to the organization. Worry about playing baseball rather than making every last dollar and everything else will fall into place.

Look, there are no absolutes when it comes to money. Every player has to make up his own mind.

But there seems to be a trend toward rising young stars opting for security even if it means leaving a little money on the table. Or a lot. Rays phenom Evan Longoria recently became the latest to subscribe to that theory, agreeing to a 9-year deal that could be worth as much as $44.5 million.

Now, that's a ton of money for a kid who had played in seven big-league games at the time he signed. So Tampa Bay is taking a real risk. At the same time, if he maxes out, Longoria will earn $11.5 million in 2016, the final year of the contract. That's less than at least 50 players make this year. Of course, at that point, he'll still be only 31 when he becomes eligible for free agency.

As Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman put it: "Some guys prefer to secure at least their first fortune and put themselves in a position to go out and get even deeper in [owner Stuart Sternberg's] wallet."

That, apparently, is the way the Rangers players look at it. Kinsler said that he talked to Young at length before deciding to commit for $22 million over five seasons with just 2 years of big league service.

"A lot of people think Mike took a club-friendly deal [$10 million for 4 years, which he then parlayed into a 5-year, $80 million extension]," he noted this spring. "But the important thing was to make sure he had taken care of his family first and that he could concentrate on just playing baseball. Hopefully this illustrates ... that it's not about dollars."

Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard has been a notable exception to this way of thinking, of course. That doesn't make him wrong. Just that his approach is a little different than a lot of younger players these days.

The hot corner

* Concerns about Braves righthander Tim Hudson's sudden drop in velocity, to 85 from his normal low 90s, proved to be a false alarm. In turns out that he was apparently just suffering the aftereffects of a bad case of the flu.

* Indians Cy Young Award winner C.C. Sabathia is 1-3 with a 10.13 earned run average. He's still throwing 95, but too many of the pitches are up in the strike zone and over the middle of the plate.

* Dodgers manager Joe Torre says centerfielder Andruw Jones is slumping because he's trying to pull everything for home runs. Jones says it's because he's having bad allergy attacks.

Around the bases

* After their 22-inning game in San Diego, the Rockies paid an estimated $3,000 fine to have their charter take off after curfew at Lindbergh Field rather than spend an extra night and leaving the following morning.

* When Fred Lewis homered for the Giants on Monday it was the first by a San Francisco leftfielder since Barry Bonds hit the 762nd and possible final home run of his career last September.

* Mariners closer J.J. Putz came off the disabled list and got a save Tuesday. He thought he avoided getting a shaving-cream pie in the face ... until pitcher Mark Lowe burst from his hiding place behind some shirts in Putz' locker and nailed him. Check out the hilarious video on YouTube.

On deck

CHEERS: For Casey Blake of the Indians. Coming to bat in the seventh inning of a 15-1 blowout of the Royals on Tuesday, Blake needed a triple to complete the cycle. Sure enough, he lined a pitch into the leftfield corner. He could have tried for third. You never know what can happen. Instead, he pulled up at second. "It would have been a dumb play. I would have been out by 20 feet," he said modestly.

Manager Eric Wedge saw it a little differently. "Casey plays the game the right way," he said. "To go for the cycle there would be disrespecting the game. That's not what Casey is about or what we're about."

JEERS: Atlanta Braves fans. At least those who reportedly sucker-punched 52-year-old Bobby Collins as he was leaving a game at Turner Field earlier this season, apparently for no other reason than the fact that he was wearing a Pirates hat.

Collins' had teeth knocked out and suffered a broken jaw among other injuries, and still has his jaw wired shut, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Bobby didn't say squat to those guys. He didn't deserve what he got," a friend, Andy Coggins, who was also at the game, told the paper.

Gee, can you imagine the national reaction if that had happened in Philadelphia?

BY THE NUMBERS:

6: One-run wins for the Orioles in April going into last night; they had 13 all last season.

50: >Wins for Yanks righthander Chien-Ming Wang's first 85 career starts. The last pitcher to reach 50 wins that quickly: Dwight Gooden in '86.

507: Career starts for veteran righthander Mike Mussina, more than the rest of the Yankees rotation combined.

10,000: Wins for the Cubs, after beating the Rockies Wednesday. The lovable losers actually become just the second franchise, after the Giants, to reach five digits in their history. "It was a tough first 10,000 wins. I hope the next 10,000 are easier," joked shortstop Ryan Theriot.

UP NEXT: Greg Maddux had a chance for his milestone 350th career win on Wednesday night. He pitched seven shutout innings and would have picked up the victory if closer Trevor Hoffman hadn't blown the save by giving up a solo homer to Giants catcher Bengie Molina.

Bad news for Maddux, good news for Phillies fans. The future Hall of Famer's next scheduled start is Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park.

Weeklings

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Padres righthander Jake Peavy, on allowing a pair of cheap home runs: "I gave up two 316-foot monster homers. When two balls are hit Williamsport distance and they're both home runs ... sure, when that happens there's going to be frustration."

Peavy, by the way, was talking about Houston's Minute Maid Park, not Citizens Bandbox Park.

MILESTONE OF THE WEEK: Braves righthander John Smoltz became just the 16th pitcher in history to strike out 3,000 batters in his career on Tuesday night.

That's impressive. What's even more impressive is that Smoltz did it despite four elbow surgeries and spending three full seasons as Atlanta's closer.

INSIGHT OF THE WEEK: Sometimes players don't seem to take their lifestyle for granted. Cubs infielder Mark DeRosa isn't one of them, especially after watching a documentary on the team's history.

"Every once in a while teams should be forced to watch stuff like that and realize how much it means to the city and to the ex-players who have been here and how lucky we are to get a chance to put on a uniform and play in front of these people," he told the Chicago Tribune. "Sometimes during the course of the year you hit the dog days and lose sight of the overall goal of what you're playing for. Every once in a while, to pop in a tape like that would fire you up."

T-SHIRT OF THE WEEK: Available at Wrigley Field is a shirt honoring the team's new Japanese star, outfielder Kosuke Fukudome. It says "Fukudome Is My Homie" on the front with the player's name, in Japanese characters, and No. 1 on the back.

Finally

Hank Steinbrenner got most of the attention this week for saying that anyone who didn't think Joba Chamberlain should be in the rotation was an "idiot" (a category that seemed to include his manager and general manager) and that Mike Mussina should try to pitch more like Jamie Moyer ("I don't have a lefty glove," the veteran righthander noted tartly).

But when it comes to meddlesome owners, the Yankees' Baby Boss has nothing on Reds CEO Bob Castellini.

The impatient Castellini fired general manager Wayne Krivsky on Wednesday after just over 2 years on the job. Krivsky replaced Dan O'Brien, who also was sacked by Castellini after two seasons.

The Reds' slow start (9-12) and some deals that resulted in paying players who were no longer with the teams apparently triggered the dismissal. But the reality seems to be that little short of a world championship was going to keep the owner from replacing Krivsky with the respected Walt Jocketty, who he knew from when both were with the Cardinals.

And if that's the case, he should have just gone ahead and made the change during the offseason.

Move over, Hank. You have company. *