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A stroll though acrimonious arbitration history

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With salary arbitration upon us this week — filing day is Tuesday, with salary figures exchanged on Friday — here is a look back at some memorable Dodgers cases from over three decades ago.

In 1982, Dodgers outfielder Pedro Guerrero hit .304/.378/.536 with 32 home runs, 100 RBI and 22 stolen bases, the first Dodger ever with 30 home runs and 20 steals in a season. He finished third in National League MVP voting, not bad for a first full, non-strike-shortened season.

After making $275,000 in 1982, Guerrero sought a raise to $750,000 in 1983. The Dodgers countered at $600,000. It was an expensive offseason for the Dodgers that winter, who also saw Fernando Valenzuela after only two seasons ask for a record $1 million in arbitration, up from the $360,000 he earned in 1982. The Dodgers offered $750,000.

Valenzuela won his arbitration case, while Guerrero lost. Guerrero was not happy.

"I'm very upset by it," Guerrero said, as recalled by Tim Kurkjian of the Dallas Morning News a year later. "They're wrong, that's all."

But Guerrero didn't stop there, also adding, "I hope the jerk that made the decision, the arbitrator, dies."

In 1983, Guerrero moved to third base and hit .298/.373/.531 with 32 home runs, 103 RBI and 23 steals. He finished fourth in MVP voting, and avoided arbitration with a five-year, $7 million contract, the richest contract in Dodgers history at the time.

"I hope the jerk that made the decision, the arbitrator, dies." -Pedro Guerrero, 1983

In 1985, Orel Hershiser shined in his second full season, going 19-3 with a 2.03 ERA, finishing third in NL Cy Young Award balloting. That earned him a raise from $212,000 in 1984 and like Valenzuela three years earlier won $1 million in arbitration, beating the Dodgers' offer of $600,000.

Hershiser followed that with a rather pedestrian 1986, going 14-14 with a 3.86 ERA for a 73-win Dodgers team. Hershiser was worse in 1986, but peripherally wasn't that much worse. FIP wasn't invented yet, but the difference between 1985 (2.73) and 1986 (3.36) wasn't as stark.

But with $1 million as his salary baseline, Hershiser sought a raise to $1.1 million in 1987. The Dodgers countered at $800,000, the maximum 20-percent cut allowed by the collective bargaining agreement.

"Some people have a career year early and that doesn't mean he should be paid for that one year the rest of his career," Dodgers general manager Al Campanis told Tracy Ringolsby of the Dallas Morning News. "Guys got huge raises and might be one-year pops, like the guy with Detroit (Mark Fidrych) who talked to the ball."

At the time, only one player to date had taken a paycut through salary arbitration — pitcher Aurelio Lopez made $286,000 in 1982 but after a 5.27 ERA in 19 games in a season that also saw him demoted to Triple-A, he lost in arbitration in 1983, earning $250,000.

Hershiser became the second in arbitration to take a paycut.

"There's no hard feelings," Campanis told the Associated Press. "I was in the arbitration (when arguments were made Thursday) and after it was over he came over and we shook hands, and he put his arm around me."

Unlike Guerrero four years earlier, Hershiser was a little more savvy, declining to wish death upon arbitrator Ray Goetz. In fact, Hershiser expressed support for the arbitration process.

"The arbitrator made it clear when he brought his decision down that he didn't view it as a cut. I think the weight fell on what was my '86 season worth, not what I got paid in '85," Hershiser told the Associated Press. "Instead of your salary being just decided by the club, you're allowed to go to a neutral party."

Last spring, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly recalled some contentious arbitration battles with Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, but said as a player he never took anything personally. But several players do, especially when during an arbitration hearing they hear things said by the team about them that are less than flattering.

Like when Mike Scioscia finished second in the National League with a .407 on-base percentage in 1985, only to hear the Dodgers argue during his arbitration hearing the next winter that the slow-footed catcher actually got on base too much, and was hurting the offense while clogging up the bases.

Greg Brock hit .251/.332/.438, a 118 OPS+ with 21 home runs and 66 RBI for the Dodgers in 1985, his third year as the Dodgers first baseman. It would be Brock's best season, but he continually suffered from not being Steve Garvey, despite putting up better numbers than post-Dodgers Garvey.


Greg Brock, during a happier moment (Photo: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports)

Heading into 1986, Brock not only had to battle the shadow of a Dodgers superstar, but also had the looming specter of 1982 first-round pick Franklin Stubbs, who hit .280/.398/.597 with 32 home runs for Triple-A Albuquerque in 1985.

Brock through arbitration asked for $440,000, a raise from the $150,000 he earned in 1985. The Dodgers countered at $325,000, and prevailed in the case. It wasn't the loss that irked Brock — after all, he received a 117-percent raise — but rather that Dodgers attorney Bob Walker saying during the hearing that Brock might not be the Dodgers first baseman in 1986.

"I had to listen to a guy (Walker) who doesn't know a thing about baseball telling me I have to make the team this spring and prove I can hit left-handers," Brock said, per wire reports in the Eugene Register-Guard.

"Obviously I don't want to play every other day. I want to be the first baseman. I'm going to be the first baseman," Brock said. "I just want them to treat me fairly. If they've made the decision, I want them to let me know."

At least Brock didn't wish death upon the arbitrator, Tom Roberts.