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Probation irks Easley, Harris

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'Probation' irks Easley, Harris


By Joe Capozzi, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Sunday, April 4, 2004


JUPITER -- Last season with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Damion Easley remembers teammate Al Martin telling him how he nearly started the year with the Florida Marlins.


Martin hit.342 for the Marlins last spring and was a lock for a bench spot. But he signed with the Devil Rays after leaving Jupiter on the final day of camp over a contract disagreement.


Martin had been invited to camp on a minor-league contract, but on the last day he was told he'd win a roster spot on one condition: He had agree to waive his right to refuse an assignment to the minors within the first 45 days of the season.


"He kind of told me how it went down,'' Easley said Saturday. "When I got here, I didn't think about it anymore until it happened to me.''


Easley, who was batting.420 going into Saturday, was told Wednesday that he'd win a bench spot if he signed the same waiver. The same request was made to Lenny Harris, who hit.250 and will retire after the season.


Unlike Martin, both Easley and Harris agreed to the waiver and will open the season Tuesday on Florida's bench. But neither player is happy, a sentiment shared by their teammates, who already were upset that outfielder Brian Banks was released last week just days after he learned he needed knee surgery.


"I'm not real thrilled about it,'' Easley said. "It didn't sit well with me at first. It's not a relaxing situation but at the same time I'm comfortable enough with my abilities that I won't have to worry about it.''


The players' chief gripe: The Marlins should have told Harris and Easley on the day they signed their contracts that the team would ask them in the final days of camp to agree to what amounts to a 45-day probation period.


General Manager Admin Beinfest said recent changes to the basic agreement don't require the Marlins to give the advance notice. Beinfest also said other teams often impose the so-called "45-day policy."


"That's the first time I've ever heard of it,'' said Harris, who broke into the majors in 1988. "The point that a lot of people are talking about is if they bring it up (when the contract is signed), then you at least can say, 'Oh, let me look elsewhere.' "


Easley said he never seriously thought about leaving camp, as Martin did last March before signing with Tampa Bay.


"This late in camp it's always a risky proposition to try to do. Every (team) is set in their rosters. It'd be hard to get released from here and go find a starting job somewhere,'' he said.


Harris and Easley also face pressure of performing well in the first 45 days or losing their major-league job, much like a new employee being on probation.


"You already have pressure when you're trying to come off a bench and win a ball game,'' Harris said. "How much more pressure do you need? But that's the name of the game.''


Both players emphasized that they are not bitter and that they do not want the issue to cause problems


"I still enjoy playing,'' Easley said.


Harris said, "You play the game to enjoy it. You get to the point where you have great years in the big leagues so you look to get rewarded, not have big seasons great years then have to struggle for a contract."


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I side with the players on this one. It only seems fair that if we are not going to keep them on the roster, they should be free to find an ML position elsewhere. Hopefully this will be a non-issue since both should do well...but it sure does set a bad tone to start the season.

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