Blue Jays Owner Weeps over Ainge

Buzzie Bavasi sent his son, Peter, to St. Mary's College in Moraga, Calif. It's obvious now he should have sent him to the Yale Drama School.

Inside the courtroom in New York, the president of the Toronto Blue Jays was on stage. He mugged outrageously on the witness stand, saying how he wept the night Danny Ainge told him he wanted to become a Celtic and how the Celtics are despicable interlopers who are trying to steal his impressionable third baseman away. After catching his act, I have decided that if he can carry a tune he should join the road company of "The Pirates of Penzance."

Bavasi's acting job was superfluous. Judge Lee Gagliardi had narrowed the scope of the trial down to the point where the jurors had little choice but to rule in favor of Toronto and keep Danny Ainge in the clutches of a baseball team for which he no longer wishes to perform, in a profession that no longer interests him. With or without the theatrics, Peter Bavasi was a lock to get what he wanted.

And what, you may rightfully ask, was that?

What Peter Bavasi wanted was a victory over Red Auerbach. He wanted to return to the province of Ontario and tell how he had kept the Bullies of Boston from stealing away their precious .188-hitting third baseman. If Toronto can't win anything on the field, maybe it can win something off the field, by gum.

Bavasi surely couldn't be interested in the welfare of Danny Ainge. He insists that Ainge will play baseball - eat his spinach, as it were - and like it. But Ainge doesn't want to play baseball. "I think I could be a basketball success in a year or two," Ainge says. "It would take me five or six years in baseball. I know that now."

As much as Bavasi weeps and wails about Ainge's so-called "betrayal," the Blue Jays president knew very well that a set of circumstances existed in June that not only made it possible, but likely, that Ainge would wish to play basketball. Ainge had enjoyed a spectacular senior year at Brigham Young in basketball, and was now hitting under .180 in baseball. When he found out he had been drafted by Boston, the case was closed. Bavasi is not dumb. He knew that he was in danger of losing Ainge. But he carried on in front of the jury as if he had just learned that his only daughter had just run off to re-form the Manson Family.

Peter Bavasi admits he told Danny Ainge in May that he should "come and see me" if "you're ever unhappy in your contract." What possible inference could Ainge draw from that statement, other than that Bavasi would be receptive to any Ainge request to change careers, providing financial restitution could be made? Yet when Ainge did declare his intention to play basketball as well as return $300,000 in advance - not "bonus" - money, Bavasi reacted by threatening every legal action known to man.

Bavasi blathers on about the "sanctity of the contract," while villifying Harry Mangurian ("We wouldn't allow anyone like that in our league") and Red Auerbach ("He has no integrity"). This conceivably makes for great reading in Toronto, although I should point out that Ainge is such a big item up there that no newspaper covered the trial.

I'm wondering how long the Blue Jays' Board of Directors will permit Bavasi to savor his triumph before asking him what he plans to do about the situation, other than sit around and smirk. As it stands now, the Blue Jays are out a) one third baseman and b) $300,000 in advance payment on a three- year, $525,000 contract. And one way or the other, they're still in last place.

Peter Bavasi has it within his power to deny Ainge's desire, which is to play for Boston. He can do that by refusing to negotiate a settlement prior to June 9, 1982, when Boston's NBA rights expire. In that event, Red Auerbach will survive, as always. Danny Ainge will survive, too, but he will know for certain what a vindictive person Peter Bavasi really is.

Peter Bavasi is supposed to be acting in the best interests of the Toronto Blue Jays. If paying Danny Ainge $300,000 to sit in Provo, Utah, until June 10, 1982, is an example of his acumen, then I am not at all surprised that the Blue Jays are finishing last for the fifth consecutive season.

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