Originally created 05/08/00

Gonzalez, Tigers put negotiations on hold



DETROIT -- Juan Gonzalez says contract talks with the Detroit Tigers are on hold, for now. The two-time American League MVP just wants to concentrate on lifting himself and the Tigers from slumps.

"I don't want to talk about any contract," Gonzalez said Monday before the Tigers' game with the Kansas City Royals. "I want to concentrate on baseball."

A day earlier, following a 4-0 loss in Minnesota, Gonzalez had given the impression that he wouldn't negotiate again until the end of the season. He has softened his stance considerably on that point.

"I don't know when," Gonzalez said. "Maybe before the All-Star game, maybe after the All-Star game. Maybe after the season.

"Right now, everything is quiet."

That is mainly because both Gonzalez and the Tigers are in miserable slumps.

Nothing great was expected of the Tigers this season. Still, hardly anyone expected Detroit to get off to a 9-21 start, the worst record in the major leagues.

But almost nobody expected Gonzalez, who hit .326 with 39 homers and 128 RBI last season, to slump as badly as his new teammates. Gonzalez, obtained in a trade Nov. 2 with the Texas Rangers, was hitting .227 with four homers and eight RBI -- only four in the past three weeks -- heading into the three-game series with the Royals.

Randy Smith, the Tigers' general manager, met with Gonzalez earlier Monday to assure him the team's slump wasn't the slugger's fault. Smith said his meeting with Gonzalez had been scheduled long before the outfielder's comments concerning negotiations.

Gonzalez, who can become a free agent at the end of the season, has been offered a Detroit contract worth a reported $140 million over eight years.

"My priorities right now are baseball, baseball, baseball," Gonzalez said. "I am happy here. The only thing I am unhappy about is our record."