Rose's serious contractual hassles with the Reds go back to 1975, when the club, according to Katz, forced Rose to take a salary cut after his batting average fell to .284 although he played in 163 games and led the league in doubles and runs. Wagner was named general manager in 1977 and promptly alienated Rose during a contract dispute that spring by taking out advertisements in two local newspapers detailing why the Reds were not meeting his demands. Rose eventually signed for a tidy $365,000 per year, but the ads left him bitter and embarrassed. "That wasn't something I was proud of," admits Wagner. "Pete is the only guy I know who uses the media to negotiate, and that's what we did. When no Cincinnati reporter would write our side of the story, we simply paid to have it told."
If Wagner is concerned that his All-Star third baseman will pack up for greener pastures, he doesn't show it. Shortly after negotiations broke down on Oct. 12, he told Katz that the Reds' final offer was "off the table" and that the next move was Rose's. "When we made Pete that offer, we tried to take all his accomplishments into consideration," says Wagner. "But he wants to be the highest-paid player in the game. He told me that." Wagner does not think Rose is worth it.
Counters Rose, "I've worked as hard as anybody in baseball for 16 years. I've been more consistent than anybody. I reached 3,000 hits faster than any guy in history. I really believe I've reached the top of my profession, and I want to be paid like it. You can agree with me or not, but I don't think you can say I should be the 15th-best-paid player."