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Surge Policy

Evaluating a walk year is a risky business

IF EVER there's atime for a player to walk the walk, it's right before he's about to walk. Casein point: Rafael Furcal (right). The Dodgers shortstop becomes a free agentafter the 2008 season, and if he keeps playing over his head, he figures tocash in. Furcal is hitting .366 and is on pace for 25 homers and 81 RBIs—whichwould all easily be career bests. It's a fine walk-year performance, but onethat suitors should be wary of. Consider these dubious signings.

(1976 ORIOLES: 20--7, 2.67 ERA)
THE WALK YEAR: Finished eighth in the Cy Young voting in his first year as astarter.
THE REWARD: Ten years, $2.3 million from the Indians.
THE RESULT: Became the Godfather of Bad Free-Agent Pickups. He narrowly missedlosing 20 games in his first season in Cleveland, then had his career cut shortby rotator-cuff problems.

(1989 PADRES: 4--3, 1.85, 44 saves)
THE WALK YEAR: Became perhaps the most obscure Cy Young winner ever.
THE REWARD: Four years, $13 million from the Royals.
THE RESULT: Return to oblivion. His ERA ballooned to 5.11 in '90, and he savedjust 11 games the rest of his career.

(2004 MARLINS: 18--8, 3.00)
THE WALK YEAR: A righty prospect whose best season had been 12--13, he lopped1.3 runs off his ERA and was a stud in the postseason.
THE REWARD: Four years, $39.95 million from the Yankees.
THE RESULT: Limited to 19 starts by injuries to his shoulder, buttocks, elbow,back and ribs. "Every time we think we have something solved, somethingelse pops up," then Yankees manager Joe Torre said in '07. "You justsort of shake your head."

(2000 ROCKIES: .335, 20 HRs, 106 RBIs)
THE WALK YEAR: The journeyman outfielder hit 60 points higher and drove in 51more runs than he ever had in a full season.
THE REWARD: Three years, $21.75 million from the Brewers.
THE RESULT: Released in 2003. "It shows you have to be careful withlong-term contracts," said Milwaukee G.M. Doug Melvin, about three yearstoo late.

(2003 BRAVES: .328, 43 HRs, 109 RBIs)
THE WALK YEAR: Set a major league record for homers by a catcher.
THE REWARD: Three years, $22.5 million from the Orioles.
THE RESULT: Hit just 46 homers in 21/2 years before he was shipped to Bostonfor a prospect.

(2003 ORIOLES-GIANTS: 17--12, 3.75)
THE WALK YEAR: The Aruban became Sir Sidney after Queen Beatrix of theNetherlands knighted him following his career-best season.
THE REWARD: Three years, $22.5 million from the Orioles.
THE RESULT: After two rough years—he spent 11 days in an Aruban jail forassaulting a judge and got two DUIs while sporting an ERA near 6.00— the O'svoided his contract, citing the morals clause.