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Walker a winner in arbitration hearing

Walker a winner in arbitration hearing

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Todd Walker was an arbitration winner on Wednesday, and he said he owes it all to the unyielding support of his younger brother Mark, a CPA with a head for numbers and a heart for competition.

A panel of three arbiters in Phoenix ruled in the player's favor against the San Diego Padres, awarding Walker $3.95 million for the 2007 season.

The Padres submitted an offer of $2.75 million, and Mark Walker prevailed over the consensus in the Walker camp in driving through a process Walker compared to a trial with each side given 30 minutes to present its case, followed by a rebuttal to the other side.

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Even the Major League Players Association encouraged Walker to take the team's compromise proposal about an hour before Tuesday's hearing, the veteran infielder said.

"The union said we were underdogs," Walker said. "Out of about 100 people in my camp, Mark was the only one telling me we could win -- to the point of being the enemy. I thought he was dead wrong; I'm a peacemaker. He was the sole reason we went to trial.

"It was a big, big validation for what he's done and said to me over my life in baseball. I likened it to Christopher Columbus saying the Earth was round when everybody else thought it was flat. Turns out the Earth was round. It turns out he's Christopher Columbus. He's a self-proclaimed genius."

Mark Walker, who has an office in Newport Beach, Calif., also serves the financial interests of Boston's David Ortiz and Minnesota's Torii Hunter, who "have been pleased with what he's done," Todd said.

Across the table, representing the Padres, were club general counsel Katie Pothier, director of baseball operations Jeff Kingston, and general manager Kevin Towers, who did not have a verbal presence in the hearings.

"No hard feelings," Towers said. "I don't care how good you feel or how poorly you feel when your case is presented, it's arbitrary. I always try to find a silver lining. I thought our side did a great job in the presentation of the case. It was a good learning experience for people like Jeff and Katie."

Walker praised the club for "handling everything with class, the whole organization."

The contract is not guaranteed, meaning the Padres can buy out Walker and make him a free agent if he doesn't make the club in Spring Training. A starter at second base most of his 10-year career, he's ticketed for a bench role, backing up at second, third and first and pinch-hitting.

"We're here to put the best 25 guys on the field to contend [in the National League West]," Towers said. "If Todd Walker's one of our better 25 and makes us a better ballclub, we want him on the club."

Walker acknowledged that he could end up elsewhere, emphasizing that he wants to play with a club he feels is capable of winning a World Series.

"I've been traded [four] times, so I know anything's possible," he said. "I just know the lower your [salary] number, the more likely you'll get moved. I enjoyed the playoffs last year and want to be part of this club."

Walker, 33, played 44 games with the Padres last year after arriving in a trade deadline deal with the Cubs. He batted .278 overall, with nine homers and 53 RBIs, and is a .289 career hitter.

"I think that's what won it, the length and consistency of my career," Walker said. "It wasn't last year. This is my 10th year. It puts a benchmark on what you should be making."

Walker felt his brother's statistical data was the foundation of the winning case.

"He has no street smarts," Todd said, grinning. "It's all numbers, and he was so confident. He said we had a 95 percent chance of winning, and all of us believed it was 50-50."

This was the team's first arbitration hearing since 1998, when they engaged Joey Hamilton, losing that case as well.

The club's two other potential arbitration cases were settled when shortstop Khalil Greene agreed to a $2.25 million contract for 2007, and catcher Josh Bard accepted a $1.05 million, one-year deal.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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