Wiggins Says He’s Addicted, No Trade Yet
‘I totally accept the fact that I’m powerless, that I’m chemically addicted. Basically, that is the first step of the program. . . . The process of rehabilitation is a lifetime process that’s taken one day at a time. I realize that, and I’m willing to do it. . . . It’s a lifetime disease. You’re never cured, and it’s something you have to work on for the rest of your life.’
On a day Padre second baseman Alan Wiggins admitted his chemical dependency, he remained in limbo. The Padres, who maintain Wiggins will never play for them again, were unable to trade him Wednesday, leaving Wiggins with no team and no news.
Earlier in the day, Wiggins had made his first public appearance since entering a drug treatment center 46 days ago, and, his agent, Tony Attanasio, ended their press conference by saying: “I am told there are possibilities that it all could be resolved today.”
But those possibilities faded when Baltimore Oriole officials, who had met Tuesday with Wiggins and Attanasio in Washington, became more concerned with replacing their manager, Joe Altobelli, than acquiring Wiggins.
Edward Bennett Williams, owner of the Baltimore Orioles, met Wednesday in Washington with former manager Earl Weaver amid mounting speculation that Joe Altobelli will be fired as manager and replaced by Weaver, possibly as early as today.
Jack McKeon, the Padre general manager, said he heard from the Orioles early Wednesday, but never heard back. He said other teams called him about Wiggins, but he would not identify the teams, saying he didn’t want to jeopardize potential trades.
“I’m less optimistic about doing something (with Baltimore) now than I was before,” McKeon said Wednesday afternoon, just three days before the trading deadline. “But that’s at this hour. And that’s how deals are made. You go through peaks and valleys. They (the Orioles) are still determining what they want.
“If Baltimore wants to make a deal, I’m sitting by the phone. . . . If they (the Orioles) are serious about Wiggins, they better get on the ball. Whoever gives us the best deal, we’ll take it. I’m not saying Baltimore is at the bottom of the list, but there are others I know I can do something with.”
Oriole officials were unavailable for comment Wednesday night, but the reason for Baltimore’s delay seems obvious. With the managerial decision being made, Wiggins has become secondary.
Acquiring Wiggins would not be an easy task, considering his contract had $1.65 million in deferred payments. He makes $150,000 in 1985, $250,000 in 1986, $350,000 in 1987 and $350,000 in 1988. Plus, there is a $150,000 signing bonus. That totals $1.25 million, but the money goes into a reserve account at 8% interest, starting Jan. 15 after the year he retires.
He will be given $100,000 annually for the first 10 years after retirement, and then be given the rest of the money ($650,000) in the 11th year. The added burden may hinder a trade, sources say.
If the Padres are unable to trade Wiggins soon, they will be pressured by the owners’ Player Relations Committee. Sources say, the PRC would probably ask the Padres to send Wiggins to the minor leagues so he can begin physical rehabilitation.
But Ballard Smith, the Padre president, said: “The PRC doesn’t run our business. They don’t have the authority.”
Lee MacPhail, president of the PRC, refused comment.
Wiggins, who was accompanied by Attanasio and another of his lawyers, Sergio Feria, looked fit at his press conference at a San Diego health club. And he wore a Padre 1984 National League Championship ring on his hand and a Padre pin on his suit coat.
“I have a home here,” Wiggins said. “I have a family here. I’m from the West Coast. Yes, I’d prefer to play in San Diego. But then again, I’d just like to play again.”
He told little of his involvement with drugs, refusing to explain his disappearance from a Los Angeles hotel April 25.
“That is not germane to this conference,” Attanasio said.
But Wiggins did read a prepared statement that Attanasio said was written exclusively by Wiggins. In that statement, he admitted that he had suffered from “the disease of chemical dependency.”
"(It is) one in which I have no power over,” he wrote. “And this includes alcohol.”
He also wrote that he had not meant to hurt his teammates, Padre owner Joan Kroc, Smith, McKeon or the San Diego Police Department, which he had previously helped in drug abuse clinics.
“In summary, please allow me to tell you that I’m fortunate,” he wrote. “I’m lucky to have been educated, although the hard way. I’m lucky to be a professional athlete, playing in a game that allows financial rewards for hard work, effort, and yes, even with occasional failures.”
Later, when answering questions, he said: “I totally accept the fact that I’m powerless, that I’m chemically addicted. Basically, that is the first step of the program. . . . The process of rehabilitation is a lifetime process that’s taken one day at a time. I realize that, and I’m willing to do it.
“It’s a lifetime disease. You’re never cured, and it’s something you have to work on for the rest of your life.”
It is Wiggins’ personality not to open up to his teammates, and, in retrospect, he said he would try to change. He had been hitting .054 when he left the team, and Attanasio has said that, in itself, disturbed Wiggins. But none of his teammates knew how much so.
“I think it’s something we all tend to do--suppress our feelings,” Wiggins said. “And some people do it in greater magnitude than others. It’s a behavior I’ve looked into and learned about.”
(During a news conference Wednesday, Alan Wiggins’ agent, Tony Attanasio, gave a chronology of events since the time Wiggins left the Padres on April 25.)
April 26--At 2:45 a.m., Padre General Manager Jack McKeon reaches Alan Wiggins’ agent, Tony Attanasio, by phone. Attanasio, who is in Princeton, N.J., visiting his son, is told Wiggins has disappeared. He knows nothing of it.
Attanasio reaches Wiggins for the first time 10 to 15 hours after McKeon contacts him.
It’s determined that Wiggins requires medical assistance. The Padres suggest that he enter Hazelden Foundation in Center City, Minn. Attanasio and Wiggins concur.
April 27--Wiggins enters Hazelden.
May 24--Wiggins speaks with Padre President Ballard Smith for the first time, a casual conversation that lasts about 90 seconds. They agree to meet Monday morning, May 27, in Attanasio’s San Diego office.
May 25--Wiggins leaves Hazelden and arrives in Los Angeles, where he visits his family.
May 26--Wiggins arrives in San Diego.
Attanasio speaks with Smith, who says he has been advised by his lawyers not to attend the May 27 meeting. Smith tells Attanasio that all further contacts will be with Beth Benes, the Padre general counsel.
Attanasio sends Smith, McKeon and Padre owner Joan Kroc a telegram that says Wiggins is ready and willing and able to play and should be removed from the “Rehabilitation List.”
The head physician at Hazelden sends a “back to work letter” for Wiggins to the Padres.
May 27--Benes tells Attanasio that Wiggins should not report to the Padres.
Negotiations begin as to when Wiggins will be classified as physically ready to play, since Attanasio has been told by Hazelden that Wiggins is medically ready to play.
May 28--The Padres say they want him examined by their doctor. Attanasio agrees.
Undetermined date--The Padres say they need medical records (psychological evaluations) from Hazelden before they can have him examined. Attanasio disagrees. He won’t turn them over.
Attanasio informs Benes that they’ve requested that the matter be turned over to the Joint Review Counsel. Benes says she understands. The counsel meeting is set for June 5, but the Padres request that it be moved to June 10 since Smith is out of the country.
June 5--Wiggins, at his own expense, sees an internist for a physical, and the results are given to the Joint Review Counsel.
June 9--Attanasio, Wiggins and Wiggins’ attorney, Sergio Feria, fly to New York City for the Joint Review Counsel meeting.
June 10--The Joint Review Counsel rules Wiggins is medically fit to play baseball and has been since his discharge from Hazelden.
June 11--Wiggins and Attanasio fly to Washington, where they meet with Baltimore Oriole President Edward Bennett Williams and General Manager Hank Peters. Later, they fly back to San Diego.
June 12--Wiggins has press conference.