Baseball / Ross Newhan : Can Mariners Find Buyer Who Will Keep the Team in Seattle?

George Argyros is still the owner of the Seattle Mariners, but he's also the future owner of the San Diego Padres.

"I feel like I've been traded for a player to be named later," he was saying here Friday, while watching his Mariners play the Angels.

The question is: Will there be a player to be named?

Or put another way: Will that player be found in Seattle?

If the answers seem elusive, it is because the search for local ownership may prove to be, too.

The Mariners have failed to reach .500 in all 10 of their seasons, never finishing higher than fourth in the American League West.

They drew 1,029,045 last year and have never drawn more than 1,338,511.

Argyros, whose home and business headquarters are in Newport Beach, bought the Mariners for $13 million in 1981 after a futile Seattle search for local ownership.

Will it be any different now? Will the local yachtsmen be rushing to submit their bids?

Or is it more reasonable to believe that Marvin Davis will buy the club and move it to Denver?

Or that the Tampa-St. Petersburg group will nail it and mail it home?

Or that New Orleans will provide another indoor base for the American League?

"Our goal is local ownership; that's what we're hoping for and shooting for," Dr. Bobby Brown, the American League president, said here this weekend.

But even if local ownership is found, can the Mariners stay afloat there?

"Unless Seattle has a chance to support a contending club, you can't make a judgment," Brown said.

"To this point, the area has never had a true chance to show what it can do. The Mariners have had teams with potential, but that potential has never been realized.

"I have no reason to think it can't or wouldn't support a contending team. It certainly has supported the football team, and it would be the only market of that size to have failed to support a baseball team--if, in fact, that was to happen."

The Mariners' Kingdome lease runs through 1996. An agreement worked out before last season requires that the team be sold only to local interests in the first 120 days after it is offered for sale. Then, if sold to out-of-town interests, the Seattle area gets another 10 days to produce a buyer before a deal can be completed.

The club can be moved if it fails to draw a total of 2.8 million in 1986 and '87, a two-year figure it has never achieved--but the city and King County can block the move by buying the necessary tickets during a 15-day period after the club's announcement that it intends to move.

Argyros said here that he will accept less from a prospective Seattle buyer than from someone who may move it. Either way, however, he seems to face a long wait for that player to be named.

Reporters covering the New York Mets presented outfielder Darryl Strawberry with an alarm clock after he overslept and missed a recent workout. Strawberry was fined by Manager Davey Johnson and publicly criticized by several teammates, who said it was time Strawberry woke up and grew up.

The apologetic Strawberry said he appreciated the clock but that what he would like most is a plane ticket to Los Angeles so that he could join the Dodgers. Apparently, he views returning to his hometown as a panacea.

Strawberry has said it before, and that, too, is getting to his teammates.

Said Keith Hernandez:

"He's got to be kidding himself if he thinks it would be better for him in L.A. They have the same rules in L.A. that we have here. You still have to be responsible for your behavior."

Kansas City Royals center fielder Willie Wilson, coming off a poor season and a difficult divorce, has 20 hits in 50 at-bats this spring.

"It's easy to play when you're happy," he said, adding that last spring he found messages from "this lawyer and that lawyer" in the clubhouse and that the divorce clouded his entire season.

"This spring, I just come into the clubhouse and mess around with the fellas," he said.

"The only thing I have to worry about is getting my furniture back."

The quotebook:

San Francisco Giants catcher Bob Brenly, asked if the erratic weather in Arizona has prepared him for Candlestick Park: "Nothing gets you ready for the 'Stick. In that case, you'd have to train in Montana."

Toronto Blue Jays center fielder Lloyd Moseby, on the frequent rumors that he will be traded: "I used to be the toast of Toronto. Now I'm the jam."

Famous last words:

"We like his arm, but he has a personality disorder."

That was Philadelphia PhilliesPresident Bill Giles taking about Chicago White Sox pitcher Joe Cowley a few days before acquiring Cowley for outfielder Gary Redus.

In deciding to live with that personality, the Phillies demonstrated their need for pitching and a continuing skepticism about the ability of the Dodgers' Alejandro Pena to rebound from shoulder problems.

The Dodgers, of course, had been offering Pena for Redus, who will now become the regular White Sox leadoff hitter as the designated hitter, center fielder or left fielder.

Add White Sox: After aborting last year's attempt to move Carlton Fisk to left field, the Sox have been tinkering with Fisk at third base. Fisk, 39, said he has played there.

"I played a whole season there my first year in high school," he said. "Of course, by the time the season started in New Hampshire, we only played 11 games."

Second add White Sox: The recent release of veteran second baseman Julio Cruz is indicative of why the owners have chosen collusion over their previous free spending.

The White Sox must still pay Cruz $900,000 in each of the next three seasons, plus $5 million in deferred money between 1994 and 2009.

Larry Himes, the general manager who released him, was Cruz's first manager at Idaho Falls after Cruz signed with the Angels in 1973.

Said Cruz: "Himes was my first manager and he could be my last general manager."

Said Himes: "I think he signed for a glove and some spikes. He's earned everything he's gotten."

And is still to get?

In three spring games between the Angels and the Oakland A's, Reggie Jackson came to bat only once, as a pinch-hitter. No accident.

"I never wanted to play against Billy (Martin) in the spring, either," he said. "I wanted to play for keeps whenever I faced him."

In his first spring at-bat since returning from knee surgery, Willie McGee popped into a double play with the bases loaded last week. Said St. Louis Cardinals Manager Whitey Herzog: "I don't compare it to Ted Williams coming back from the service."

Quickies:

--Atlanta Braves General Manager Bobby Cox reportedly won a power struggle with Manager Chuck Tanner last week, firing iconoclastic pitching coach Johnny Sain, who became the scapegoat for the Braves' pathetic pitching. Bruce Dal Canton replaced Sain.

--Joaquin Andujar, who has a strained elbow, will join Moose Haas, who has a strained rotator cuff, on Oakland's opening-day disabled list. That leaves the A's with a rotation of Chris Codiroli, Eric Plunk, Jose Rijo, Dave Stewart and Chris Young, who have combined for 120 major league wins, two fewer than Andujar.

--It was a non-business lunch between old friends, but when Steve Carlton and Ron Schueler, the A's assistant general manager, got together in Arizona last week, there were inevitable rumors that Oakland was about to sign Carlton. Said A's General Manager Sandy Alderson: "I'd say it's a wild, idiotic and stupid rumor, except that we started it."

--Rick Rhoden gives the New York Yankees some much needed pitching help, but the Pittsburgh Pirates might not have done badly in that deal. Former Yankees Doug Drabek and Brian Fisher have allowed one run in 26 spring innings.

--And can the Yankees win with six ex-Pirates on their roster? They are Pat Clements, Willie Randolph, Joel Skinner, Cecilio Guante, Jay Buhner and Rhoden.

--Len Dykstra's .147 batting average as of Friday and his nonchalant spring attitude prompted manager Johnson to say that Mookie Wilson, batting .401, would be the Mets' center fielder if the season started tomorrow.

--The Texas Rangers have decided that touted second baseman Jerry Browne isn't ready and are now weighing alternatives. Among them: signing Bob Horner and moving third baseman Steve Buechele to second; moving Buechele and using a platoon of fringe players at third; trading for either Vance Law of the Montreal Expos or Glenn Hubbard of Atlanta.

--San Francisco farm director Carlos Alfonso rushed to the living quarters of several young Dominican players when they informed him that they had been unable to start their microwave with a cigarette lighter.

--Tonny Cohen, a 21-year-old right-hander from the Netherlands, paid his way to Florida for a tryout with Pittsburgh, who recommended that he join his country's Olympic team. Cohen said he preferred to turn pro and was signed to a Macon farm contract. The Dutchman does not use a windmill windup.

--Florida freshman Jamie McAndrew didn't like the home run trot that the Yankees' Rickey Henderson laid on him in an exhibition game last week. "If this had been a Southeastern Conference game and a guy did that, I'd have decked him next time up," McAndrew said.

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