Big Deals? He Isn't Just Blowing Smoke

The Padres have three Jacks. Murphy's the place, McKeon's the boss and Clark's the new hired hand. Jacks to open. So, raise them. Raise the Padres in the National League West Division standings for 1989. Raise them into contention with the Dodgers. These guys just dealt themselves into the race.

On one side of the dining room inside San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium the other day stood General Manager/Manager/Mad Trader Jack McKeon, wearing an expensive blue suit, smoking an expensive cigar, looking like a canary who had just ate a cat.

He had just swung a trade with the New York Yankees that brought him the slugger he needed, Clark, in exchange for three players he no longer particularly needed, Lance McCullers, Stan Jefferson and Jimmy Jones.

What were other general managers around baseball saying?

"They said, 'Well, Jack, you did it again. You got started early.' Hey, the early bird gets the worm," McKeon said.

Any more big deals we should know about?

"No," McKeon said.

Then he glanced at his wristwatch theatrically, and added:

"Not yet."

The very next day, he pulled off a deal with the Detroit Tigers that brought the Padres a starting pitcher they very definitely needed, Walt Terrell, in exchange for two players they probably no longer needed, Keith Moreland and Chris Brown.

Any more big deals we should know about?

"I'd still like to get another hitter," McKeon said. "I'll get him, too."

McKeon is in good spirits. He runs the San Diego show now. Larry Bowa is out of the dugout. Chub Feeney is out of the executive offices. The Padres are feeling young and frisky and ready to go to another World Series, 5 years after their last one. Everything's fun again at the friars' club.

"Should I do the Lasorda?" McKeon asked, dancing a twist.

Tom Lasorda had just done some Chubby Checker-like clean dancing on the steps of City Hall in downtown Los Angeles to celebrate the World Series. Promised McKeon: "If we win next year, I'll dance, too. And better than him."

The Padres are in that kind of mood. As soon as batting champion Tony Gwynn heard about the big trade McKeon made, he said: "If we'd had Jack Clark last year, right now we'd be riding (in a parade) through downtown San Diego."

Making his first visit to San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium as an official member of the order of monks last Thursday was Clark, who wore a gray suit, tan moccasins and a green tie with sea birds on it. He was thankful to be out of New York, and doubly thankful to be back in the National League. So thankful, he even thanked George Steinbrenner, which few baseball players do.

"I'm very grateful to George," Clark said. "He could have traded me to anybody, just to get the deal done. Instead, he sent me where I wanted to go."

Clark loathed the American League. After 9 seasons at San Francisco and 3 at St. Louis, he felt lost. He considered Fenway Park in Boston "a joke," where in batting practice, even "broken bats (less than solid hits) ended up in the (screen above the left-field wall)."

When Clark heard he might be traded to the Philadelphia Phillies, he urged his agent to speed the deal along. "Anything, just get me back," Clark said. "Everything wasn't quite up to par in that league. I'm a National Leaguer at heart."

He had heard that the Dodgers were interested, both before the September stretch drive and during the postseason, and Clark was interested in them. "After (John) Tudor got hurt, maybe they felt they couldn't afford the pitching they'd need to trade," Clark said. "Or maybe they were too distracted with the World Series and all."

Anyway, San Diego acted fast, and landed him. Which was fine with Clark. "To me, it's as if God said, 'You've been a good guy. You deserve a break. You deserve to have things nice again," Clark said.

"I'm excited. I feel like I'm going to hit a lot of baseballs here."

The Padre lineup, at last, has more than just Gwynn. It is no longer a dog-and-Tony show.

And McKeon isn't done yet.

There are free agents to be had, although names cannot be named until these agents file to be free. Mike Schmidt doesn't interest McKeon. Mike Marshall? Sorry. He can't say.

And, there are trades to be made. Trader Jack can't wait. Everybody wants one of his catchers, either All-Star Benito Santiago or superstar of tomorrow Sandy Alomar Jr.

Talk to anybody yet?

"Hey, I got the player!" McKeon hollered. "Why should I have to talk to them ? Tell them to talk to me."

Jack's wild.

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