Tony Gwynn, the Padre right fielder, kept saying over and over Tuesday how the clubhouse talk doesn’t bother him. He talked about how he’ll shrug off the remarks of teammate Mike Pagliarulo. He even snickered at any thought of retaliation.
He tried to be convincing, but his words lost all credibility when he looked up and his face was contorted with pain.
“You know, I thought I got along with everybody,” he said. “I’ve always tried to do my very best. And God only knows how much I love to win.
“I never thought any of my teammates would ever think of me this way.”
Gwynn stopped, shut his eyes and buried his head in his hands, hiding his hurt.
Gwynn has listened to the criticism of the front office in recent months because of his public dissatisfaction over his contract.
He has listened to the criticism of his playing weight.
He has listened to the criticism of his low RBI production.
Even when you’re a four-time batting champion and a three-time Gold Glove winner, when your team is 18-20--it lost again, 6-1, to the Montreal Expos Tuesday night--you share the blame.
But in Gwynn’s illustrious seven-year career, never has anyone said anything so ugly about him.
And what could be more vicious in a team sport as baseball to be called a selfish player, not caring if your team wins or loses?
Pagliarulo, in an interview published in the New York Daily News, talked about life as an ex-Yankee and was quoted as saying, “He cares only about his hits. If we win, and he goes zero for four, forget it, he’s ticked. If he gets his hits, and we lose, that’s fine with him. He doesn’t give a . . . about this team, and that’s weak. Donnie (Mattingly) would’ve kicked that guy’s ass the first day.”
Pagliarulo never mentioned Gwynn by name in the interview, but the implication was clear. He was referring to Gwynn.
“My gut feeling is that they were directed toward me,” Gwynn said, “and that a lot of guys here think that way.
“Obviously, we’re going through a tough time right now,” Gwynn said. “If we were all doing our job, we’d be winning, wouldn’t we?
“But this, this is tough to swallow. I’ve never been through anything like this before. I’ve never been criticized by one of my teammates in the paper.
“And to have someone say you don’t care about your team, to say I don’t care about winning, is awfully hard to take.
“To have someone actually say I’m selfish, that I think only about myself and not worry about winning, I have to speak out. I have to stand up for my rights.”
Pagliarulo is not the first Padre player to accuse Gwynn of being selfish. In fact, just two months ago in spring training, one of his teammates anonymously incriminated Gwynn for the same offense.
But this was the first time any player has publicly criticized Gwynn, a lifetime .332 hitter who just so happens to be batting .336 this season after going two for four Tuesday with a single and run-scoring triple.
“How can people criticize me for the way I play?” Gwynn said. “Obviously, I must be doing something right to be hitting .300 every year, right?”
“What are these people basing this it on, that when I have a bad game, I get mad at myself? Hey, I’m sure he (Pagliarulo) was real happy when he was struggling, wasn’t he?
“This guy doesn’t even know me, and he’s saying this.”
When asked to elaborate on his comments Tuesday, Pagliarulo declined. Nor would he confirm that he was speaking of Gwynn.
“Let them assume what they want,” Pagliarulo said. “If you’re a team player, you don’t worry about it, do you?”
Gwynn’s critics say there’s a basis for their accusations and, speaking anonymously, they listed them:
--He’s happy after games in which the Padres lose if has a good game, and upset after games in which the Padres win if he has a poor game.
--He refuses to blemish his batting average by moving a runner over with a ground ball to the right side of the infield, and instead bunts runners over to protect his average.
--When a runner on base attempts to steal second, Gwynn will always swing, knowing there’s a bigger gap in the infield defense, even though the base runner might have a great jump for a stolen base.
“Just watch him closely, you’ll see what I’m talking about,” said a teammate who spoke only on the condition of anonymity.
Said Gwynn: “I guess it gives you an indication of what people perceive of you, doesn’t it? Why don’t they say that stuff to my face instead of going through the media.
“You know why I bunt so much, because I don’t pull the ball very well. I hit the other way, that’s what I do best. So to assure the runner of moving over, I bunt.
“What am I supposed to do, go out and play the way they want me to play, just to make them happy. (Pause). Listen to what I just said. It doesn’t make sense. I’m going to play my game just for them? Right.
“What Pags said is so completely wrong. If they feel that way, fine. I’m not going to change the way I’m playing. You know, I feel like saying, ‘You do your job, do your own damn job. And I’ll do mine.’
“Now, if the Padres don’t like the way I’m playing, then I’ve got problems. No one ever said anything to me about it.
“The whole thing is so distressing. You know, I’ve heard whispers and other things in the clubhouse about me, but never something like this.
“I remember Tempy (Garry Templeton) once told me that I’m not a team guy because I don’t hang out with the guys after games. Hey, I just like going to my room after games, and watching TV or videos. If they want to go out and have drinks and stuff, that’s fine. That’s them.
“But this is the way I choose to live my life.”
Gwynn says he won’t approach Pagliarulo about his comments until he tells him to his face. Then, he vowed, he’ll listen. He won’t even yell, just listen.
“What a year it’s been already, huh? Unbelievable. You know, before this, the only time I’ve been criticized in the newspapers by my teammates is for stealing time in the batting cage.
“Oh, well, what do they say? Only the strong survive?
“Well, that’s me “I know when it’s over, I’ll be able to hold my head high.”
“I just know it.”
The Major League Baseball ownership committee, which must approve the sale of the Padres, has not yet begun to examine Tom Werner’s ownership group, which could delay the finalization of the deal until at least mid-June. “They haven’t even signed a contract yet,” said Jerry Reinsdorf, Chicago White Sox owner, “so we haven’t started looking into them. We won’t do anything until they have a binding contract. Once we get the paper work, we have 90 days to make a decision. I’m not saying it’ll take the full 90 days, but it could delay our action until the owners’ meetings (June 13-15) in Cleveland, or even after.” Attorney Scott Wolfe, a partner in Werner’s 10-man ownership group, said that the deal is not expected to be finalized between owner Joan Kroc and Werner until the middle of next week. “We’re still plugging away,” Wolfe said, “but everything’s going fine. We’re on schedule. Our hope still is that it’ll be approved in Cleveland, at the latest.” . . . Expo third baseman Tim Wallach, who hit a three-run homer in the first inning off loser Ed Whitson (3-3), is seven for 10 against the Padres in his past two games with 12 RBIs, five runs and three three-run homers. . . . Eric Show made his first relief appearance since Aug. 11, 1986, when he pitched the fifth and six innings. He allowed two hits and one earned run. . . . The Padres still are talking to two teams about Padre reserve outfielder Jerald Clark. The New York Yankees are one of the teams, McKeon confirmed, but would not say which National League is involved. There has been no interest in Show, sources said. . . . Padre left fielder Bip Roberts was kept out of the lineup with a strained left hamstring but could play tonight. “The way he hobbled off the field the other day,” McKeon said, “I thought he was going to die. We’ll see how he is.” The move provided first baseman Phil Stephenson his first start since May 6 and moved Joe Carter back to center field. . . . Padre first baseman Jack Clark, who has been out since May 6 with a strained lower back, now might miss the entire nine games in this trip. “It’s going to take some time,” he said. . . . Clark, on Mike Pagliarulo’s comments about Tony Gwynn: “The timing is different. We’re struggling. We don’t need to get into that. But, hey, Pags is a good guy. He just wants to win.”