Jack Clark, who was perhaps planning to leave on his own anyway, might have assured himself Wednesday afternoon that he will be severing ties with the Padres in the off-season.
Clark, angering Padre Manager Greg Riddoch and some of his teammates, was ejected in the first inning of the Padres' 7-6 loss to the San Francisco Giants, then violated a team rule by leaving the clubhouse before the game ended.
He hardly made friends with his outrageous display of behavior either, dropping his helmet at the plate, hurling his bat toward the field, flinging his gum toward home-plate umpire Bill Hohn and heaving the first-base bag toward the stands.
"I'm disappointed, I'm real disappointed in him," Riddoch said. "You can bet I'm going to talk to him about it.
"You let the whole team down when you do something like that, and it's not the first time it happened."
It was the fourth time this season that Clark has been ejected, creating a void in the lineup once again. Clark was unavailable for comment. He had been given permission to miss the team flight to Cincinnati, allowed to spend the night with his family in nearby Blackhawk and join the team today.
Riddoch and Clark have had several private meetings the past few weeks to discuss Clark's role as the team's first baseman and team leader, but now, sources said, the Padres are seriously considering trading him if he does not leave on his own.
The Padres have not had contract discussions with Clark or agent Tom Reich since last month, when Clark rejected the Padres' initial offer of one year at $2.5 million with a $2.5 million option. Sources said Wednesday that it's highly unlikely that another offer will be made. Instead, the Padres intend to allow Clark to file for arbitration, then begin fielding offers for him in February.
Clark, batting .261 with 24 homers and 61 RBIs, could soon be declared a second-look free agent depending on collusion damages that are expected to be awarded next month. If he is provided free agency, he has told several teammates that it's 50-50 whether he'll return.
"That might be the best thing for everyone," one Padre official said of the possibility Clark would leave.
Clark, who has found himself in the midst of controversy frequently this season--particularly in events involving teammate Tony Gwynn--arrived about an hour before the start of Wednesday's game. Although he was only about 10 minutes behind the last team bus, Clark usually is among the first players to arrive to the clubhouse.
In a matter of about an hour, he was undressing and leaving for home and perhaps lying by the pool by the time the game ended.
But, oh, what a grand exit.
It started with Clark standing at the plate and watching as a 3-and-1 changeup thrown by Giant pitcher Jeff Robinson was called for a strike. Clark argued briefly and seconds later was called out on a third strike.
Hohn fined Clark when he tossed his bat toward the field on his way to the dugout, but the fun was only beginning.
When the inning ended, with Joe Carter striking out, Clark walked past Hohn on the way to first base, complaining every step of the way.
Everything appeared to be settled, but when Padre starter Dennis Rasmussen's first pitch was high, and called a ball, Clark began yelling at Hohn, saying it was the same location as his called strike.
Hohn had heard enough, ejected him and was immediately confronted by Clark. Riddoch ran from the dugout, trying to intervene. When the argument ended after a few minutes, Clark took a few steps to home plate and covered it with dirt. He then began walking toward the clubhouse, which is in the right-field corner.
But Clark made a pit stop on the way. He stopped at first base, casually leaned over, picked the bag up from its stake and threw it two-handed about 20 feet. After kicking dirt over the stake, he kept calmly walking, leaving to the jeers of the crowd of 10,921. Fans here have booed him since he was traded by the Giants after the 1984 season.
Clark, who has been heavily fined once this season, is expected to be fined again, and possibly suspended for a game. Hohn was unavailable for comment, but second-base umpire Jerry Layne said a report was filed with the league office.
The umpiring crew said it was the first time that they can remember a player throwing one of the bases, although managers have previously done it, including Lou Piniella of the Cincinnati Reds earlier this season. Padre players and coaching staff also could not recall seeing a player throw a base.
"I almost expected to see him get a shovel and start digging up home plate," Padre outfielder Fred Lynn said.
Meanwhile, while everyone was watching Clark's antics, Rasmussen was left standing on the mound, and by the time the game resumed, he said, his concentration was shattered.
"I was really . . . (mad)," Rasmussen said. "It was bull. . . what he did, getting himself thrown out. He wasted all this time, and here I am, trying to get a hitter out."
Said another Padre player, who requested anonymity: "What he did was weak, real weak. He's supposed to be the leader of this team, and look what he does. He just leaves us. That's not right."
And in a matter of minutes, before the Padres even realized they had blown a 6-3 lead on the way to losing their eighth consecutive game, the players once again found themselves in yet more turmoil.
"You know, you just sit here waiting for all this crap to end, but it's just getting worse and worse around here," said Padre shortstop Garry Templeton, who hit a three-run homer in the second inning. "I've never been involved on a team where everything's gone so bad, with all of the back-stabbing and bad-mouthing. It's ugly, this whole thing is so ugly, none of us can stand it.
"There's no way a team can play like this, with all of the crap that's going on. There's so much ego-crap going on, and guys pointing fingers and blaming each other, guys can't wait for the season to end.
"The problems just keep lingering and lingering, just like the Tony Gwynn situation, and management hasn't done a damn thing. If someone's in . . . charge, take charge. I don't care if it's an owner, the general manager or the manager, something's got to be done.
"We've got a terrible mess on our hands, and I guarantee if it's not taken care of, we're going to have the same crap hanging over our heads next season."
Said Lynn, 38, who has played for 16 years in five different organizations: "The in-house fighting that's going on is nothing like I've ever seen before. Somebody's got to do something, or this thing's going to fester all winter."
It has become quite evident to Padre management that changes will have to be made next season, and perhaps the most obvious is that Clark and Gwynn cannot return on the same team.
Riddoch would not address the personality clash between Clark and Gwynn but said: "We're not winning with the present state of players, so some things are going to have to change. We just have to decide where to begin."
Stay tuned. Six fun-filled games still remain.
Padre pitcher Atlee Hammaker became the latest to suffer a season-ending injury when he sustained what the Padres are calling a strained shoulder. He suffered the injury while throwing a slider to Will Clark. He threw a few more pitches but was forced to leave the game with a 3-and-2 count on Clark. "I just wanted to finish the batter," Hammaker said, "but I heard something pop in there, and just couldn't go." Hammaker's injury leaves the Padres with only 23 healthy players for the final six games. . . . Garry Templeton tied his career high with his ninth homer in the second inning. He last had nine homers in 1979 when he played for the St. Louis Cardinals. Templeton, though, achieved his personal milestone the hard way. He had seven homers in his first 249 at-bats, two in his next 244. . . . Giant third baseman Matt Williams took over the RBI lead in convincing fashion, hitting a three-run homer in the first inning and a two-run homer in the fifth. His 119 RBIs set a franchise record for third basemen, eclipsing the 116 by Mel Ott in 1938. He also has 33 homers, tying Jim Ray Hart in 1968 for the most homers by a Giant third baseman. . . . Bip Roberts, Padre third baseman/left fielder, who has been bothered by nagging injuries all year, will have one more problem taken care of the day after the season ends. Roberts has surgery scheduled Oct. 4 to have two impacted wisdom teeth extracted. . . . Padre catcher Tom Lampkin's pinch-hit single in the sixth inning snapped a zero-for-20 slump. It also was his first hit since Aug. 2. . . . Just what were Terry Kennedy, Kevin Mitchell and Mark Thurmond discussing before Wednesday's game? Why, Padre pitcher Eric Show's latest jazz tape, of course. "Man, this stuff's good," Kennedy said. . . . Padre outfielder Joe Carter has gone four consecutive games without driving in a run. . . . The Padres are off today and will begin a three-game series Friday in Cincinnati, where they'll attempt to delay the Reds' division-clinching celebration. The scheduled pitching matchups: The Padres' Bruce Hurst (10-9) vs. Danny Jackson (6-6) on Friday; Ed Whitson (13-9) vs. Norm Charlton (12-8) on Saturday; and Derek Lilliquist (4-11) vs. Jose Rijo (14-7). The game on Saturday has been moved back to 12:20 p.m. (PDT) and will be nationally televised on CBS.