How Rough Did Joyner Have It?

Wally, Wally, Wally. Poor, sweet Wally. Sniff. The Angels were so mean to me! Sniff. They don't like me! They really don't like me! Sniff.

Yeah, how dare those mean old Autrys treat Wally Joyner that way?

They played him every day.

They paid him every payday.

They gave him an everyday job, even when it meant taking it away from Hall of Famer Rod Carew.

They gave him back his job, no questions asked, even though he missed 81 games of the 1990 season with a stress fracture of his right knee.

They treated him as a superstar, even though he has been to one All-Star game.

They batted him in the heart of the order, even when his home run production fell off in one year from 34 to 13.

They played him and paid him as a power hitter, even when he contributed 37 homers over three seasons (1988-90).

They never complained about his drop-off in run production, even though he hasn't driven in 100 runs since 1987.

They never held it against him that Carew stole more bases in one season than Joyner has in his whole career.

They never complained that over four seasons (1987-90), the man had five--count 'em, five--triples.

They always referred to him as a .300 hitter, even though in the majors--until last season's .301--Wally Joyner never hit .300 in his life.

They never traded him to another team, even though year after year, Joyner went to war with management over money and went to arbitration to get more.

Oh, those mean old Autrys.

Those mean old Autrys made an offer to Wally Joyner of a guaranteed--repeat, guaranteed--$15 3/4 million, and he told them what they could do with it.

This man turned down nearly $16 million, then stood tearfully at a news conference and uttered the modern baseball player's favorite phrase: "My priority is to take care of my family."

Today's prices being what they are, the Joyner family just couldn't squeak by on 16 mil. Wally often loses sleep nights, clipping out those grocery coupons. Affects his play.

That one-year, $4.2-million offer from Kansas City made far more sense. Sure, it's for three years less. Sure, it might not cover permanently disabling injuries. Sure, it's easier to re-injure a stress-fractured knee on artificial turf. But the important thing is, it gets Wally away from that mean old Jackie Autry.

By gum, as they said in some of Cowboy Gene's old movies, a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do.

I mean, how much can a man take? How can a man be expected to:

--Play first base every day, his place in the starting lineup guaranteed?

--Play for Whitey Herzog, an executive he professes to admire as much as any in baseball?

--Play for Buck Rodgers, one of the sweetest guys and brightest managers in baseball?

--Play in Southern California, on natural grass?

--Play in a place where the fans adore him so much, they call it Wally World?

--Bat just about anywhere he wants to in the lineup?

--Play for less than $4 million a season?

Here's my favorite quote from Wally's state-of-the-World address:

"After what happened the last two weeks, I thought it might affect the way I play, and I didn't think that was fair to the California Angels or California Angels' fans," Joyner said.

Whoa, pretty considerate of the guy to be thinking of his teammates and fans at a time like this, don't you think?

Joyner's just doing everybody a big favor by leaving. Hey, if getting stuck with that $16 million is going to affect his play . . . I mean, if his batting average is going to droop because he just can't get that crummy salary off of his mind, well, maybe he'd be better off in Kansas City, where he won't have to let that blasted Jackie Autry affect his play.

Someone, I think it was actor Sessue Hayakawa, once said: "Be happy in your work." An unhappy Wally Joyner could hardly be expected to do his best at first base, could he?

I mean, all those distractions! Jackie sitting up there watching! What's she saying about me? What's she telling her husband? Oh, no! Here comes a grounder, right at me! How can I catch it? This is affecting my play!

"A different set of rules for Wally Joyner than for everybody else."

That was Wally's objection.

It's one of those things a guy says when he leaves you, but doesn't want you to blame him for leaving you.

Wally Joyner took a worse deal, just so he could leave his company and work for the competition. Now he not only wants the company's customers to understand it, he wants them to tell him it wasn't his fault.

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