It appeared to be a brilliant public relations coup. For the simple price of $100,000, the San Diego Padre front office soothed starting pitcher Andy Benes, comforted the fans and made 15 owners feeling pretty good about themselves.
Apparently, no one visualized the reaction by Benes' teammates.
Not only did Benes' new contract infuriate many of the Padre players, but several said Thursday they are concerned of the possible detrimental effect on the team.
"It's their ballclub, they have the right to run it the way they want," said veteranpitcher Larry Andersen, "but they should also care about the discontent they've created. There's a whole lot of unhappy guys around here, believe me."
Said Padre right fielder Tony Gwynn: "It's a bad situation right now. They've opened up a whole can of worms with this one. We had a lot of guys sitting around today trying to analyze this thing inside and out, and we can't get answers.
"We've got some big concerns right now."
Said Padre first baseman Fred McGriff: "There's no question it has created some problems, some big problems. This is nothing against Andy, he had a great year and deserved everything he got. But it's the principle of it.
"It's not fair to anyone else around here. How do you think it makes Jerald (Clark) and Thomas (Howard) feel? Do they get to renegotiate, too?"
The acrimony was created Wednesday when the Padres announced they had ripped up Benes' renewal notice at $375,000 and signed him to a one-year contract for $475,000. Just like that, Benes had an extra $100,000.
For what? For complaining loudly in the press? For moping around camp? For stopping the barrage of fan criticism toward the ownership? Does anyone really believe the Padres simply wanted to be fair?
"I can understand that they want to win, so if it's going to make him happy, so be it," Andersen said. "But how about everyone else? Give them an extra $100,000, and they'd be a lot happier too.
"It's the old saying, 'The squeaky wheel gets the grease.' So maybe we should all sit around and bitch about our contracts and see what happens.' "
Said Gwynn: "Let's face it, an ugly precedent has been set. When somebody's not happy with their contract, let's go to the man, and start forming a line. We all know where to go."
Whether it's the truth or not, the Padre players believe that it was the owners, particularly Chairman Tom Werner, who were responsible for giving Benes the extra money. They remember how Werner intervened in the negotiations last fall with No. 1 pick Joey Hamilton. They know Werner was involved in the signing of free agent infielder Kurt Stillwell.
And they know what they saw Saturday night at the team barbecue in Yuma, Ariz., and the repercussions that followed.
During their team barbecue, Werner pulled Benes aside and talked with him for 30 minutes. When Werner walked away, according to two people at the party, he immediately went to Joe McIlvaine, Padre general manager, and said he wanted to clear up a problem.
The subject was addressed during the owners' board meeting Sunday morning. Several owners expressed their concern over the negative publicity that it created. McIlvaine called Benes into his office on Monday. And Wednesday, Benes had a new contract.
"Nobody's saying, but everyone knows what the story is," Gwynn said. "We all know what happened. And nobody likes it."
Werner was unavailable for comment Thursday, but McIlvaine vehemently denied that he was told by ownership to provide Benes with a new contract. If anything, he said, he had to persuade the owners to pay the extra money for Benes.
"Listen, all we did was reopen negotiations," McIlvaine said. "He didn't have a contract. All he had was a renewal notice. He didn't sign anything.
"We did not renegotiate a contract. I don't renegotiate contracts. That's not my policy. All that happened was that it took longer for us to come to an agreement.
"Guys are popping off about things they don't know about. They don't know the rules. If they have concerns or problems, I wish they'd come to me."
Said Gwynn: "Hey, it doesn't matter, a deal's a deal. That's how you have to look at it. The other young guys all were up against the same renewal deadline. They all signed. How can you say it's fair to them?
"No one has any problems with Andy, it's with the club. You do it for him (Benes), you do it for everybody. What happened to the club policy about not renegotiating contracts?"
Several players also brought up the issue that if Benes was offered $425,000 in their original negotiations, then why did the Padres pay the extra $50,000? He certainly didn't have any leverage.
"I still can't understand why they did it," McGriff said. "Sure, Andy was upset. We all knew that. But that doesn't mean he wasn't going to go out there and work hard. Once you go out on the field, you forget about the other stuff.
"I've yet to see a guy who goes out there and starts missing balls on purpose, or striking out. He would have been all right.
"The whole thing's crazy. I'm telling you, we have a lot of guys on the team that are upset right now, but they're just not all running to the reporters."
Starter Bruce Hurst, insisting there is nothing wrong with his elbow, still was disgruntled with his performance in the Padres' 8-5 defeat to the Oakland Athletics. "I wasn't happy, but the longer I was out there today, the better I felt," said Hurst, who yielded three hits and four runs (two earned) in four innings. "I don't know if I'm going through a dead-arm phase or not. My control's not good out there. I don't feel real strong yet, but it's getting better. It's going to take time." Hurst, who missed his last three starts of the 1991 season with a sore left elbow, says he's placing an ice bag on the elbow after games this spring strictly as a precautionary measure.
Reliever Larry Andersen on watching the Oakland Athletics take batting practice: "Now I know why they didn't sign Mike Gallego. They didn't want anyone out there who was less than 6-foot-2, and 250 pounds."
Starter Ed Whitson said he felt no pain Thursday, and is expected to lightly throw today if he receives permission from specialist Dr. James Andrews. "He told me felt good," Padre Manager Greg Riddoch said, "so we'll see what happens (Friday)."