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BASEBALL
Peter Gammons
April 17, 1989
THE ROSE QUESTION
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April 17, 1989

Baseball

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FATAL DISTRACTION?

The Wade Boggs-Margo Adams fiasco continues to haunt the Red Sox. On April 2 they had to switch to a charter flight for the opener in Baltimore because their commercial flight received an anti-Boggs bomb threat. On April 6 the Sox's plane was detained leaving Baltimore so that a dog could check their luggage for plastic explosives. The next day, when the team arrived at Royals Stadium in Kansas City, the Red Sox discovered that a local radio station had handed out free Margo masks to the crowd. "It started as a joke, and now it's getting to be a pain," said outfielder Randy Kutcher.

Red Sox general partner Haywood Sullivan has tried to defuse the tension by having the players discuss their concerns with Boggs. But the third baseman has made matters worse by refusing to stop talking to the press. As one player puts it, "If he'd only shut up, it might die down. But he won't give it a chance."

General manager Lou Gorman has been trying to trade Boggs for almost five months, and he may be forced to take far less than Boggs's value just to rid the team of the headache. Last week, he and Seattle general manager Woody Woodward were trying to hammer out yet another deal involving Boggs and prize lefthander Mark Langston, even though Langston, who can become a free agent in October, has said that "Boston is the one American League city I wouldn't want to live in." A Red Sox official said that if they can't trade Boggs, they may try to get him to accept counseling to help him through his ongoing ordeal.

THEY WERE FAMILY

About an hour before the Twins' opener, ace lefthander Frank Viola indicated that he planned to become a free agent at the end of the season and leave Minnesota because the club had not met his demand for a three-year, $8.1 million contract. (The Twins' offer wasn't exactly paltry: a three-year, $7.9 million deal, the same package Orel Hershiser got from the Dodgers. But Viola wanted $4.6 million of it before next season as a hedge against an owners' lockout in '90.) Then reliever Jeff Reardon blasted management for changing its offer from $3.1 million for two years, both guaranteed, to $3.45 million for two years with only the first year's $1.95 million guaranteed, in part because he had had a poor spring training. "They might as well trade us both," said Reardon. "It's a joke."

Manager Tom Kelly, who has nurtured a family atmosphere in the Twins' clubhouse, is worried that contract disputes may alter the team's attitude. First baseman Kent Hrbek, who can also become a free agent in October, summed it up: "Instead of baseball, we're talking about money again. What are we playing for? Sure you can make a lot of money in this game, but have a little fun. This ain't going to make it fun for [Viola]. I don't think it's good for the ball club. Instead of going out there and trying to do good for the team, a guy could be just trying to put numbers on the board. I think it's a bunch of crap."

Viola heard some boos in the Metrodome on April 4 when he lost the opener to the Yankees 4-2. And he had so much trouble concentrating that the Yankees' 8 and 9 hitters, Alvaro Espinoza and Roberto Kelly, got six hits off him. Three days later Viola, who was 0-2 at week's end, said he had reconsidered and would reopen talks with the Twins, but the damage may already have been done.

WONDER BOYS

Two historic debuts occurred last week. On April 3, Seattle centerfielder Ken Griffey Jr. became the first player to enter the majors while his father was still an active player. Ken Jr.'s first major league hit was a double, just as Ken Sr.'s had been. But the 19-year-old Griffey clubbed his two-bagger during his first at bat, against Oakland's Dave Stewart; his dad, who broke in with the Reds in 1973 and is back with them again this year, had to wait until his third at bat.

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