Just as Gwynn is still defensive 10 months after that meeting, Clark is still critical of Gwynn. "I won't miss being his teammate," says Clark. "He is a good player, not a good teammate."
"He has a losing attitude about baseball," Clark says. "He protects Number One: himself. He does his own thing because everyone in San Diego kisses his ass. He's, like, Mr. Padre. But you don't know Tony until you play with him. He wasn't playing winning baseball. If he's as good a hitter as everyone makes him out to be, including himself, he should swing the bat instead of bunting with men in scoring position. But he was blind to that. He sees what helps his stats. No one bothers Tony Gwynn because he wins batting titles, but the Padres finish fourth or fifth every year. You figure it out. What's more important?"
As for his departure from San Diego, Clark says only, "If you step on Tony's toes, you have no chance with the San Diego Padres."
Says Gwynn, "I'm just glad Jack ain't here anymore, because it would have been a messy situation again. Who says so much credence should be put in what he says? Because he's a big, intimidating first baseman? That doesn't mean squat to me. And he sure as hell hasn't won any Gold Gloves. Maybe he should make a change. But he won't. And he's going to Boston and will probably have his best year. He'll be kicking back while we'll be digging out of the hole that man dug here."
This issue of "selfishness" in baseball is a thorny one. Gwynn joins a long list of standout players who have been accused of selfish play, including Wade Boggs, Pete Rose, even Ted Williams, the greatest hitter of all time. If a player's main goal is to get 200 hits and he gets them, chances are he has helped his team, not hurt it. Gwynn didn't help his case by telling a friend in the dugout late last season, "Just 26 more, 26 more hits for 200." But don't think for a minute that Gwynn is the only major leaguer who is keenly aware of his key stats.
If you talk with Gwynn's managers, former and current, about his alleged selfishness, the response is unanimous. Says McKeon, "He's one of the most unselfish players I've ever managed. In '89, when he was going for a batting title, he was giving himself up to move runners along."
Dick Williams, who managed Gwynn from 1982 through '85, writes of Gwynn in his autobiography, No More Mr. Nice Guy: "I don't think I've ever had a player who worked harder, cared more and was more deserving of his awards."
Riddoch, who replaced McKeon last July, says, "I saw Tony go outside the realm of his game last year to accommodate the feelings of others, and it took away from his ability to get 33 hits every 100 at bats. I told him, 'Just play like Tony Gwynn plays. You don't have to live up to anyone's expectations.' "
Steve Boros, the San Diego skipper in 1986, says, "Tony Gwynn could play for Genghis Khan."