Detroit's hard line is a little baffling. Gibson is the heart, if not the soul, of the club, a clutch performer who plays hard. He is a local boy who grew up in Pontiac. He has signed six one-year contracts with the Tigers, and his last two (at $250,000 and $685,000) were virtual bargains.
Although Detroit technically has until Jan. 8 to sign Gibson, it has an artificial deadline of Dec. 21, which is the day Gibson marries JoAnn Sklarski. A few days later, the happy couple embark for Australia, not to return until mid-January. Gibson says that under no circumstances will he interrupt his honeymoon. "That's a negotiating tactic," says Lajoie.
Meanwhile, no other team professes a desire for Gibson. "An interesting name," says John Cox, assistant to Cub president Dallas Green. "He does possess talent. But when you break down his career, he's never been a league MVP, he's never been on an All-Star team, he's never hit 30 homers or won a batting title or Gold Glove."
The most shocking denial has come from Atlanta, where new general manager Bobby Cox said the Braves were more concerned about fiscal responsibility than about Gibson. There are probably a lot of Braves fans, however, who would be more excited by a batting order that had Gibson batting third, Dale Murphy fourth and Bob Horner fifth. It's probably coincidence, but Cox lost interest in Gibson after Ted Turner had lunch with commissioner Peter Ueberroth. The commissioner says he had nothing to do with it.
Baldwin, for one, thinks that Ueberroth is somehow behind the new bear market. His telephone answering machine carries this message: "Everybody but commissioner Ueberroth please leave a message. If it's you, Peter, I'll know by your presence."