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Gwynn's season began with an unsuccessful attempt to renegotiate his contract, which runs through next season. Then, in a team meeting on May 24, he was blasted by teammates Jack Clark and Garry Templeton for caring more about his batting average than about winning. His season reached a grisly low point on Sept. 8, when a mutilated plastic figurine of Gwynn—the feet and arms were chopped off—was found hanging in the Padre dugout at Jack Murphy Stadium. Gwynn reacted angrily, thinking that the doll was the handiwork of a teammate. On Sept. 20, the Padres announced that an unidentified stadium worker had found the doll in the visitors' dugout and had placed it in the San Diego dugout, near where Gwynn did his nightly radio show. Some observers close to the team question whether the story about the stadium worker is true. They think that explanation was concocted by the front office to soothe relations with Gwynn.
It's probably too late for that. Gwynn, who's friendly, classy and accommodating, should be traded. But a source says Padre principal owner Tom Werner won't deal Gwynn, an eight-year Padre veteran who's the best and most popular player in club history. Manager Greg Riddoch wants to hang on to Gwynn as well.
Still, whoever replaces recently fired Jack McKeon as general manager of the Padres should consider swapping Gwynn. Gwynn could add a lot to any team, and he deserves a change of scenery.
A STAR IS BORN?
Everyone knows how well Zane Smith has pitched since the Pirates acquired him from the Expos on Aug. 8, winning five of his eight starts for Pittsburgh through last weekend, but the pitcher that Montreal called up to replace him in the rotation has been even better. He's 23-year-old rookie lefthander Chris Nabholz, who was 6-0. On Sept. 19, Nabholz handed the Mets a huge loss with a one-hit shutout. In nine starts for the Expos, he had a 2.91 ERA in 55? innings and allowed only 31 hits.
"Most people want to know how I could go 0-6 at Triple A [ Indianapolis] this year, then go 6-0 in the big leagues," says Nabholz. "I haven't figured that one out yet. When Zane was traded, the Expos said they wanted to bring up someone to win some games. They said they didn't care what his record was at Triple A. I'm glad they mentioned my name."
Drafted in the second round in 1988 out of Towson State near Baltimore, Nabholz joins Mark Gardner, Steve Frey and Bill Sampen as young Montreal pitchers who have had surprisingly good seasons. Together, they have done a terrific job filling the void created when Mark Langston, Pascual Perez and Bryn Smith all left as free agents last winter.
COST OF FREEDOM
A number of general managers believe that bidding on free agents may be light this winter. The reason: Some teams are going to feel the financial pinch of having to pay their share of the $102.5 million in damages coming to the players involved in Collusion II; on Sept. 17 an arbitrator ruled that major league baseball must pay that sum to players whose ability to exercise their right of free agency in 1987 and '88 was curtailed by management collusion. And further awards for lost salaries in '89 and '90, plus interest, could bring damages as high as $250 million. Says one general manager, "If [free agents] think it's going to be the same as last winter, they might be in for a surprise."
The spending cutbacks may not affect the top potential free agents, such as Darryl Strawberry, who could get a contract similar to Jose Canseco's $23.5 million deal. The players who will be hurt most are the second-and third-line free agents, such as Red Sox outfielder Tom Brunansky. Last winter he might have gotten a three-year deal worth $9 million. Now it appears he will be lucky to get half that.