The payroll-slashing Padres, who by dealing away their high-priced talent are, in effect, starting from scratch, sent Sheffield and reliever Rich Rodriguez to Florida, a true first-year team, for reliever Trevor Hoffman and minor league pitchers Jose Martinez and Andres Berumen. The trade improves the Marlins' chance of having the best record ever by an expansion team: Through Sunday they were 34-40 and on target to better the 1961 Angels' 70-91 mark.
The National League batting champion and a Triple Crown threat a year ago, Sheffield, 24, is a devastating hitter around whom a young team can be built. The Marlins already have a brilliant closer ( Bryan Harvey), solid defense up the middle and a strong minor league system. They're a good starting pitcher away from a decent rotation, and they have an aggressive general manager in Dave Dombrowski, who won't hesitate to make a trade that will help his club. Dombrowski acquired Sheffield without giving up any of his five best minor league prospects.
Meanwhile the Padres are completing one of the most astonishing housecleanings in history. Next to go will be slugging first baseman Fred McGriff. The Braves, Orioles and Yankees have shown the most interest in him, and Atlanta can become the front-runner if it will part with Triple A catcher Javier Lopez. After McGriff is sent packing, look for pitcher Greg Harris to follow, perhaps to the Giants. When the purge is complete, San Diego will have a payroll of around $18 million and a Triple A lineup surrounding the only holdover All-Star, rightfielder Tony Gwynn.
While the dismantling of the Padres obviously isn't good for the game, San Diego owner Tom Werner has been praised by fellow owners for doing what he feels is necessary in a supposedly dire financial situation. Meanwhile San Diego fans are irate ( Sheffield was traded on the day he was named to the Padres' 25th anniversary dream team), attendance is dropping fast, the club is playing horribly (29-46 through Sunday), and there is little hope of San Diego's being respectable again before 1996.
The Padres now are offering to make prorated refunds to season-ticket holders who feel they were deceived by a letter club president Dick Freeman sent to them last fall. In it Freeman implied that San Diego planned to hold on to the core of its roster, but two of the players designated as keepers—centerfielder Darrin Jackson and Sheffield—have since been traded. After the Sheffield deal season-ticket holders Paul and Nancy Marshall filed a class-action suit, charging the Padres with fraud, negligent misrepresentation, breach of contract and false advertising.
PUDGE GETS NUDGED
When White Sox catcher Ron Karkovice suffered a separated shoulder on June 19, it was Mike LaValliere—not Carlton Fisk—who picked up most of Karkovice's playing time, a final signal to the 45-year-old Fisk that his days in Chicago were numbered. The end came on Monday, when the White Sox released Fisk, six days after paying homage to him on the night that he broke Bob Boone's major league record for games caught in a career (2,225).
This season Fisk hit .189, with one home run and four RBIs in 53 at bats, and he was only 1 for 24 throwing out base runners. "I know I don't look good," Fisk told the Comiskey Park crowd on his night. "I've had some doubts whether I'm still capable. I don't feel like I'm worn out or eroded. I feel like I've rusted up."
In his remarks during the ceremony, he omitted any reference to White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, general manager Ron Schueler and manager Gene Lamont—men with whom he had feuded over his contract and playing time—but he did single out Karkovice among other teammates. "Ron has shown more patience than I ever could have done," Fisk said. "He's the Number One catcher, and he deserves your support. I cheer for that sucker every time he goes out there."