SAN DIEGO — So the hearing is here. Barring a miracle--progress--Kevin McReynolds will face off this morning against the Padres in an arbitration case that has been anticipated for more than a year.
They will rendezvous at the Sheraton La Reina, a hotel in Los Angeles, and they will argue for hours about how good Kevin McReynolds is, how much worth he has to the franchise and how much he is worth, period.
The Padres say $275,000.
McReynolds' representatives say $450,000.
An arbitrator will decide who's right.
Of course, the parties had until 9:30 this morning to decide for themselves, though that appeared unlikely Tuesday evening. In a final negotiating effort, McReynolds and his Chicago-based agent, Tom Selakovich, met with Padre General Manager Jack McKeon and President Ballard Smith at the Padre offices. They spoke for two hours. Then Selakovich, wearing a red golf sweater, emerged and left the place, followed by McReynolds, who wore his traditional blue jeans.
Neither would comment.
They drove to L.A.
Inside, McKeon did say: "We talked, and there was some movement, but nothing was settled. We'll both think about it. We left it this way--If anybody has a change of their thoughts, get in touch. We'll either settle it before the hearing or we'll have the hearing."
If they settle it at 9:15 this morning, it wouldn't be a first. McKeon said he once had a hearing scheduled with former Padre Broderick Perkins, but settled 15 minutes before.
Which brings back another memory. In 1983, pitcher Tim Lollar took the Padres to arbitration, the first time a Padre player had actually gone through with it.
His agent: Tom Selakovich.
Anyway, on the morning after the hearing, Selakovich called McKeon to discuss a settlement, and McKeon said he'd get back to him. In the interim, the arbitrator ruled in Lollar's favor, and when McKeon called Selakovich back to accept the settlement, Selakovich said: 'We can't settle. We already won!"
So there's a little history to today's confrontation. And here's some more: Back in spring training of 1985, the Padres made what they thought was a gigantic offer to McReynolds, a 26-year-old budding superstar. A six-year, $4.5 million offer. But McReynolds was coming off of a big year (.278, 20 homers, 75 RBIs), and he and Selakovich, close friends and hunting partners, thought they could get more dollars if they waited until after 1985.
They were just so sure of his ability. Selakovich said the Padres wouldn't trade McReynolds straight up for the Mets' Darryl Strawberry.
The Padres refused comment on that one.
Then McReynolds had a mediocre 1985, misjudging several balls in center field, hitting .234 with 15 homers and 75 RBIs again. It wasn't all that bad a year, considering he never really recovered from the wrist injury he suffered in the 1984 playoffs, but hadn't Selakovich and the Padres expected more?
And besides Strawberry, Selakovich also had compared his client to:
Philadelphia's Juan Samuel.
The Yankees' Don Mattingly.
Still, the overriding theme here is not so much contract, but neglect. See, McReynolds hates his manager, Dick Williams. Right around the time of the baseball strike last season, McReynolds injured his heel. The strike lasted only a day, and upon return, San Diego had a new center fielder in the lineup--Miguel Dilone.
Dilone could run. On his first night, a doubleheader, he had five hits and three stolen bases.
He stayed in the lineup.
A few days later, a now-healthy McReynolds talked nasty things about Williams, saying: "He's tried to play Mr. Macho (before). You know, 'I run the team' stuff. It's a little game with him . . . If you've ever heard the word 'frontrunner,' that's where he sits."
McReynolds re-entered the lineup.
Says Selakovich now: "We want to finish up Kevin's contract, but the minute the ink is dry on Feb. 6 (Thursday), then my next job is to start patching up that relationship."
So he said he wants a spring training meeting with Williams, McReynolds, himself, McKeon and Smith.
Of course, four of the five met Tuesday, all but Williams.
"I'll tell you right now," Selakovich said this week, "if I have to move to San Diego, Kevin McReynolds will have a good relationship to play baseball so that his best talents can be brought out. Instead of fighting over this, let's all sit down and become men again and work this problem out because I want Kevin to be happy enough to play for Dick Williams.
"It's now my job (to get them together). I'll interject what I have to say now because my ultimate dream is to have a happy client. . . . I know he's happy playing in San Diego, and I know he's happy with his teammates. So there's only one other thing to correct.