SAN DIEGO — Goose Gossage now ranks Ballard Smith below George Steinbrenner.
It's not that Gossage wants a reunion with Steinbrenner in New York, but he told Newsday on Tuesday, "I miss the Yankees."
Things change. Four years ago, Gossage used to always assail Steinbrenner--the Yankee owner--calling him "The Fat Man." Now, he's picking on a thin man (Smith).
"I'd rather have a guy like George who wants to win every game than have the guy we have here (Smith) who doesn't know anything and doesn't care," Gossage told Newsday. "He (Smith) cares more about our citizenship than winning. He wants choirboys and not winning players. What are we in this game for, to show what good people we are or to win games?"
Smith, the Padre president, read Gossage's statements Wednesday, laughed briefly and then declined comment.
Gossage, asked Wednesday if he had anything more to add, said, "I said what I said. I don't want to comment."
They have had spats before. Back when Smith banned beer from the Padre clubhouse on June 5, Gossage called Smith "gutless" and "spineless" and "worthless."
And now this. Gossage--like most Padres--was upset with Smith's decision to offer only one-year contracts. And Smith had said last week that he wouldn't sign players such as Montreal's Tim Raines, players with a history of drug use. On Wednesday, though, Smith said he didn't mean to single Raines out and that he had sent Raines a letter of apology.
"I told him (Raines) that he's a credit to baseball and that he faced up to his problem and it was wrong of me to say anything about him. And I wish I hadn't. I was trying to make a point and wasn't talking about anybody in particular. . . . Any discomfort I caused him, I feel bad. But I obviously feel very strongly about the (drug) issue, and that was the message I was trying to get across."
Gossage's message appeared in print Wednesday.
"He only wants to sign choirboys," Gossage said. "I never sang in a choir. I didn't know you had to go to church before you could play baseball. George (Steinbrenner) did some crazy things. He could wear you down. Things could get old there. But this, this is ridiculous."
Gossage said Smith "just listens to what mom (owner Joan Kroc) says. . . . If we don't sign some free agents, we're going to be worse next year than we are now (the Padres are in last place). And who's going to sign here for a one-year contract . . . with no beer in the clubhouse? No one wants to play for a high school team again. We're all past that stage.
"The attitude here is the worst I've ever seen, and I played on some pretty (bad) teams. There's no one here except Jack (McKeon, the general manager) who's aggressive about winning. George was aggressive. With him it was, 'Win at any cost.' He was screwy, but he didn't care about winning a feather in his cap for cleaning up society's drug problem. We're only 24 guys here. And what we do in the clubhouse isn't going to set an example for fans.
"They're so hung up on image. They say, 'Every time you open the papers, you read about someone's drug problem.' That might be true. But that's not our fault. And if they would worry more about us winning, maybe people could read about the Padres going after a pennant."