PHILADELPHIA — A grievance finally has been filed against the San Diego Padres, who last week suspended pitcher Goose Gossage for criticizing the front office.
For three days, Gossage's attorneys negotiated with Padre President Ballard Smith, but Smith said Wednesday: "We never talked about lifting the suspension." Instead, Smith--who originally suspended Gossage for the rest of the season without pay--offered only to lessen the severity of the suspension.
But Gossage and his representatives--agent Jerry Kapstein and attorney Bob Teaff--turned down that offer Wednesday. Sources say they believe they will have no trouble winning in arbitration.
The Major League Players Assn. officially filed the grievance Wednesday.
"Basically, we're where we were last Friday," Smith said. "We suspended him. We thought we had a legal right to do so, and they disagreed. "Quite frankly, I welcome the grievance, as I'm interested to find out what rights I have as an employer."
But a decision won't come until next week at the earliest. Baseball's regular arbitrator had been Tom Roberts, but he was fired recently by the Player Relations Committee. A new arbitrator has not been named, and as long as the Player Relations Committee and the players union disagree on whom it should be, Gossage's case won't be heard.
Meanwhile, Gossage and Kapstein read separate statements Wednesday, and the message of both was that there have been improved relations with the Padres, that Gossage might return to the team--either this year or certainly next season.
Smith, when he announced the suspension last Friday, had said Gossage would never again play with San Diego unless he changed his outspoken ways.
So, apparently, he has made that promise.
"The time spent in discussion with Ballard, Jack (McKeon, general manager) and Joan (Kroc, owner) has been time very well spent," Kapstein said Wednesday. "The atmosphere between us is a very positive one."
Gossage said: "The meeting with Ballard Smith and Joan Kroc (last Monday) and the later conversations involving Ballard, Jerry Kapstein and me (there was one Wednesday) have been very productive in establishing a much better understanding among all of us. I know that we are all focusing on the future in a very positive manner. While the matter of the suspension has not been resolved and apparently will have to be resolved by the formal procedures, I am looking forward to returning to playing as soon as possible, and am very optimistic about the future with the club."
Smith, asked about Gossage's future with the club, wouldn't comment. He admitted he spoke on the telephone with Kapstein early Wednesday morning and then spoke with Kapstein and Gossage later in a conference call. It was in that final call that Gossage's people turned down Smith's final offer.
"My last conversation was with Rich, and Jerry Kapstein and Bob Teaff," Smith said. "I basically told them what our bottom-line position was--if they'd like to tell you what that was (they wouldn't), that'd be fine, but I'm not. All I can tell you is that our bottom-line position wasn't that he be suspended for the rest of the season. We were looking at a solution that would've allowed him to resume his career with the Padres in a manner that we felt would've been acceptable to everybody. And unfortunately it didn't work, but that's their decision."
Smith wasn't willing to forgive and forget because he said people such as Gossage should be "responsible for their actions."
But he also said: "I have to tell you, when I got off the phone today, I felt awful. And I think Rich did, and I know Joan does.
"Because of the positive nature of the conversations we had, we (the Padres) were willing to take another look at how the situation ought to be resolved and made suggestions which we thought would resolve it in a manner that would allow Rich to come back and resume his career with us.
"I felt we made an effort to solve it, but nobody can think you can all of a sudden have a conversation, shake hands and walk away as if it never happened. We just weren't able to come to an agreement on how to resolve those issues.
"I have absolutely no ill will toward Rich. I never have. Joan never has. But he is an employee and there are certain minimum things that our employees must be willing to do. I guess that's the issue. (But) we had a very cordial conversation. I obviously have tremendous respect for him, tremendous respect for his abilities--he'll be in the Hall of Fame someday. And he is one of the primary reasons we got into the World Series (in 1984). I will forever be grateful to him for that. He is a tremendous, tremendous competitor. He hates to lose, can't stand to lose. And I respect all those things about him. But, on the other side of the coin, we expect all employees to do and not do certain things."