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Argyros Makes Time to Meet the Padres, Leaves Players Smiling

March 28, 1987|TOM FRIEND | Times Staff Writer

YUMA, Ariz. — If Thursday was Meet The Press Day for George Argyros, then Friday was Meet the Rest Day. Argyros, who reached an agreement to buy the Padres Thursday, finally got to sit down with some pretty important people--his new players.

One by one, he shook each player's hand. He told them he wanted to win, and they nodded. He told him he couldn't legally do anything to help them for 60 days or so, and they nodded. He asked if there were any questions.

Nobody nodded.

"No, nobody asked any questions, but time will tell," pitcher Eric Show said later. "We'll have questions later, I'm sure. But I'll tell you, in my opinion, he couldn't have been better for a first meeting. He was very straightforward and honest. Like he was talking to a friend. He was very down to earth."

Pitcher Andy Hawkins: "We couldn't tell a lot about him, but he seems like a nice man. I mean, all he can do is come in and say hi and say he's committed to winning. You got to like that, though. I guess he could have come in and been a jerk, but he wasn't."

Essentially, Argyros came here Friday so the players could see his face and learn to pronounce his name. (It's AR-jur-us.) Also, he wanted to meet Manager Larry Bowa.

Argyros said afterward that Jack McKeon, the general manager, will continue to run the baseball operations, and Dick Freeman will stay on as the chief operating officer.

McKeon says he wasn't worried, anyway.

"There hasn't been pressure on me," he said.

Argyros said: "For the time being, it (the front office) will stay as is. We'll have to feel our way along, but I really don't suspect there will be any changes of that kind (in the front office) in the foreseeable future.

"The baseball side will be run by the baseball experts. I'll be of counsel. My job is really to give them all the support they can stand. I don't profess to be an expert in baseball. I have to rely on our baseball people to run the baseball side."

So he has already left many things in the hands of McKeon. One of them is the beer ban. Owner Joan Kroc and president Ballard Smith took beer out of the Padre clubhouse, but Argyros says it's up to McKeon now.

"Looks like beer's back," said Hawkins, who says he is familiar with McKeon's feeling on the matter.

Another is the Tim Raines negotiations. Argyros, who has been the Seattle Mariner owner for since 1981, said he tried to sign Raines for the Mariners last week because his baseball people in Seattle advised him to do so. But until his purchase of the Padres is approved--probably in June--he can't negotiate with Raines.

But once June rolls around, he'll listen to McKeon's recommendations. And McKeon, by the way, has already told Argyros that signing Raines would be a judicious move.

"If Raines is still available in 90 days or whenever we get this (the sale) closed, I'd be happy to talk to Jack about it," Argyros said. "But I think that player ought to be in uniform (by then), and--rather frankly--I think it's harmful to Tim that he's not playing."

Argyros also visited with A. Bartlett Giamatti, president of the National League, Friday.

Giamatti and Argyros discussed the process by which the Padre sale will be approved or rejected. It would take a majority vote of American League owners and 75% vote in favor in the National league, plus approval from Commissioner Peter Ueberroth.

"At this point," Giamatti said later, "I told him I had the honor of speaking to the owner of the Seattle club in the American League."

In other words, Giamatti is concerned about the potential conflict of interest here. Argyros still owns the Mariners, and he hopes that Argyros can sell the Mariners before the Padre sale is discussed for approval.

As of now, the plan is that if the Mariners aren't sold in 90 days, they will be put in a trust, and Argyros will no longer be involved in the daily operations of the club, Argyros said.

"A trust? You got me with what that means," Giamatti said. " From my point of view, there has to be some clarification of George's noninvolvement with Seattle before the San Diego matter can be properly construed. Otherwise, you'd have a situation that would be difficult.

"I assume he (Ueberroth) and I will have to be chatting, and I assume he and Dr. (Bobby) Brown (American League president) will have to be chatting, and I assume Dr. Brown and I will have to be chatting. I look forward to a many-sided colloquy."

In the meantime, this is the time for first impressions. On a small chalkboard in the dining room of the Padre offices here, one Padre employee wrote: "Welcome Mr. Argyros." Padre broadcasters practiced the pronunciation of his name.

Inside the clubhouse, Argyros even already had a friend. He and infielder Tim Flannery had both attended Chapman College in Orange County (at different times, of course), and they knew of each other.

"We've only got 900 students at that school, so anyone who comes out of there, you've got to be tight with," Flannery said.

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