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Gibson Starts Off by Fielding Some Questions

February 02, 1988|SAM McMANIS | Times Staff Writer

To no one's surprise, new Dodger Kirk Gibson said all the right things and had just the right look Monday at a well-orchestrated introductory press conference at Dodger Stadium.

Gibson, in town to sign a three-year, $4.5-million contract that makes him the richest Dodger player ever, wore a basic black outfit and, perhaps because of an overdose of styling mousse, his hair was spiked. But what Gibson said after officially ending his free agency was considerably less than hair-raising, despite his flamboyant reputation.

Deftly avoiding all questions concerning the recent collusion ruling that restored free-agency to him and six other players from the 1985 crop, Gibson simply expressed his happiness with his contract and new employer as well as vowing to do his part in making the revamped Dodgers a winner.

"My main objective is to win," Gibson said. "I think we'll do it. (The Dodgers) have proven to me that they are committed. When I step on the field, that's all I care about. We will want to be world champions, not just division champions or contenders.

"I think the talent is there. There is talent in 25 other cities. But that doesn't necessarily mean you'll win. You've got to have everybody get together and get behind you."

More intriguing than anything Gibson said at Monday's press conference is the ongoing speculation about whether Pedro Guerrero or Mike Marshall--or, perhaps, neither--will be traded in the wake of Gibson's signing. Fred Claire, the Dodgers' vice president, said Monday that he plans no trades before the Dodgers convene at Vero Beach, Fla., for spring training on Feb. 18.

At the club's voluntary workout Monday morning, Marshall took ground balls at third base, supporting the scenario that he will be moved there while Gibson takes left field, Mike Davis right field and Guerrero first base.

"There seems to be a lot of speculation that another shoe will drop," Claire said. "That's not in our plans. We'll go to spring training and see how the pieces fit. I have not had any talks about trades for Pedro Guerrero or Mike Marshall since we signed Gibson. (But) that's not to say we wouldn't be open to any talks."

Said Marshall Monday: "I don't really have a preference about where I'll play. I like the challenge of fighting for positions and the competition, and I like all the talent we have. My main preference is to win."

That mantra was repeated several times by Gibson during his press conference. "I may offend some people with my (exhortative) actions, but the main thing to me is to win," Gibson said. "I fight if I have to fight, because I want to win. Contrary to many beliefs, I'm easy to get along with. As long as people are commited to winning, we'll get along fine."

The addition of Gibson adds another high-profile, potentially volatile personality to the Dodger clubhouse, which featured several skirmishes last season involving Marshall, Guerrero and former Dodger Phil Garner.

Even if both Guerrero and Marshall remain, Gibson said he foresees no impending turmoil.

"I've played with a few players that I didn't like, and we didn't get along," Gibson said. "But it was OK, because when we got on the field, we shared the common goal of wanting to win. That doesn't mean you have to go out to dinner with a guy you don't like. I think we can all get along."

The Dodgers signed Gibson not only because he is much-needed left-handed hitter who runs well, but also as a sign to fans and critics that they are intent on serious improvement after consecutive 73-89 finishes.

Preceding Gibson's formal introduction to the Los Angeles media, the Dodgers aired a highlight video from Gibson's eight seasons with the Tigers. With the "1812 Overture" as the background music, Gibson was shown exchanging high-fives with half the city of Detroit, launching concussive home-run shots and brazenly running the bases.

Though Gibson's reputation and income are those of a premier player, he has never had a .300 average, except in the strike year of 1981, and he has never hit 30 home runs in a season. Like Guerrero and Marshall, Gibson also has been bothered by injuries. Gibson has missed 364 games over eight seasons because of various injuries. Last season, Gibson hit .277 and had 24 home runs but played in only 128 games.

High expectations have dogged Gibson throughout his career, but injuries and other factors have limited him to only part-time superstar status.

"I'm very critical of myself," said Gibson, when asked about the expected pressure of playing up his lucrative contract. "I enjoy the pressure. Tommy has told me not to do too much too soon. I think that's important to remember. I'll do the best I can. I feel confident that if I prepare myself and give 100%, I'll get the job done. That's what I judge myself by."

Gibson said he expects an adjustment period both in his hitting National League pitching and in his relationship with new teammates.

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