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Moreland Is Prepared to 'Tee It Up'

February 14, 1988|BILL PLASCHKE | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — We interrupt the parade of interchangeable cliches from Padre officials about new leader Keith Moreland--gamer, big-gamer, hard-gamer, hard-nosed, tough-nosed, tough- insert body part --to offer this unsettling thought.

What if they are all true?

In a conversation from his Chicago home Saturday morning, Moreland did a head-first slide into the Friday trade that sent him to the Padres from the Chicago Cubs.

"One thing I believe is, you tee it up 162 days a year--you are paid to play, so you play," Moreland said. "You are going to be dinged up. You are going to be hurt. You can't let that stop you.

"You go out and give everything you got, and if that's not good enough, well, then, you just aren't good enough. But at least you know."

And this was while he was still in mourning.

"I am in a sort of state of shock," said Moreland, an eight-year veteran, who didn't learn of the deal until late Friday night. "It will take awhile to get over it. Playing in Chicago, it's not just like a job, it's like a responsibility. The fans are incredible. I can't say enough about them. They are all over the country and, I'll admit, I'm going to miss that.

"Hopefully I can go to San Diego and do my part to make it like that there."

Meanwhile, the Padre offering in the deal--reliever Goose Gossage--has chosen to leave San Diego exhibiting the quiet professional manner with which he arrived four years ago.

Gossage could have said many things Saturday. He could have talked about how he suddenly lost his job as the Padres' sole stopper last season.

Or about how, near the end of the season, he was not even trusted to pitch in consecutive games.

Or how, at the very end, he and Manager Larry Bowa were barely on speaking terms.

He even could have commented on Tony Gwynn's Friday night comment: "I know what a lot of people said about him, but I don't think he ever knew what his role was."

But Goose's final legacy here is that he put a lid on it.

"All I'd like to say is, I'm looking forward to playing with the Cubs and getting back my old stopper role," said Gossage, who had a career-low 11 saves last season. "It's a new year, I'm not going to look back, I'm not going to dwell on the past, I'm going to turn the page.

"A lot of things happened that that nobody could control. There's no hard feelings on my side."

Although he did not initiate any mention of Bowa, he did talk about General Manager Jack McKeon, who engineered this deal from start to finish.

"Jack is still a very good friend of mine; I can't say enough about him," Gossage said. "He's the best general manager in the business. He's always stuck by me. I'm sorry to leave him."

Gossage said he also is sorry to leave the San Diego fans, whose chants of 'Gooooose' never made the easy transition to boos, even when he was struggling last season.

"As long as I play baseball, my home is going to be in San Diego," said Gossage, who will be 37 when his newly amended contract with Chicago ends late in the 1989 season. "The fans who have come out, they have been very, very loyal to me. I will remember them as nice people, good friends. I can't say enough about them or the area."

Moreland already is making plans to move his wife, Cindy, and their two children--Courtney, 10, and Cole, 14 months--to a permanent home in San Diego.

"The worst memory of my career came out there when we lost in the 1984 championship series," Moreland said. "But that could have happened anywhere. You couldn't ask for a better place to live and play baseball. You come to the ballpark under those conditions, I don't see how you have any excuses not to play."

It is this kind of attitude that at least several Padres hope is spread thick.

"His play should rub off on the younger players," McKeon said. "He's another Tony Gwynn type."

"But," added pitcher Mark Davis from his Scottsdale, Ariz., home, "while Gywnn leads on the quiet side, Moreland speaks out. His leadership will be vocal."

Of all the positions he has played, Moreland agrees that leader may suit him best.

"I'm not into calling team meetings or anything, but I believe you can't just come to the park to play. You've got to help others to play and win," said Moreland. "When I came into the game 10 years ago, I saw how I was helped, and now I want to help others. Help them prepare themselves, help them become as successful as they can be."

Moreland should make an immediate impact in other ways.

Take his 1987 statistics and drop them into last year's Padre lineup, and he leads the team in homers (27) and is second in RBIs (88). Perhaps more important, he also is second in games played (153).

Already he leads the team in length of job title. To be fair about it, you must call him an outfielder-infielder-catcher, which pretty much covers everything but replacing Goose himself.

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