SAN DIEGO — After two months of fighting over how to make the Padres' best player happy, it finally came down to this: An off-the-cuff radio-show remark and an agent who took that remark to heart.
Stranger things may have happened to Tony Gwynn, but none that have made him as rich. Tuesday afternoon, the Padres ended a salary haggle by giving Gwynn a $500,000 raise.
It wasn't what he wanted, but it was more than he expected. In what might be termed The Great Compromise, the Padres still did not guarantee his contract for 1991 and 1992, at $1.6 million a year, as he asked. But they made sure that when the contract runs out after the 1990 season, and Gwynn becomes a free agent, he'll remember their phone number.
The details, as ironed out in a two-hour meeting Tuesday between John Boggs, Gwynn's agent, and Padres President Chub Feeney:
Gwynn received a $200,000 bonus 'for services rendered," Boggs said.
He receives a $200,000 raise this season, bringing his salary to $1 million.
He will receive a $100,000 raise next season, pushing his 1989 salary to $1 million.
Added to this, in quiet action that took place last week, his 1990 option year was picked up and guaranteed at $1 million.
"I'm very, very happy with it," Gwynn said. "The Padres showed me good faith that I'll remember. When it comes time to become a free agent (after the 1990 season), I'll definitely not forget this."
Said Feeney: "It's not something we would do for anybody but a player of Tony's stature. We want him to feel comfortable and be with us for as long as he'd like."
This was a negotiation that broke down Feb. 3 after eight meetings and much anxiety. Gwynn was headed to spring training with two years left on a contract that would pay him less than, among other Padres, pitcher Ed Whitson.
At the time Gwynn said, "I'm finished talking about it until I become a free agent in 1990. I don't want to leave, but I may have to.'
And now so cozy. The only thing stranger than the sudden change of expressions is how it came about.
Cut to a week ago, on a Monday night 'Padre Talk' show with Feeney and host Ted Leitner on KFMB radio. After many calls criticizing the Padres' handling of the Gwynn situation, one woman called and asked Feeney just to tear up Gwynn's existing contact and give him a new one.
Feeney said he thought it sounded good, and if Gwynn's agent was listening, he should call him and re-start negotiations.
Said Leitner: "I laughed and I thought, he didn't mean that . You don't do contract talks on a radio show."
Said Boggs: "I thought he meant it. You don't say something like that on the air and not mean it."
So Boggs called Feeney. And Tuesday afternoon, Feeney called Boggs into his office at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium.
After an hour, Boggs left the meeting and went to where Gwynn was posing for program photographs and asked him to join them in Feeney's office. A verbal agreement was reached. The new contracts will be signed in a couple of weeks at the Padres spring training site in Yuma, Ariz.
"They had never just asked for a raise," said Feeney, explaining his apparent sudden change of position. "I had twisted and turned and tried everything I could to get them their guaranteed contracts but couldn't. We had never talked about a raise.
"So when the raise came up, I said, fine, let them call me, I'll be glad to discuss it."
Probably the best thing about it for Gwynn is that he was going to play here for three more years anyway, as the Padres had earlier decided to renew the 1990 option year. The raise didn't cost him free agency. It didn't cost him anything.
"It was like I was going to play hard for three years on a contract, and now I just got a better contract," Gwynn said. "Nothing different on my part."
He is still not the highest paid Padre. That guy, newly acquired Keith Moreland, will make $2.5 million over the next two seasons.
The results of the Padres' only arbitration case this season, versus Chris Brown, will be announced this afternoon. The hearing was Tuesday morning in New York. The Padres were offering $265,000. Brown and agent Eric Goldschmidt were asking $410,000--55% more, one of the bigger differences in baseball this season.