Not even Pedro Guerrero's last official act before leaving the Dodgers--the ceremonial cleaning of the locker--could be performed Tuesday afternoon in the Dodger clubhouse without intense media scrutiny.
But Guerrero, always in the spotlight during his nine seasons with the Dodgers, expected the attention. After being traded Tuesday to the St. Louis Cardinals for pitcher John Tudor, Guerrero almost seemed to be enjoying clearing out his personal effects in front of a crowd.
It took two duffel bags, three cardboard boxes and a trunk to pack all the mementos Guerrero had acquired during a Dodger career that began in 1978 and reached an apex in 1985, when he hit 15 home runs in June and led the Dodgers into the National League playoffs.
Circled by glowing mini-cams, Guerrero packed Dodger warm-up jackets and jerseys. He packed videotapes of his at-bats this season and salsa and samba cassette tapes. He packed bats and gloves. He plucked batting gloves off the side like a stalk of bananas. Deep in the pile, he found a hockey stick belonging to Montreal Canadien center Shayne Corson and a Bible. Just before leaving, he grabbed a tiny flag of the Dominican Republic and waved it.
Asked later by a television reporter what he was thinking while packing up, Guerrero smiled sardonically and said: "I was thinking that I have to get all my things out of the locker."
Despite the stoic front, it was a difficult day for Guerrero. Even though he received a lucrative 3-season, $6.2-million contract extension from the Cardinals, Guerrero said he was hurt by the trade.
He said he was mostly hurt because he felt the Dodgers had lost faith in his ability and planned to trade him all along or let him leave via free agency at the end of the season.
"Of course, I feel kind of bad," Guerrero said. "But, of course, I knew before the season this would probably be my last here. It's all business. I think it was time for me to get out of here. Or they thought it was time for me to go.
"I think I'll have a new life in St. Louis. I'm playing with new guys and new people. Probably, it'll be a little hard for a while. I hope to come back next year and win it all (with St. Louis). I'm happy with the contract I got in St. Louis. If I had been mad about it, I probably wouldn't have agreed (to the contract extension). I wish I could've stayed here, but I couldn't. They didn't want me."
Guerrero said he knew the Dodgers would not re-sign him when executive vice president Fred Claire declined to negotiate a contract extension with Tony Attanasio, Guerrero's agent. He also brought up the Dodgers' failed attempt to trade Guerrero to the Detroit Tigers for Kirk Gibson.
That deal fell through because of Gibson's uncertain status as a potential free agent. Gibson, of course, eventually signed with the Dodgers as a free agent, but the news of the aborted trade apparently hurt Guerrero.
"They were trying to trade me during the winter, so I knew," Guerrero said. "They didn't offer me a contract early in the season.
"You really don't want to be where nobody wants you. It was time for me to get out. If they didn't want me here, I didn't want to be here. I'm out of here tomorrow. I won't look back."
Guerrero, as with any high-salaried player, has been cheered greatly or booed greatly depending on his performance.
Gibson said the expectations heaped on Guerrero were familiar to him. "This is like what happened to me in Detroit," Gibson said. "When things got bad, it came to him. People looked at him as the reason. I see it as similar to my situation in Detroit. They try to justify the trade.
"One of the reasons we forget the positives a guy did is because people are trying the justify the loss. I listened to people talk about Pete on the radio. But I think we should give the guy his due. He didn't cheat the fans. He gave what he thought was 100%. I think he did his best."
As if to prove Guerrero's point that "baseball is a business," the trade was completed on "Family Night" at Dodger Stadium, when players brought their families to the field for a fun game before the regularly scheduled game.
By that time, Guerrero had collected his belongings and was headed to St. Louis.
"No matter what you do for (a team), sooner or later, you're going to go," Guerrero said. "As soon as they think they don't need you, you're gone."