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'This Really Stinks,' Carter Says

December 09, 1990|BOB NIGHTENGALE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN DIEGO — The trauma should have ended by now. Joe Carter shouldn't still have to be trying to calm his wife and kids.

Then again, Carter conceded, he never imagined he'd still be wiping tears from his own eyes.

Roberto Alomar, who was just finishing the decorating touches on his recently purchased home in San Diego, now wonders how he's going to get rid of it. He's only 22 years old and still has trouble believing he's leaving. His father, Sandy Sr., long ago explained this part of the business. Somehow, Roberto simply didn't think it would happen to him.

Alomar and Carter, thought to be the nucleus of the Padre future, instead are heading to Toronto. A new team. A new league. Hey, a new country.

"It's been what, four days, and I'm still totally devastated," Carter said. "I mean, I'm really upset. I don't understand it at all. I can't even put it in words how I feel right now. I was lied to, and now my family's suffering for it."

Alomar wonders how his brother, father and now him, can all exit the Padre organization within a span of 12 months. His brother, Sandy Jr., was traded to Cleveland. His father was fired as a Padre coach and went to the Chicago Cubs.

In what is being billed as one of the biggest trades in the history of the annual baseball winter meetings, Carter and Alomar were traded to the Blue Jays for shortstop Tony Fernandez and first baseman Fred McGriff.

It was, in the words of Joe McIlvaine, "quality for quality."

And in the words of Carter, "This really stinks."

Yes, this is a trade that will take weeks to digest.

"It took some guts making that one," said John Schuerholz, Atlanta Brave general manager. "It's nice to see an old-fashioned trade like that, because with free agency, they're starting to become extinct."

Strangely, the trade has put McIlvaine in a predicament. He tells himself that he accomplished more than he possibly imagined by acquiring not only an everyday shortstop to replace Garry Templeton, but a player who is considered one of the finest in the game. When you get a chance to get a guy like Fernandez, 28, a four-time Gold Glove winner and three-time All-Star, you don't sit around and ask questions.

And who'd ever have thought that he'd be able to acquire first baseman Fred McGriff? This is a 27-year-old who has averaged 35 homers and 89 RBIs a season. The only players in the game who can even duplicate McGriff's power are Jose Canseco and Bo Jackson.

But now, McIlvaine's quandary sounds like a variation on the Abbott and Costello routine.

Who's on second?

What's on third?

I don't know is in left?

"That's the part I don't get," Carter said, "they actually made more holes by making the trade than they had before. Why did they even bother getting me if they were going to do this?

"If I had known something like this would have happened, I would have stayed in Cleveland another year, and gotten free agency."

Carter was traded a year ago to the Padres from the Indians on the condition that he sign a multi-year contract. Carter, who had one remaining year before free agency, accepted the trade, and signed a three-year, $9.2-million contract.

He wanted a no-trade clause put into the contract, but Jack McKeon, then general manager, rejected the proposal. Instead, there was a limited no-trade clause in the contract, prohibiting him from being traded to Cleveland and Toronto during the 1990 season, Montreal and Detroit during the 1990-1991 seasons, and the New York Mets and Yankees during the 1990-91-92 seasons.

"If I had to do it over again, I would have insisted on a no-trade," Carter said, "but when we asked about it, Jack said, 'Hey, I didn't get you to trade you.' And when the season ended, (Padre Manager Greg) Riddoch said, 'Don't worry, you'll be here.'

"I said, 'I never thought for a second I was leaving. I wasn't concerned about it. In fact I was thinking, great, finally a winter where I won't have to hear my name in trade rumors.

"Now, I get traded, my family's devasted, and they don't even have the decency to call.

"And you wonder why I feel like a piece of meat right now."

McIlvaine acknowledges the players' bitterness. He understands the resentment. And he hears fans, wondering aloud if this guy knows what he's doing.

"I understand the emotions involved, and what everyone's feelings, but this is just something I felt we had to do," McIlvaine said, "and I wasn't afraid to do it."

And, yet, by making the trade, the Padres in essence have now shipped away five players--Carter, Roberto Alomar, Sandy Alomar, Chris James, and Carlos Baerga--for Fernandez and McGriff.

"You explain that one to me," Carter said. "I know Fernandez and McGriff are excellent players, but you're talking about two Hall of Famers in the Alomars, and the three of us aren't too shabby."

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