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The long-time Padres icon was angry. He couldn’t believe after all these years the team was asking him to accept such a pay cut.
Tensions mounted between management and a player that was considered the face of the franchise.
Yes, that scenario is playing out now. But actually I’m thinking back to 2001 when the Padres came close to not signing Tony Gwynn for his final season.
Allow me to recount a story Gwynn told before he went into the Baseball Hall of Fame with the unique distinction of having played his whole career with one franchise.
“I was thinking, ‘I spent 19 years here and this is how they treat me?” Gwynn said back in 2007.
If wasn’t for Tony Gwynn Jr., Tony Gwynn Sr. might have played his final season in another uniform.
“When I got home,” Tony Sr. said, finishing that story, “I talked to my family, and my son said, ‘Dad, it’s not about the money with you anyway. What’s the big deal?’”
Gwynn said the time he smiled with pride that he was being counseled by his namesake.
“I said, he’s right,” Gwynn said, “and I signed a couple days later.”
I don’t bring this story up with the expectation Tony Jr. will again step in to mediate a contract impasse after the Padres announced they had pulled Hoffman’s contract offer of $4 million off the table.
After all, Tony Jr. is out of the country playing winter league baseball right now.
I do bring it up because these are similar circumstances but with a different management. Maybe this is a sign of the times more than a sign of a new direction the Padres are taking.
Hoffman isn’t getting the deal he wants from owner John Moores and Chief Executive Officer Sandy Alderson, but Gwynn went through his last contract battle with Moores when Larry Lucchino was still running the team. Theo Epstein, now running the Boston Red Sox, was a Lucchino understudy at the time Gwynn was upset with the Padres’ offer.
Maybe big-league sports are finally hitting a tipping point when money isn’t so loosely thrown around.
For the past three decades, TV money has fueled the excessive contracts. The question of whether teams could afford the contracts was answered by the next deal a player signed with another team for more money.
The Padres have apparently put a price tag on Hoffman’s priceless value to the franchise. Hoffman should be around this franchise in the future as an ambassador. He’s paid his dues since he came here in 1993 fostering good will in the community in the name of the franchise.
At the same time, Hoffman needs to realize what he’s giving up by taking a few extra bucks to leave the Padres on bad terms.
They need to meet in a middle ground or they’re going to squander the relationship they’ve developed with each other and the community.
Hoffman can still pitch for the Padres. He’s not what he used to be, but he’s still worth bringing in to close out games for another year.
Hey, Tony Jr. — any ideas how to settle this?