Philadelphia Daily News - December 15, 1980
Phillies Still Seeking Gary Matthews
By Bill Conlin
This time we almost made the pieces fit, didn't we, Pope?
This time we almost made a go of it, didn't we, Pope?
OK, already, close only counts in hand grenades and mud wrestling.
There were years when the Phillies went to the winter meetings and spent the week with their noses pressed against a frosty window like street urchins in front of a department store toy window. This year was a little different. The Phillies were the rich guys on the block, thumbing disdainfully through a Neiman-Marcus catalog. They priced the oriental rugs, the his and hers Lear jets, the six-month safari for two and yawned.
Paul Owens learned early in his career as the proprieter of the junk shop the Phillies used to be that you're probably in big trouble if you go to a winter meeting with a shopping list that's too long. All he feels he really needs right now is a high performance hitter and a mid-sized pitcher.
THE POPE COULDN’T land Sixto Lezcano and that might turn out to be a blessing. Whitey Herzog gave up one helluva package to get a guy who can't carry Ted Simmons' bat the best day he ever lived. Owens didn't land Angels slugger Don Baylor, but the veteran outfielder can't throw out Bill Veeck.
Third on his hitters list was Atlanta rightfielder Gary Matthews. He's still alive in that endeavor.
It turns out Ted Turner has given the Phillies permission to negotiate with Matthews, who has a 1981 no-trade clause in a very complicated contract. Matthews told Turner over the weekend that he would approve a trade to the Phillies. But there are some complicated things to iron out in the area of performance clauses down the road and the other clutter one finds in modern contracts. Matthews' base pay is a very reasonable $275.000, but he has a chance to earn much more. Which is why Gary howled long and loud when Turner ordered him benched most of the first month of the season last year. Each game he was on the bench represented money down the drain.
The Braves just gave free agent Claudell Washington a $3.75 million contract, but that's Turner's problem. Maybe Ted's going into the turkey-breeding business to help offset the losses being sustained by his cable TV news network.
ANYWAY, MATTHEWS is expendable. The Braves are after pitching and two names that have come up in Dallas talks at the GM level are Randy Lerch and Bob Walk. The Phillies would probably part with either, plus a lesser pitcher – right-handed prospect Scott Munninghoff is a possibility – to land Matthews.
Owens refuses to part with Greg Luzinski without first insuring he has an offensive replacement.
The Phillies think Matthews, hit .278 with 19 homers and 78 RBI, is a gamer.