Clark swings by Camden Yards Orioles warm up Giants' free agent with tour of park

November 20, 1993|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Staff Writer

Will Clark came, saw and was impressed. Now it's up to the Orioles to persuade him to hang his bat in the rack at Camden Yards.

To do so the club most likely will have to come close to guaranteeing that the left-handed-hitting first baseman could finish his career here. "Will is coming off a [$16 million] four-year contract that also included a no-trade clause," said Jeff Moorad, the agent who represents Clark.

"That clause was very important, because he wanted to be sure he wouldn't have to move around.

"At this stage, to make a move the ideal situation would be a long-term commitment," Moorad said. "One that, perhaps, would enable him to finish his career."

Moorad is scheduled to meet today with general manager Roland Hemond and club counsel Lon Babby, who has handled most of the Orioles' major negotiations for the past five years. Hemond wouldn't say whether an offer would be made.

"I can't get into that," Hemond said. "I can't say what the strategy or plan will be. I'm sure some numbers will be discussed."

Having spent eight years in San Francisco, Clark acknowledged his preference would be to finish there. "You would like to spend your whole career with Giants written across your chest," he said. "But for that to happen, they'll have to take some of the initiative.

"It's a great organization, and I've had eight great years with them. It's just going to depend on whatever is right for myself and my family."

Like Sid Fernandez two days earlier, Clark was given a tour of Oriole Park yesterday.

It included a video presentation, and the lights were turned on to combat the overcast day ("if you're going to show off a house, you don't want to wander around with the lights out," assistant general manager Doug Melvin said).

Clark liked what he saw ("it's a very impressive facility"), and his observations gave a clue as to why he has emerged as the top man on the Orioles' free-agent hit list. Nobody has come out and said as much, and Rafael Palmeiro has not been discounted, but Clark brings intangibles that make him particularly attractive.

"One of the first things he asked me was whether we had any guys who liked to sit around the clubhouse after a game and talk baseball," said manager Johnny Oates, who drove from his home in Richmond for the second time this week.

Clark met one of the several Orioles yesterday who often hang out long after a game is concluded. He spent about 15 minutes talking to Cal Ripken, who was working out in the weight room, and later visited with the All-Star shortstop at his home.

Oates said he believes in the value of intangibles. "Yes I do," he said emphatically, "and the guy visiting here has a lot of them. That's one of the prerequisites -- you can see what we're looking for by looking at this guy's face."

Intangibles aside, the Orioles would expect Clark to be an effective run producer.

In that area his numbers have declined in the past two years (when he had 73 RBIs each season), but Clark dispels the notion that by his next birthday (March 13) he'll be an "old 30," which is how then-Cincinnati GM Bill DeWitt described Frank Robinson before trading him to the Orioles in December 1965. Robinson went on to win the AL Triple Crown in 1966.

"Those people [Clark's critics] aren't out on the field with me," Clark said.

"The ones who are on the field know what I can do."

Clark was restricted by two injuries last season -- a pulled groin muscle and a strained knee ligament that put him on the disabled list for 15 days.

He counters any suggestion that his skills have declined by pointing out that he finished last season batting .463 during an 11-game period down the stretch and .311 during the last four months.

Although the Giants have an offer on the table (reportedly $15 million for three years), Moorad has said he preferred to wait until after Clark has met with all interested teams before starting serious negotiations. Once they start, Clark said "we're not going to wait around."

Moorad said he has been contacted by "half a dozen" teams, but Clark has made only two visits (he was in Texas last week) and has one more scheduled (in Colorado Dec. 1).

"The Giants made an offer because they felt they wanted to put something on the table," Moorad said.

"We have an idea of how Texas is thinking, and Colorado, too. Right now I don't know what Baltimore thinks -- but I'll have an idea tomorrow [today]."

Then it will be up to Clark to decide if he wants to spend the rest of his career with Giants written across his chest, or make a move.

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