Book Excerpt: If These Walls Could Talk: Stories from the Toronto Blue Jays Dugout, Locker Room and Press Box, by Bob Elliott

 

This excerpt from If These Walls Could Talk: Toronto Blue Jays is printed with the permission of Triumph Books. For more information and to order a copy, please visit Indigo, McNally Robinson, Amazon.ca, or www.triumphbooks.com/WallsBlueJays.

1999 – The Shawn Green trade: A behind-the-scenes timeline

By Bob Elliott

A month after the 1999 season ended, Shawn Green was shipped to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Raul Mondesi. Green was sitting in a chair at the Big Canyon Country Club in Newport Beach at the time. Martin Garcia, a waiter in the men’s clubhouse of the golf club, which counts Tiger Woods among its members, approached and asked: “Hello, Mr. Dodger. What can I get you for lunch?” Jackie Robinson. Pee Wee Reese. Duke Snider. Sandy Koufax. Steve Garvey. And Shawn Green. Three-and-a-half years after Green was sitting on the Blue Jays bench behind a washed-up Ruben Sierra, he was Mr. Dodger. How did Green arrive at that designation? How did the trade evolve? What went on behind the scenes? How many players were involved at the height of the deal? How did agent Jeff Moorad, who represents the key players in the deal— Raul Mondesi and Green—serve two masters? These questions—and what Green had for lunch—I endeavor to answer with the help of Green’s lunch partner, Moorad, the kingmaker.

August 2–4, 1999 – New York City, New York

The Jays were in for a three-game series. The talk on TV, radio, and the papers was of Green becoming a New York Yankee. “Everyone had me going to New York,” Green said earlier that week. “My parents were on the trip. I had all kinds of calls from the media.”

Green talked it over with his parents and thought New York was a “little too much” for a California guy. “I had dinner with John Olerud a year before. He and his wife loved New York,” Green said. “But he was playing for the Mets.”

September 25, the SkyDome

Moorad arrived to discuss his client with general manager Gord Ash. The GM asked Moorad whether talk of Green wanting to play for the Yankees was accurate. Moorad replied he was unsure, but he said he didn’t want to close any doors. Ash told Moorad if Green didn’t sign a long-term deal, he didn’t want him playing out the 2000 season for the Jays. Moorad told Ash, “Don’t worry. Maybe we can send another your way.” Moorad meant his client, Mondesi.

Moorad and Green dined at Sotto Sotto in Yorkville. “I spoke to Shawn about how some other clients approached similar situations,” Moorad said. Green began to lean toward Southern California.

September 28, the SkyDome

Ash called Moorad and made a five-year, $48-million offer.

October 1, Marriott at Key Centre Hotel, Cleveland, Ohio

Ash, along with assistant GMs Dave Stewart and Tim McCleary, plus vice presidents Terry Zuk and Stu Hutcheson, gave Green their best sales pitch on the Jays’ future. Ash, Stewart, and McCleary outlined a three-to-five year plan. Hutcheson and Zuk spoke of the business side. “The coaches being fired Saturday [Mel Queen, Jim Lett, Gary Matthews, and Eddie Rodriguez] didn’t help,” Green said. “But I’m not saying any one change affected my decision. Some softened my decision. There weren’t enough factors to keep me in Toronto. There was the question about [team owner Interbrew SA]. Would they sell?”

Green mentioned good people no longer around: former president Paul Beeston; former GM Pat Gillick; former scouting director Bob Engle; area scout John Cole, who signed him; and former player development boss and later pitching coach, Queen. To Green the most respected man remaining was Ash. “The biggest factors in staying were my loyalty to Gord and my friends on the team,” Green said, “although I wasn’t sure how long Carlos Delgado would be around.”

October 4, Dodger Stadium

The day after the 1999 season ended, Moorad visited Mondesi and asked whether he would like a trade to Toronto. “Raul was open [to a deal],” Moorad said. “He had talked to Latin players who loved Toronto. Devon White said very nice things about the city and the club.”

Mondesi told Moorad he wanted to be compensated for the difference in the income tax he would have to pay. Moorad phoned Ash with the news.

October 5, Dodger Stadium

Moorad talked with Dodgers GM Kevin Malone and lawyer Sam Fernandez. Manager Davey Johnson got on a conference call with Mondesi and the others. “They wanted to discuss Raul’s frustration and desire to be traded,” Moorad said. “Davey was unable to talk Raul into staying and was disappointed Raul wouldn’t change his mind.” Malone told Moorad to put his trade request in writing.

October 7, the SkyDome

Moorad phoned Ash to book an October 11 meeting.

October 8

The first report of the Jays and Dodgers talking about a Green-for-Mondesi deal surfaced.

October 11, Park Hyatt Hotel, Toronto

Green and Moorad boarded an early Air Canada flight from Los Angeles to Toronto for the 5:30 p.m. meeting. Before Ash left home, he told his wife, Susan, “This is either going to be very good or very bad.”

Ash was surprised when he entered the room to find Green there, too. Green told Ash his preference was to play in L.A. Moorad said they had a list of five places Green wanted to play. The Dodgers were No. 1. After that, in no particular order, were the Boston Red Sox, the Colorado Rockies, the Chicago Cubs, and the Yankees. “Shawn saying he was ready to settle down in a major-market U.S. city, specifically L.A., surprised me,” Ash said. “He never impressed me as a guy who enjoys limelight.”

Moorad tried to split hairs, saying: “We weren’t asking for a trade or encouraging a trade. We didn’t know whether Shawn would wind up in L.A. in 2000 or as a free agent in 2001.”

“I asked if we’d done anything different, including [keeping] the coaches, would it have made a difference,” Ash said. “Shawn said no.”

Ash told Green that the Jays were about to rehire Cito Gaston as batting coach. When Gaston was the Jays manager, he didn’t use Green as an everyday player. “Gord said, ‘Well, I guess it’s not going to be an issue,’” Green said.

Green left to catch a 7:20 pm flight to Los Angeles. Having gotten up at 5:30 am, he had flown all day but said, “I owed it to Gord to talk to him one-on-one,” Green said.

Ash told Moorad the Jays would pick up Mondesi’s two option years (2002 and 2003) if Mondesi waived his right to demand a trade after the 2000 season, an option if he was traded in the middle of a long-term deal. Moorad said whatever difference there was between the income tax structure in California and Ontario was minimal.

October 12, Toronto

The Jays hired Gaston. Moorad visited the Toronto office of the Winnipeg-based Assante Corporation at Scotia Plaza. Assante was in the process of purchasing Steinberg-Moorad Management from Leigh Steinberg and Moorad for $120 million. The agents represented Steve Young, Troy Aikman, Drew Bledsoe, Kordell Stewart, and 21 other quarterbacks.

October 23, Newport Beach, California

Moorad phoned Seattle GM Pat Gillick to ask the price on long-term talks with Alex Rodriguez in order to establish a market price. Gillick did not give Moorad an answer.

November 2, Los Angeles, California, and Toronto

Talks between the Dodgers and Jays expanded to a 10-player deal with six Jays (including Green and another major leaguer) going to the Dodgers for four players. Malone and Ash were becoming frustrated with each other.

November 3, Las Vegas, Nevada

In Nevada for the Golden Spikes Award honouring the College Player of the Year, Moorad phoned Malone on his cellphone at a Los Angeles Lakers game, asking for a list of six minor leaguers the Dodgers would deal. Frustrated by the deal being held up by discussions over minor leaguers, Moorad left a loud and lengthy message on Ash’s answering machine, asking: “How do you value four years of cost control against a player eligible for free agency in six months? You’re not giving Raul enough credit. He won two Gold Gloves, has been to the All-Star Game, and was the Rookie of the Year.

“Don’t sell the guy short,” Moorad yelled into the phone. “He’s quality.”

November 4, Laguna Niguel, California

Ash responded to Moorad’s message, jokingly asking Moorad if he ever considered being a preacher. Ash was in California for the General Managers’ Meetings.

Malone phoned Moorad at 5:00 p.m. to say the clubs had agreed on the players. Moorad asked Malone who else Toronto received? “Pedro Borbon?” Moorad said. “Gordie never even mentioned him. I didn’t know they liked him.”

Moorad left a message for Green in Las Vegas, where he was attending the Players Choice Awards. Green phoned back, catching Moorad at dinner with Assante chairman Marty Weinberg at Spago in Beverly Hills, California. “I have good news and bad news,” Moorad told Green, “They’ve agreed on players, but you have to come back from Vegas early.”

The Dodgers and Jays agreed on a 72-hour time period—expiring midnight Monday—to talk contract with Green and Mondesi, respectively, and fax the commissioner’s office.

November 6, Newport Beach, California

Dodgers chairman Bob Daly and Malone met with Moorad in the agent’s office for four hours. Green was there for an hour. Moorad wanted seven years at an average of $14.5 million. The Dodgers offered fiveyears at $62.5 million for an average of $12.5 million with two option years. Moorad met again with the Dodgers at his office that night. Talks ranged from a five-year deal to a 10-year deal (seven years plus three options)

November 8, Laguna Niguel, California

Moorad had breakfast with Ash. They worked out incentive clauses for Mondesi’s contract: $50,000 for an All-Star appearance and/or Gold Glove, $100,000 for winning the MVP, and $50,000 for finishing second through fifth in the voting.

At 12:30 p.m. Moorad and the Dodgers met at the Ritz-Carlton, agreeing on a six-year, $84-million deal with Green also getting $250,000 a year in contributions to the Dodgers Dream Foundation. Malone phoned Green and said: “Congratulations, you’re a Dodger.”

At the press conference, Green said: “At this stage of my career I would only want to play in a city that has a large Jewish population like New York or Los Angeles, where I can have a large impact on the religion, and that’s from my heart. Being Jewish there are a lot of things I could accomplish in the business world or with kids. Those are important goals. When you think of that, L.A. with the entertainment industry—it is the best place to do that.”

Dodgers manager Davey Johnson remembered when the Baltimore Orioles offered Jeffrey Hammonds for Green. With the Cincinnati Reds, he remembered offering “a dozen different guys.”

Judy Green, Shawn’s mother, watched the press conference on TV while at work and began to cry. Judy cried as often as Gillick. A reporter asked Green: “What’s it like coming to a team that must win compared to playing for a team that really didn’t care about winning?”

Note that the Dodgers had not won a postseason game since 1988 while the Jays had won World Series in 1992–93 and had a better record than the Dodgers the past two seasons. A Jays scout says it would have been a bigger deal “if the Dodgers had any prospects.”

November 9, Laguna Niguel, California

The Assante purchase of Steinberg-Moorad went through. The bottom line: Mondesi had two more guaranteed years and a new jersey, Green had a six-year, $84 million deal, and kingmaker Moorad picked up his 5 percent commission. And for lunch: Green had the taco special— his first as Mr. Dodger.

This excerpt from If These Walls Could Talk: Toronto Blue Jays is printed with the permission of Triumph Books. For more information and to order a copy, please visit Indigo, McNally Robinson, Amazon.ca, or www.triumphbooks.com/WallsBlueJays.

 

 

Published by cooperstownersincanada

Kevin Glew is a professional writer based in London, Ontario. His work has been featured on CBC Sports, Sportsnet.ca, MLB.com and Sympatico.ca. He has also written articles for Baseball Digest, Baseball America, The Hockey News, Sports Market Report and the Canadian Baseball Network. He has been involved with the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame for more than 16 years, including a two-year stint as the museum's acting curator.

2 thoughts on “Book Excerpt: If These Walls Could Talk: Stories from the Toronto Blue Jays Dugout, Locker Room and Press Box, by Bob Elliott

  1. Wow, this is going to be a great book. Can’t wait to read it. Great part you shared. Thank you

    1. Yes, indeed, Scott. It’s a great book. There are also great, behind-the-scenes stories about Delgado signing with the Marlins, Joe Carter’s homer and Jose Bautista’s bat flip — just to name a few. I highly recommend it.

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