Upset at what he called "insidious, slanderous and leftist" coverage of the Senators, owner Tang Ye-lin demanded to meet with Tony Kornheiser, who reports on the team for The Washington Post Magazine. Kornheiser agreed on condition that Tang consent to an interview. They met Friday in a back room of the Potted Dwarf, Tony Cadenza's fish-stick and pizza restaurant in Hyattsville ("spe'cialite' de la maison, regular fish sticks"), which recently reopened after being cited for rodent infestation and inadequate plumbing. Tang arrived with a pair of large, ominous-looking men, one of whom was identified as his attorney, the other as his bodyguard. The bodyguard carried a "violin case." So did the attorney, who regularly picked his teeth with a nail file. What follows is an account of their meeting:
WASHINGTON POST: I've got questions here. But before I start asking them, you wanted the meeting, so please, tell me what's on your mind.
TANG: Four weeks in a row now you've written negative stories about us. You wrote about drug testing and made it look like management cares more about attendance than the health of the players. You wrote about the fights among the wives. That's none of your business. We didn't release the information that Bad Dude Harding's injury was caused by his jealous wife. What right do you have to print that? Two weeks ago you analyzed what was wrong with the team. That's not constructive. Last week you wrote how bad the bullpen is. The players read that and get upset. It hurts our morale, and it hurts us at the gate. Our fans don't want to know what's wrong with us; they want to know what's right with us. What you're doing is hurting our whole Senators family. You media types are all the same. This obsession you have with the truth is jeopardizing our chances to win the pennant. I don't get it. We want you to be part of the family. Don't you want us to win?
WP: Are you done?
WP: Can I ask questions now?
WP: Have you ever committed adultery?
TANG: I don't have to answer that.
WP: Are you going to continue to drug-test your players every week?
TANG: Everyone but Windy Jackson. Him, we'll test him every day. Those Born Agains won't help him out forever, and if it's just him and a beaker, one of these days he'll be so high-octane that I can put him on the auction block at Daytona.
WP: We're nearing the midway point in the season. How would you assess the team's performance?
TANG: Overall, I'm pleased. But we need to do better in some specific areas. Our bullpen has been lousy, putrid. Stinko. I'm ready to make a radical change there: fire the pitching coach and maybe send some of these bums to the minors. This guy Hines is a joke. He can't get anybody out. Neither can Babaloo Sadir. I've seen better arms on Venus de Milo. I won't tolerate this much longer. It's my team, and I'll decide who stays and who goes.
WP: Aren't you afraid the players will read this and get upset?
TANG: So let them blame me. They blame me anyway.
WP: Does this mean Major Banks and Elliott Suskind no longer make personnel decisions?
TANG: That's exactly what it means. The only personnel Elliott cares about are jockeys. We could have signed Mark McGwire, but Elliott didn't show up for the meeting because he stayed late at Laurel to bet a $5,000 claimer. And Banks has enough to worry about just managing. This isn't exactly Casey Stengel we're talking about. I've kept my distance, but this Zen stuff isn't working. Banks could be sitting in that lotus position in the unemployment line if things don't turn around. I want to see motivation in our dugout. I look in there now, and all the players have their eyes closed, meditating. Is this a baseball team or tryouts for the Tibetan border patrol?
WP: Is Banks' job in jeopardy?
TANG: I'm not the Red Cross. This isn't flood relief.
WP: How would you motivate the team differently than Banks?
TANG: I'd fine them. The next time Gene McSparron didn't bring in a runner from third, it'd cost him. The next time Shaky Faloon let Bill Buckner steal a base, it'd cost him. I'd pile up the money, then give it to a worthwhile cause, like the contras. The players won't miss the money; they're overpaid anyway.
WP: You have the lowest payroll in the league already.
TANG: It'd be even lower if I hadn't agreed to let the fans decide whether to keep that stooge Oscar Madison. I could have gotten rid of $525,000 worth of dead meat, but I gave my word and I'll keep it because that's the kind of man I am. I want our fans to know Tang's on their side. There's nothing I won't do to make the Senators a better team.
WP: You're all heart, Tang; there's Christiaan Barnard and you. You're paying the players bubkes. You've got John Doe for less than he could make at Burger King. Everyone in the league says you're a cheapskate. You make the Senators eat with the visitors, and the menu hasn't changed since May: The teams share two loaves of bread and four pounds of chicken bologna. The only player who eats is Gabeen Mfoom. Everyone else brings his own lunch. Reggie Jackson said he hadn't seen anyone like you since Charlie Finley. You're loaded. Why haven't you signed any free agents?
TANG: We didn't think they could help our team.
WP: Tim Raines couldn't help? Rich Gedman couldn't help? Funny, isn't it, that George Steinbrenner said the same thing?
TANG: I admire Mr. Steinbrenner's values.
WP: How can you owners expect people to believe there isn't collusion when players like Raines and Gedman and Ron Guidry don't get offers?
ATTORNEY: (Mumbles something inaudible).
TANG: My counsel has advised me not to comment on that.
WP: What about the report in Business Week that your financial solvency is in question because Yugo sales are way down, and your attempt to corner the Chinese mustard market collapsed when the new tariffs went into effect? What about the story in the Asian edition of Guns & Gourmet Dining that the IRS is looking at your 1984 tax return, when you claimed $3,250,000 in entertainment expenses, including a $75,000 lunch with Eden Pastora? And I've been told that the Postal Service is investigating possible mail fraud. They suspect you're distributing counterfeit baseball cards. What do you have to say about that?
BODYGUARD: You want I should . . .
ATTORNEY: Sit down . . . (Mumbles something inaudible).
TANG: No comment.
WP: Tang, look, if you're going to Ollie me, there's not much point in our continuing.
TANG: As you wish. I'm glad we had this little chat, and I hope we've reached an understanding here about future coverage. We wouldn't want to have to revoke your press pass, and heaven forbid anything tragic should befall your friends or neighbors.
WP: What's that supposed to mean?
TANG: Nothing. Nothing at all. By the way, do you like Chinese food?
WP: Very much.
TANG: I found something interesting in a fortune cookie the other night. Perhaps it has some relevance here: "Wise is the man who knows which side of the knife to use for butter and with which side to cut."
WP: Was that a two-part series, or just a big cookie? ::
SENATORS STUFF: Carton of vanity tags arrived at RFK earmarked for specific players: Shaky Faloon got "MYTNUTZ"; Danny Broccoli "EZ2H8"; Tito Mantequilla "E6"; John Doe "4GOT10"; Little Stevie Ruffin "WALKU2." Primary suspect is Tony Cadenza's mean-spirited wife, Vera . . . Senators were 3-4 this week. Walid Sadir finally won a game, giving him and Bahloo one between them. Look out, Niekros . . . Embarrassed by their recent behavior, Senators' wives agreed to bury the hatchet. Lola-Jo Doyle suggested they bury it "in Tammy Raye Jones' neck" . . . Gene McSparron announced his engagement to Delores Deveraux, conservative caucus pollster, on Monday, called it off Thursday when reporter from Detroit Free Press told McSparron: In her high school yearbook, Delores is listed as Moose Freund . . . Tang Ye-lin reportedly offered his close friend Elliott Abrams job as "point man to improve statistics." Figures he could simply turn .231 BA into .321 with flick of pen. Or, "since he doesn't like to ask too many difficult questions," could just take players' word on their batting, earned-run and fielding averages. ::