Officials of the Baltimore Orioles will meet with American League President Bobby Brown Wednesday, amid increasing indications new infielder Jackie Gutierrez is incapable of playing this season.
Because the matter is so sensitive, the Orioles are refusing to comment, however owner Edward Bennett Williams did hint this weekend that it was in the hands of the American League office.
Gutierrez, acquired in an offseason trade with the Boston Red Sox, has been examined by psychologists in Baltimore for the last week and was due to return to Miami as early as Tuesday. (Gutierrez, a native of Cartagena, Colombia, has two brothers living in the Miami area).
Neither the Orioles nor their doctors will comment on the examinations, although several sources said doctors don't consider Gutierrez mentally capable of playing this season.
Further, if the Orioles felt Gutierrez could play, there would seem to be no need for a meeting with Brown.
What the Orioles want from Brown is unclear, but what they apparently intend to tell him is this: That Gutierrez already had suffered signs of a nervous breakdown when they obtained him from the Red Sox in mid-December. That, although there is no precedent for trades being voided because a player has mental problems, there are several instances when players' physical problems have caused trades to be nullified.
Gutierrez was obtained for reliever Sammy Stewart, and one possibility would be to ask that the trade be voided and Stewart returned to the Orioles.
However, club officials have said privately that they don't want Stewart back. He was late 21 times last year, and he was found sleeping by other players at least twice during games, team sources said.
One possibility would be for Brown to void the trade, and for the Orioles to trade Stewart to another team before he reports to Miami. The other possibility would be to ask the Red Sox to substitute another player in the deal.
This appears to be the alternative the Orioles prefer, although General Manager Hank Peters said he hasn't talked to Boston General Manager Lou Gorman in several weeks.
Brown was back in his New York office today after a trip to London and said he knows something about the circumstances, but not enough to make a decision.
"In this case, neither team was aware that there was a problem until later," Brown said. "In the past, there have been cases where one team knew and the other didn't. I don't think that's the case here."
Brown said he had seen medical reports on Gutierrez, but said: "They are only preliminary reports. I've seen nothing from all the diagnostic exams that have been done [in Baltimore]."
Williams and Peters will see Brown Wednesday in Dallas, where they will be attending a joint meeting of the major league owners, and Peters said he expects the matter to be resolved before Orioles veterans have their first workout Friday.
Williams said this weekend the Orioles haven't asked the American League to investigate the trade, but have asked that it not be validated until there is more information on Gutierrez's condition.
Williams also said he was unsure of what baseball's rules were on such a matter, but "I know what is right."
One of the key issues might be when Gutierrez first showed signs of having problems. Two sources said there were indications in November, about a month before the deal was made, when he was playing in Venezuela. Before he was released from two Latin American winter ball teams, Gutierrez once stripped off his uniform while standing at his shortstop position on the field, these sources said.
Another source said Gutierrez once had a gun in the clubhouse, and was reportedly involved in fights with teammates.
This would be very different behavior from what the Boston Red Sox saw in the two years Gutierrez was with them. Teammates and club officials have described him as very nearly a model citizen, although he reportedly was depressed after being injured and losing his starting position last summer.
People who know him say Gutierrez has been under tremendous pressure. As only the third Colombian to play in the major leagues, his career was followed so closely that Colombian newspapers carried daily Gutierrez updates.
His agent, Jim Turner of St. Louis, has maintained Gutierrez only needed some time away from baseball after a bad year and that he would be fine. Today, Turner failed to return phone calls. Gutierrez has said he will have no public comment on the matter.
The Orioles had hoped Gutierrez could win at least half the third-base job, which would allow Floyd Rayford to move behind the plate.