Alan Wiggins grudgingly accepted his demotion to Rochester today, saying, "They pay me to play baseball. If they want me to play in Rochester, that's where I'll play. If they want me to play in Baltimore, I'll play in Baltimore."
He cleaned out his locker at Memorial Stadium this afternoon and will report to the Red Wings Saturday or Sunday. "He knows they're in a pennant race," said his agent, Tony Attanasio of San Diego, "and he's going down with the attitude that he can help them."
In leaving, Wiggins seemed almost philosophical.
"They make the decisions," he said. "I don't make out the lineup card. Am I coming back? You're asking the wrong person that. I have a feeling about it, but I have feelings about a lot of things. You never know."
He paused before adding: "I'm still healthy. I played golf this morning with a lady who had cancer surgery six months ago. She made sure I realized that the important thing was that I had my health.
"This is a small chapter in my life. I'm going to go from here. I wish all those line drives in April had fallen in, and I might be hitting .340 instead of .180. That's it."
As he departed, a bigger question for the Orioles was: Is this the latest chapter in a complex part of Wiggins' history in Baltimore, or the last?
In a sweeping roster change, they shipped Wiggins, Floyd Rayford and Mike Young to Class AAA Rochester Thursday, bringing up Jackie Gutierrez and John Stefero from Rochester and Tom Dodd from Class AA Charlotte.
They sent Rayford and Young away with blessings, saying they hoped both get their batting slumps ironed out and return quickly. Wiggins is another matter. "If he plays the way he played for the '84 Padres, I want him back," Orioles Manager Earl Weaver said. "I haven't seen that yet."
The Orioles don't seem to know what to make of all they've seen of Alan Wiggins the past year. He came to them from the San Diego Padres on June 5, 1985, after rehabilitation for a drug problem (his second), and brought the reputation of a moody but talented player, one who had the speed to disrupt games on a level just below that of Rickey Henderson and Tim Raines.
Wiggins played well in stretches, especially this season when he hit .317 and stole 11 bases in 30 games between May 3 and June 12. He also made only two errors in the Orioles' first 47 games and was adequate defensively.
Then things started to fall apart. He went into a long batting slump that lowered his average to .251. He got picked off twice. He made three errors in a single game. As the same time, Weaver found a hot hand in Juan Bonilla and made him the Orioles' starter.
Wiggins responded by withdrawing. He didn't socialize with teammates and had near-fights with shortstop Cal Ripken and outfielder Lee Lacy. He ate meals alone. He dressed alone.
Worse, his work habits became bad. During batting practice, he would step in the cage and take five golf swings, sometimes hitting the ball only once.
"That's one man no one knows," one Oriole said today.
Yet, Wiggins could be engaging. He could talk politics as well as baseball, had studied black history extensively and would read the editorial page before the sports page.
"Let me tell you something about Alan Wiggins," Attanasio said. "He phones me every day. That's every day. He can tell me about everyone in that clubhouse. He can tell me about everyone's family because he listens and he cares. . . . I know there are times his personality didn't mesh with his teammates, and I'm not sure how it was perceived.
"I know this, he can play baseball. What he did in 1984 hit .258, score 106 runs and steal 70 bases was no fluke. He cannot help what people think about him."
The odds are heavy that Wiggins will return sometime this season. For one thing, economics dictate it. He'll earn $600,000 this season and has $1.5 million in guaranteed money coming the next two years.
Also, the Orioles haven't forgotten what kind of player he was in 1984, and that they still need a leadoff hitter.
"I don't know the answer to that," Attanasio said. "Historically, Baltimore has relied on the three-run home run, and that's not how Alan helps teams."