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San Diego Sportscene / Dave Distel

This Season's Padre Camp Is Anything but Tranquil

March 01, 1986|DAVE DISTEL

"It's a bad spring for the writers. Nothing's happening." --Dick Williams March 23, 1985

Camp Tranquility. That was what it was called. As plain as vanilla. As peaceful as a Sunday service. Yawn.

These were the critical questions which confronted the Padres when they reported to Yuma in the spring of 1985:

Would Jimmy Jones (or Kevin Kristan, for that matter) pitch in Beaumont or Las Vegas?

Would Steve Garvey get an occasional day of rest?

How far ahead would they finish in the National League West?

Would they have dinner at Stag and Hounds or Jack and Rosie's?

Dick Williams was right. It was a downright boring spring training, if, in fact, controversy and conversation is the essence of such exercises. A few days with the Padres was enough to cause paralysis of the pencil.

Obviously, Williams was determined that the Padres and their followers would not have to suffer through such ennui this spring. Always sensitive to sportswriters and their chores, Williams gave them a little morsel to get them going as dawn broke on the first morning of spring training.

He quit.

Way to go. This will be an interesting spring.

Controversy No. 1: Why did Dick Williams quit?

Conversation Piece No. 1: Who will replace him?

These were questions which figured to take a few days to answer. While the Padres contemplated whether to hire Billy Martin, Joe Torre or Ted Leitner, Williams would have an opportunity to fire a few salvos from his bivouac in Coronado.

All of this was transpiring Monday, when Williams and Padre Owner Joan Kroc appeared at what was called a press conference. They should have sent robots with taped messages plugged into their consoles. They made their statements, kissed and departed. There were no answers because there were no questions. Just prepared statements, and a kiss.

However, Conversation Piece No. 1 was quickly answered on Tuesday. Steve Boros had been hired as manager.

This was the coronation of Mr. Nice Guy, a return to tranquility. No more controversy here.

Meanwhile, Dick Williams had seemingly disappeared. His telephone was disconnected. He may well have been sitting in his living room, listening to his phone not ring. Simply stated, he was unavailable for comment.

This brings up Conversation Piece No. 2: How long will it take George Steinbrenner to learn Dick Williams' new number?

That, of course, brings us to Controversy No. 2: How long can Lou Pinella last as the New York Yankee manager now that Williams doesn't want to manage any more and, therefore, is available?

With Williams presumably hiding in a flat in the Bronx and Boros holding fatherly confabs with the Padres in Yuma, all seemed peaceful on Wednesday. This would be Day 3 of the training camp, but Day 1 of total tranquility.

Controversy No. 3: Was that really Steve Garvey delivering a verbal barrage at the departed manager? Was that really Steve Garvey criticizing Joan Kroc for failing to address issues at the so-called press conference?

Sure was, Garvey said. He did think Williams timed his departure to inflict harm on the organization. He did think Williams could not communicate, could not inspire and stooped to vendettas. This was a senatorial filibuster.

(Garvey probably did not realize it, but The Kiss had a lot to do with the lack of questions at the press conference. Once they kissed, neither one could tell.)

Garvey's summation: "Now there is sunshine."

This was Wednesday, of course. The forecast was for sunshine the duration of spring training.

Ah, tranquility. Finally.

It lasted until Thursday, when a dark cloud of suspicion enshrouded the camp.

LaMarr Hoyt was on his way to a rehabilitation center.

Controversy No. 4: Was LaMarr Hoyt involved with substance abuse? Was he traumatized by emotional stress? Or both?

Conversation Piece No. 3: What can be done about this problem?

This conversation was dominant Friday. It seemed so long ago that Boros, the breath of fresh air and sunshine, had been hired as manager. A new problem had intervened.

These Padres were angered, maybe not so much at Hoyt as at the entire specter of substance abuse. The focus was obviously intensified Friday by Commissioner Peter Ueberroth's sanctions against the players involved in the celebrated and shameful Pittsburgh case.

As Tony Gwynn said: " . . . a few players are making us all look bad."

That's right. It's the old "guilt-by-association" syndrome, and it's very real.

Ballard Smith asked the Padre players to adopt a drug-testing program, and both Gwynn and Jerry Royster made strong stands in favor of just such action. The players, themselves, should insist on team-wide testing, regardless of what the watch-dog Players' Assn. might say about it.

Dick Williams may be gone, but there are darker clouds to be blown away.

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