SAN DIEGO — "Where's Dick Williams?" Reggie Jackson was asking the other day.
Someone replied: "Who knows? He's probably on the beach in Coronado."
So won't life be a beach for the 1986 San Diego Padres? Wasn't it Williams who messed them up last year? When he resigned as manager on the first day of spring training, a close friend of his said: "Well, the players got what they wanted."
Now they've got Steve Boros.
So far, so good. With the season opener in Los Angeles only three days away, Boros has found a way to: (a) motivate Kevin McReynolds, (b) get more speed in the lineup, (c) make his players like him, and (d) develop a relationship with the front office.
Not that General Manager Jack McKeon never spoke with Williams, but they weren't bosom buddies.
McKeon and Boros are.
Wednesday, they met for an hour or so, talking about club policies, about the club, about how to get McReynolds going, how to get Carmelo Martinez going, how to get Terry Kennedy going . . .
"We're a team," McKeon said later. "There are things I can see, and I can bring these things to his attention."
Boros, meanwhile, is still learning. After meeting with McKeon, he asked publicity man Mike Swanson: "How do I get to the clubhouse? See, I never went down there (when Williams was manager)."
Swanson said: "Go down the elevator. . . . You'll see a sign that says 'Padres.' That's us."
Boros said: "Oh, is that us?"
And here's what the Padres have to offer him:
A YOUNG OUTFIELD
The best is in right field. Tony Gwynn, all of age 25, went home last winter dissatisfied with his .317 batting average. So he got rid of his flab. This spring training, he has hit safely in 18 of his last 19 games, is tied for the team lead in steals and is batting .341.
Some predict a .340 batting average.
Some predict 50 stolen bases.
He will not predict.
Someone asked him to compare himself to Boston's Wade Boggs, who hit .368 last year, and Gwynn said: "I don't think I'm in his league. I don't think people should compare me to Boggs or even (St. Louis') Willie McGee. We're all different hitters. I mean, a lot of guys have certain theories on what to do at the plate. I don't. I just see it and hit it."
Did you see center fielder McReynolds taking early batting practice the other day? Boros ordered him to do so. Hitting coach Deacon Jones ordered him to do so. McReynolds, who wants to bounce back after batting .234 last season and .205 this spring, agreed.
His problems? Jones, who has been watching every move McReynolds makes and every breath he takes, said McReynolds is anticipating pitches and not keeping his bat back long enough. Apparently, he's worried about getting beat on inside pitches. So when the ball is thrown outside, McReynolds already has committed inside, and he hits weak grounders somewhere.
On Wednesday, though, Jones and Boros, who threw batting practice, got him going.
Boros said: "That was good, Mac. Let's give you some more tomorrow."
Jones whispered: "We've gotta get him going. Gotta get him going. If not, we're in a heap of trouble."
Carmelo Martinez always looks like he's in trouble in the outfield, but who's fault is that? Martinez is not a left fielder, and he knows it. He's a first baseman. But he wants to play, and he doesn't care where.
Where he helps is on offense. He led the team with 21 home runs last year, and he's hitting .329 this spring. "Did you see my batting practice?" he asked the other day. "Boom! Boom!"
FOR THE MOST PART, AN OLD INFIELD
Third base coach Jack Krol said to third baseman Graig Nettles the other day: "C'mon, you old (bleep)! I'll hit you some ground balls."
Bench coach Harry Dunlop, 52, overheard and thought Krol was speaking to him.
"Nah, Harry," Krol said. "You're not as old as Graig."
Actually, Nettles is only 41, but he'll be 42 in August. Can he still do it? He stays in shape, and he has hit the ball hard this spring (although he's batting only .200), so he probably can.
If not, there's always Jerry Royster, who platooned with Tim Flannery last year at second base and who will platoon with Nettles this year.
"I've had my best spring ever," said Royster, who's hitting .333.
At first base is Steve Garvey, who is 37 but didn't look major league retirement age last year when he hit .281 and had a team-high 81 RBIs. He's hitting .379 this spring.
Even players like Gwynn admit that Nettles and Garvey have lost range on defense, but not many players are as sure-handed on balls hit right at them.
Shortstop, of course, belongs to Garry Templeton, who appears to be reaching his career peak on and off the field, and many players believe he's the team leader.
And then there's Lim Robery .
That's Leon "Bip" Roberts and Tim Flannery.
As of now, Boros says Roberts, a 22-year-old rookie, and Flannery are sort of in a platoon situation at second base, sort of like the Timry Flanster combination last season.
But Boros said: "Yeah, it might look like platooning, but it's not."