SAN DIEGO — It's safe to say the Padre clubhouse is buzzing. Reporters--recently called "a bunch of (bleeping) flies" by team president Ballard Smith--walked in Wednesday night to find fly swatters and no-pest strips hanging from the lockers. And the decorations were still there Thursday. Some writers are walking around saying: "zzzzzzzzz."
Smith, sorry for what he had done, called an impromptu press conference Thursday to explain. Tuesday, just after a 38-minute meeting with his players, he had been chatting with pitcher Eric Show when several reporters approached him. Upset, he called them flies and left. He was late for a party.
"I'm concerned that there's some antagonism building up between myself and the media," he said Thursday. " . . . And to the extent I caused that problem the other night, I apologize. I don't want to see that build up between players and the media, either.
"Hey, that's all over. I was wrong. I'm sorry. I'd like to move forward. I'm available any time. I'd just say, that if that kind of situation (with Show) comes up, I hope at least I could finish the conversation.
" . . . You're all free to call me any time you want. Most of you have my home number. I hope you think I've been more open than most sports executives . . . There are a lot of other things I could've done (after the team meeting). I could've said, 'Keep them (reporters) out there; I'll slip out the side door,' or 'I'll stand in that little corner, let them swarm in, and I'll take off.' I wasn't even thinking about it."
Here what Smith is thinking:
- Why he called the meeting--"I just didn't like what I was reading in the paper, and what I was hearing from some of you. I was just concerned with the general perception that seemed to be out there. And I hadn't been down there for a while. It's always a difficult thing--how much time I should be spending down there--and I don't want to spend a lot of time down there because I don't want to undermine the manager or the general manager. I do believe in certain lines of authority, but I'm also understanding that it's important that the players realize I'm interested in what's going on."
So what's going on?
" . . . A much better attitude than I thought. Maybe the club is feeling much better collectively about itself, and I think we're starting to see some signs."
- Why he won't lift the beer ban--"Well, I don't think the beer ban is an issue with the players right now. And that's the message I got from them. Obviously, some of them are very upset, and obviously some of them don't agree with what we've done. But it's not an issue with them now . . . Perhaps if I had it to do all over again, I would have gone down myself and talked to them.
"Nobody seems to believe it, but the final decision on the beer ban in the clubhouse was mine. And there's no question she (owner Joan Kroc) was in favor of doing it, but I didn't have any pressure to do it. It was my decision, and I thought about it a long time, and I believe it was legally the right thing to do. I'm told the Chargers don't allow alcohol in the clubhouse. A lot of teams don't. And the (San Francisco) Giants don't allow it on their flights."
- Why he thinks Joan Kroc is a good owner--"She is being extremely supportive of everything we're trying to do. You have to have that strong financial base to be successful in this business, and she gives us that. She has told me in the last several months on many occasions that if there's anything you need to try to improve this club, don't let the money stop you from doing it. And that really helps a lot . . ."
- Why he thinks Steve Boros is a good manager--"Well, Steve's the type of manager I always wanted this club to have. I'm more enthused about a manager who's a little more low-key and communicates with his players and uses his players. I've liked the job that Steve has done."
- Why the Padres haven't made any trades--"We've made some attempts to make trades. Actually, we were talking about a fairly major trade (possibly catcher Terry Kennedy to St. Louis for Andy Van Slyke). And there's an old line in baseball--sometimes the best trades are the ones you don't make. We have nothing going on trade wise right now . . . We are comfortable at the moment with the club, but that's not to say if we had a chance to improve it, we wouldn't (trade). But, right now, we're happy with what's going on."
When it was all over Thursday, Smith said: "I will try to be more accessible. But I'll be in Paris for the next nine days. My 40th birthday is tomorrow, and I'm trying to get over the trauma of it."
By the way, one of his employees gave him an early birthday present.
A fly swatter.