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San Diego Sportscene / Dave Distel

Poor Padres Are Struggling Everywhere but the Standings

June 28, 1986|DAVE DISTEL

These Padres are in the biggest of trouble, right? That's what I hear and read. Heck, that's what I see.

Panic buttons hereabouts are about as worn out as Garry Templeton's knees, which happen to be one of the reasons panic buttons are wearing out. This team is about a stable as a peso.

Is there no hope?

Probably not.

How could there be?

After all, this organization has been a study in chaos since December, when the owner overrode the president and general manager in their decision to dump a manager who didn't really want to manage. I am still reading that this has completely eroded credibility in the front office, undoubtedly inhibiting the president's ability to make proper judgment on fly balls to left field.

The manager who didn't want to manage ultimately decided that he didn't want to manage. At least here. So now he is managing in Seattle, where the gloomy weather is probably much more in keeping with his disposition. The Padres hailed the departure of this man, who subscribed to the theory that a fellow with nothing nice to say should say it.

However, the most diplomatic of these Padres, Steve Garvey, suggested that this curmudgeon timed his resignation to most greatly inconvenience the organization he left behind.

So what if he departed on the first day of spring training?

In the place of this fellow Dick Williams, the Padres hired Steve Boros. This is an educated man with a pleasant disposition. To the relief of the Chamber of Commerce and Padres, the cloud was gone from Mission Valley.

Steve Boros arrived as an advocate of speed, keeping baserunners on the move. This would have been fine, except the Padres handle the basepaths like a commuter handles Highway 94 at 5 o'clock. It is amazing what a relief it is to travel 90 feet.

Boros had to look around and understand what it would be like for Carl Lewis to coach shotputters--in the sprint relay.

This speed problem would be solved by one Leon (Bip) Roberts, who came to the Padres light on both weight and experience. And it turned out McDonald's Padres had a hot dog on the menu.

First base, to Bip, may as well have been in Libya. He discovered second base could not be stolen from the bench.

Bip, of course, was only part of the problem.

This was a team with a dugout full of first basemen, and no left fielder. Or maybe no center fielder. The left fielder was playing center field. There was a player in left field, but he was really a first baseman. There was a catcher, but everyone suspected that he, too, should be a first baseman. The guy playing first base was a senator--or at least a candidate, albeit unannounced as yet.

A further complication was that this team was heavily burdened with hitters who swing from the left side. The manager would look down the bench in time of crisis and everyone would be dealing cards with his left hand.

I only mention dealing cards, since they don't really do that on the bench, to underscore another problem that seemed to be manifesting itself. After the tyrannical years under Williams, it was suddenly being said that these players were too laid back. It was said this was a team with neither heart nor intensity.

There were calls for Steve Boros to grow fangs or sleep hanging upside down in the dark. This was not his nature, so he instead got himself ejected from a game for offering a videotape to an umpire.

Meanwhile, this team was off to what might be called a wishy-washy start, maybe more "wishy" than washy. It wished so much was different.

It wished Garry Templeton's knees were even 50% healthy. It wished LaMarr Hoyt had had a spring training. It wished Eric Show might occasionally get three runs on his behalf. It wished Carmelo Martinez's knees weren't hurting and his ears weren't burning. It wished Rich Gossage could hold a three-run lead as well as he holds one-run leads. It wished Tim Stoddard would show up.

Alas, poor Stoddard has not had a pleasant experience in San Diego. The vultures have even castigated the front office for being too cheap to buy out his contract and send him to the Nevada desert, where bombs can do little damage.

On top of all this came the ban of beer in the clubhouse, which has caused a continuing brewhouha. Presumably, the players have since solved this problem by taking turns throwing postgame tailgate parties. However, at the time, it caused them to feel as though they were being treated like children.

Moods were quite surly as the season slipped rapidly toward the porcelain birdbath.

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