SAN FRANCISCO — Padre General Manager Jack McKeon thinks his players are full of it. He was reading the paper the other day and saw one of them quoted as saying that team president Ballard Smith was a big distraction--with the beer ban and all--and he saw another one of them saying the same thing on television.
He didn't want to say anything about it, but then he grabbed a little piece of paper Monday and jotted down all his gripes. Before the Padres went out and looked awful again Monday night--they lost to the San Francisco Giants, 4-3, when pitcher Ed Whitson walked seven in four innings and ended up paying for it--McKeon elaborated, looking at his piece of paper every now and then as he spoke.
"I don't think it's fair to see Joan (Kroc, the owner) and Ballard take all the heat for this season," he said. "I get tired of seeing the players talk about it on television and in newspapers. I get tired of seeing the media blowing something up and laying it on Joan and Ballard. They don't have anything to do with the way we've played or the lack of production we've gotten.
"What I'm trying to say is I'm supporting decisions Ballard's made. Joan hasn't even been involved, and she's getting a lot of the heat for something she hasn't been involved in. We realize it's been a frustrating year, but we're not going to close shop and quit. We're going to rebuild this thing back to the way we were. What we want is everyone pulling together--players and all. We can't have the players blaming everyone else. I saw some guys talking. On the (network) game of the week, they (the players) wanted to bring this up, and I heard some of our guys complaining. It's over. It's history. The Goose Gossage situation (he was suspended for criticizing management), I agree with the club's policy, the way we handled it. We can't stand for this stuff.
"I think it's time to say this. . . . The club has not played as we hoped. I'd have to say the players, the staff and myself have to be partly blamed. You can't blame Ballard and Joan for all of it. I think a lot of people have to realize Joan has reiterated to me, 'Hey, Jack. You have carte blanche to get what you need and make this ballclub a good ballclub.' I've had that type of support, and it was evident when we were able to pick up Whitson's and (Dave) LaPoint's salaries, which made a big impact on our payroll. She's dedicated to getting our ballclub on the right track.
"She's told me, 'Don't let a big contract stand in your way. If it's necessary and in the best interest of the club to eat a contract, we have to eat it.' So she's not afraid to do something like that. If you go down and listen to the guys about the beer ban, and the one-year contracts, it really bothers me to think that our players have to let things like that bother them. I was hoping that if we paid them good contracts, they'd go out and perform and that stuff shouldn't enter into whether they play good or bad. You certainly can't say that because we've had a beer ban and because of the statements (Ballard) made about one-year contracts, that it affected their play.
"We have to look at ourselves. Have we done the job or not? Distractions? Once that game starts, you come to the clubhouse, and you have to concentrate on baseball. If you want to gripe away from the field, that's fine. But any kind of distractions should not interfere. I remember the Charlie Finley days when he was the A's, and the old Yankees. . . . There were constant distractions, but they still won. It's not an excuse they should make. We're paying guys to play baseball, not to worry about how policies were made. If they don't like it, fine. If you can't cope with it and if you can't play, there's nothing to stop you from walking up to my office and say, 'Hey Jack, I can't play, I don't want to be here.' We'll get rid of you. We'll move you on."
So now everyone has exploded. Smith did; Gossage did; Kroc has in the past; mild-mannered Andy Hawkins has--and now McKeon.
When will Padre bats explode?
Monday, Whitson walked all those hitters, but he eluded tragedy, too. With the bases loaded with no outs in the third inning, he struck out Bob Melvin. Then, Jose Uribe--attempting a suicide squeeze--popped up his bunt. Whitson caught it and tagged the runner coming from third. End of inning.
In the fourth, the bases were loaded again--with two outs--and he struck out Bob Brenly on a breaking ball. Still, Whitson (1-7) might be sent to the bullpen when the Padres add some of their minor leaguers to their roster later this month.
So the game was winnable, if only the Padres could score. Bruce Bochy hit a solo homer, but San Diego still trailed, 4-1. Graig Nettles hit a two-run single in the sixth to make it 4-3, but that would be it.
Bip Roberts had two more hits (that's six hits in two days for him), but he's too small (5-foot-7) to carry an offense. This loss was just like so many others this year.
And McKeon couldn't keep his feelings inside any longer.