SAN DIEGO — Remember when Larry Bowa and Stan Jefferson shouted at each other in Pittsburgh three weeks ago? They made up afterward, but it turns out that one of the Padre players pulled Bowa aside the next day and told him: "When your eyes bug out like that, man, you make us nervous. Cool it. We'll play better."
Three weeks later, they aren't playing any better--we present Saturday night's 3-0 loss to the New York Mets as evidence--and Bowa, the Padre manager, has just about lost his patience again.
"Yeah, I was told by a player that I'm making them nervous," Bowa said Saturday, after Darryl Strawberry's seventh-inning solo home run helped pace the Mets to the victory. "It (criticism of the players) is supposed to be a big no-no around here. I'm not supposed to criticize. OK, so I'm suppose to praise when we're 11-40 (actually, they're 11-39).
"I'm too tough on them. They can't play. I make them nervous. That's all I've read. I'm too tough. Too mean. So I've let them play the last two, three weeks, and you see what's happened . . . My intensity level is too high, I guess. OK."
So what does Bowa really think of his guys?
"I'd say they're real sensitive and not open for criticism. They should play for a guy by the name of Gene Mauch or Billy Martin. They want to know what tough is? If you didn't execute, they met you at the top step (of the dugout). But one thing's for sure, it sunk in. But now you're showing 'em up. You can't say anything to them on camera."
So get ready for some Bowa bawl. He said it's about time to bawl a few players out, now that the Padres have lost seven straight and nine of 11.
"I'm going to start making lineups out and not worry about hurting feelings," he said. "I'm not going to worry about burying young guys. This is the big leagues, and I've given them time. There's not one guy who hasn't been given a chance to excel.
"After 50 games, you should have a pretty good read on who wants to play, who's intense . . . The issue now is winning. I've bent over backward to protect the younger guys (at times, the Padres start four rookies at once). And I've been told to bring the young kids along. But where do you draw the line? Do you go 50 games? One hundred games? One hundred fifty?"
Game No. 50 was basically ugly. In the first inning, rookie second baseman Joey Cora walked. Then, left fielder Randy Ready--on a hit-and-run play--lifted a ball to shallow right, a ball that was easily caught. Cora, though, froze on second base for a split second instead of running back to first. Strawberry threw him out.
"You've got to ask Cora," Bowa said when reporters asked for an explanation.
Cora couldn't be found.
Later, in the third inning, shortstop Garry Templeton was on second with one out, when Cora singled up the middle. Met center fielder Len Dykstra got a good jump on the ball, but third base coach Harry Dunlop waved in Templeton anyway.
The ball beat Templeton home by a yard . . . at least.
He collided with catcher Gary Carter anyway, but Carter never let hold of the ball and Templeton was out.
"I'd have sent him, too, the way we've been scoring runs," Bowa said. "We might not get another chance like that for the next 27 innings."
Dunlop said: "I took a chance and I was wrong. A bad decision on my part. But I'm just trying to get something going. I was hoping he (Dykstra) would bobble or make a bad throw. Besides, I don't get many (baserunners) over there. That's why they call me the Maytag Repair Man."
There were more Padre catastrophes. In the sixth, hot-hitting John Kruk came up with the bases loaded and two outs, and he popped up to left on the first pitch. In the seventh, Carmelo Martinez struck out looking--on a Sid Fernandez changeup--with a man on base to end another rally.
Fernandez (6-2) went all the way for the Mets, struck out 11, and he even got the game-winning RBI on a third-inning sacrifice fly to center.
Strawberry's homer came off loser Eric Show (1-7). Strawberry is now 12-for-24 lifetime against Show, and that includes three homers.
By the way, Kevin McReynolds had two more doubles Saturday, giving him four hits against his former teammates this weekend.
Third baseman Kevin Mitchell, acquired from the Mets in the McReynolds deal, is thoroughly disgusted. The Mets have won four of five from San Diego this year.
"Me and Strawberry always joke around," Mitchell said. "I mean, I'll never hear the end of it."