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Gee, a Guy Ducks Out for a Little Bit, and Look What He Misses

December 21, 1989|DAVE DISTEL

There are times when a period of a couple of weeks can come and go and become a virtual black hole in history. Indeed, even months and years can become vacuums in time.

When I returned to my chores this week after slipping away from the real world for a little pre-holiday holiday, I expected to get the usual scouting report on what I missed.

You know, the Chargers lost, the Sockers won, San Diego State and USD won a couple and lost a couple and USIU scored 150 points and lost by 70. In other words, I didn't miss a thing.

OK, folks, give it to me in 25 words or less.

Anything happen while I was gone?

McKeon re-promoted . . . Joe Carter acquired . . . Alomar Jr. gone . . . Chris James gone . . . Fred Lynn acquired . . . Lefferts reacquired . . . Gwynn displeased . . . Mark Davis gone . . . Billy Joe passing . . . Jenny Craig bids . . . Sockers losing . . . SDSU winning . . . Butts running . . . Steve Ortmayer gone.

Wait a minute. Settle down.

That's 36 words.

Sounds like a song.

"And on the 12th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, one McKeon re-promoted, two Joe Carters acquired, three Alomar Jrs. gone . . . "

Sing it.

All that happened? Did I fall asleep on the beach and wake up in 1990?

Actually, most of what happened promises to make 1990 an interesting year, particularly for the Padres and maybe even for the Chargers.

And most of what happened was triggered by the first thing that happened.

McKeon re-promoted.

Joan Kroc certainly does not intend to limp through a lame-duck period as Padre owner. She did not like the way things seemed to be not going with the front office, so she reversed herself and gave Jack McKeon his other hat back. He would again be vice president of baseball operations in addition to manager.

When McKeon does not have to look over his shoulder, things happen.

Joe Carter is a splendid acquisition. The man can hit. Put him into the batting order with Roberto Alomar, Tony Gwynn, Jack Clark and a revitalized Benito Santiago and you've got a team that can out-punch anyone in the National League with the exceptions of the San Francisco Giants and New York Mets.

Revitalized Benny Santiago?

You've got it. Sandy Alomar Jr. was the odd catcher out, going to Cleveland along with Chris James and minor leaguer Carlos Baerga for Carter. Santiago now knows that he is The Man. Like McKeon, he know longer has to look over his shoulder. Look for him too to make things happen.

(By the way, watch out for Baerga. He could be the player the Padres someday rue surrendering.)

Not only did McKeon acquire Carter, but he was able to sign him to a three-year contract for $9.2 million. At 29, he is locked into place for the prime of his career.

It was not surprising that the $9.2 million contract caused a ripple or two. Tony Gwynn, for example, will make $5 million over those same three years. Uncharacteristically, but understandably, he would like to renegotiate. Surely, there will be more to come on that front between now and spring training . . . and maybe even into spring training if a holdout situation should develop.

A few years ago, the biggest news would have been the acquisition of the free agent Lynn. He is a supporting actor now, albeit a potentially significant one. He could do for the Padres in '90 what Graig Nettles did in '84, which is hit for some power from the left side and play some defense.

This gets us to the bullpen, where Davis has been subtracted and Craig Lefferts has been added.

Devastating, huh?

Maybe, maybe not. Definitely different. It will be bullpen by committee with Lefferts, Greg Harris, Mark Grant and Calvin Schiraldi. It cannot possibly be better than it was with Davis this year, but it doesn't have to be dramatically worse.

The problem was that the bidding for Davis got to be nonsensical, not in terms of salary but in length of contract. It does not make sense to commit $3 million a year to a relief pitcher for five years. The history of relievers being what it is, the Kansas City Royals will get little for their $3 million in at least two of those five years.

And the other Padre news was . . .

Jenny Craig.

Jenny Craig?

She and her husband, Sid, they of the Jenny Craig Weight Loss Centers, are said to be part of a group negotiating to buy the Padres. I see here a solution to Tony Gwynn's dilemma. They could pay him an extra $2 million a year to be the before and after in a Jenny Craig commercial and avoid that nasty word . . . renegotiation.

I also missed San Diego State winning five consecutive basketball games, which is unusual, and the Sockers having a losing record in December, which isn't. When was the last time anyone worried about the Sockers being below .500 in December?

And the Chargers had a quarterback pass for 350 yards in one game and a running back rush for 176 yards in the next, both unusual happenings. They even won one of the games. Could it be that this offense will start going places with Billy Joe Tolliver and Marion Butts?

Of course, wherever the Chargers go, it will be without Steve Ortmayer.

This isn't really very big news. Ortmayer has been as good as gone for months. I almost expected to run into him on my vacation.

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