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A Division Title for Padres? Pass the Salt

September 30, 1996|BILL PLASCHKE

My words, my meal.

"The San Diego Padres are not going to win the West," I wrote in this newspaper on Aug. 6.

"The Padres will not win the West because that will require a final-month, high-pressure sprint with the Dodgers . . . and as everyone from Chris Brown to Bobby Brown to Ollie Brown knows, the Padres can't stand next to the Dodgers in the sun that long without wilting."

And I wrote this:

"Actually win a championship with the Dodgers scratching at their wallets? To go into the final week in a tie with the Dodgers and survive? Never happened, never will."

You idiot.

My meal began shortly after 4 p.m. Sunday, and soon I realized an interesting thing. For creatures that can so easily be made to dance, words sure are difficult to chew.

Where precisely did I go wrong in predicting that the Padres could not win a pressure pennant race with the Dodgers . . . which is exactly what happened Sunday in a 2-0, 11-inning Padre victory?

Davey Lopes, Padre coach and former Dodger, was happy to provide a clue.

"Everything you said they weren't . . . they are," he said while puffing on a post-game cigar.

I pause now between bites to note that, indeed, there were several things about the Padres that were not understood.


Do you know that on Thursday's day off before this weekend series, with the Dodgers beginning to complain about fatigue, about 12 Padres met at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium?

To practice?

"We sat around and talked about how we could methodically win three games here from the Dodgers," said Tony Gwynn. "It was like we planned it all out."

Champions do that.


Bruce Bochy of the Padres came into this series after a horrible two weeks during which his decisions perhaps cost his team two victories.

On Sunday night, two players involved in some of those decisions--Bob Tewksbury and Chris Gwynn--helped him win the game.

"He sticks with guys, and they play their hearts out for him," coach Tim Flannery said.

After dousing Bochy with ice water from a Gatorade cooler--OK, so they are new at this--his team serenaded him Sunday with this:

"Manager of the Year, Manager of the Year."

Champions chant that.


That Ken Caminiti is the most valuable player in all of baseball was confirmed Sunday, ironically on a play that he did not make.

In the fifth inning, he dove to his right and stopped a grounder by Raul Mondesi, but his throw to first was ruled late.

For the next five minutes, between pitches, he stared at the ground and closed his eyes, attempting to swallow the pain of landing on an injured shoulder that is obviously killing him.

Champions do that.

It being my job to have opinions, I will not apologize for the Aug. 6 column.

I will, however, concede that the Padres have overcome their past, out-hustled their critics, removed all doubt that they deserve respect as a baseball organization with talent, passion and heart.

In other words, they showed the Dodgers precisely what it used to mean to be a Dodger.

I will eat my meal. And who knows, if the Padres are as much fun to watch this week, maybe I will eventually like it.

There was something else written on Aug. 6, something that was supposed to be another negative for the eventual National League West champions.

"The Padres play the Dodgers as if it's the World Series. The Dodgers play the Padres as if it's the . . . Florida Marlins?"

Turns out, I got that one right.

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