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Boros: A Nice Guy Who Wins

Times Staff Writer

Steve Boros has gotten mad this year.

It’s just that nobody knows it.

Not long ago, the Padres were starting to plunge--losing games by missing cutoff men, by missing hit-and-run signs, by swinging and missing at slow fastballs. Boros called a team meeting. He says he got nasty.

“I’m sure some players felt like fingers were pointed,” he said.

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“At whom?” Tony Gwynn asked. “That meeting wasn’t nasty!”

And just the other night, Steve Garvey was disputing a strike call by umpire Charlie Williams. Here came Boros to help out the Garv.

Big help. Boros won’t curse, not even at blind umps.

“What good would it have done--kicking a lot of dirt and getting in Charlie Williams’ face?” Boros asked. “I argue when I think it’s legit. No, I’ve never been thrown out of a game, but I know how you do get thrown out--if you curse them.”

And he just won’t.

Remember? When Steve Boros took this job Feb. 25, he was called a nice guy.

You know where nice guys finish.

But the Padres aren’t last.

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Here we are, 45 games later, and San Diego is rolling right along with a 24-21 record, just 2 1/2 games out of first place.

Boros must be doing something right, right?

Here’s what:

All His Kids

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Somehow, he can relate to the younger guys, the players in the minors and the ones just up from the minors. His future, he says, is not in managing, but in somebody’s farm system, working with 18- and 19-year-olds.

He didn’t bury rookie Bip Roberts when he could have. Roberts started 0 for 20, and Boros took him out of the everyday lineup for fear that Roberts would slip into a complete shell. He wanted him to sit and watch, watch and learn, learn and produce.

Roberts did.

He can now laugh about the 0 for 20.

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“Did you know Willie Mays started out 0 for 25? It’s true!”

Roberts is on the disabled list with a groin injury, so the Padres had to call up a 24-year-old named Mark Wasinger. The kid was green. His green eyes were wide when he stepped into his first big league clubhouse. He said it was neato to be playing alongside Garvey, Graig Nettles, Goose Gossage, etc. He said he had read so much about them.

Boros pulled him aside and essentially told him to mellow out.

“I told him, kind of the way I told Bip,” Boros said. “I said, ‘Don’t try to hit three-run homers. Hit the ball to the right side, move runners, take the extra base, put the ball down when we need it.’ I said, ‘You may be here for 10 days, but, then again, you might be here longer. Who knows? Maybe someone will get hurt and you’ll do the things that’ll make the coaches and people here fall in love with you. But the thing is that you’re here. . . .’ ”

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Later, Boros said he plans to get to spring training early next year, so that he can hobnob with all those minor leaguers.

“Maybe I’ll go to winter ball and see some guys play,” he said. “Younger guys . . . guys I maybe haven’t seen or guys I have seen. Just to let them know I know they’re there, that I’m watching their progress, that I have a lot of interest in them, and they figure in our plans.”

All His Young Adults

Boros thinks our children are our future.

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“Yes,” he said, “I was thinking about that with Kevin McReynolds. There was that talk at one time about Kevin (last year and early this year) that he wasn’t any good, that maybe we should trade him. All that talk. And I really think that when you’ve got a guy in your organization--and you know his strengths and you know that maybe some days he’s not as good, but you know him--you can’t let the fact that maybe he’s had a bad year or is mentally confused or has lost his confidence keep you from making him productive.”

“Because he’s here. You’ve got him. You don’t have to make a trade. Plus, if you do, you don’t know the guy you’re getting. We got a guy (McReynolds) right here. A talented guy. He can catch the ball, he can throw, he can run, he can hit for average, hit for power. I mean, you know he can do that. Maybe he hasn’t done it here, but you know he can. If you can work with him and somehow bring it out of him, you’ve got to do it. Why take a chance and trade for someone you don’t know?”

Whereas Dick Williams turned off McReynolds, Boros has turned around McReynolds. Wonder boy is back. The Big Mac attack is back. McReynolds, as of today, is among the league leaders with nine homers, 29 RBIs and a .302 batting average.

Said Boros: “I’d say if there’s one thing that I’d really cling to with pride this year . . . it’s Kevin McReynolds. That’s a key. Here’s a guy, the focus was on him early, right from the beginning. I don’t want to get into all that (Dick Williams) stuff , but, fact is, here’s a guy with great potential. . . . I made the statement that he can be an all-star-caliber player. The only thing he hasn’t done for us is steal bases.”

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Who else can Boros turn around?

Carmelo Martinez. After a lengthy slump, he is 8 for his last 14. Boros gets an assist for constantly bugging him to work harder.

Terry Kennedy. He hit a three-run homer to center field Wednesday night. Boros is bugging him to keep his feet closer together when batting, to go to left field more and to use an inside-out swing.

Every day.

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Speed Burns

He wants his baserunners to be hares, not turtles.

Last year, they were turtles.

Right now, the Padres have 33 stolen bases. They got their 33rd last year on Aug. 5.

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Tony Gwynn has 10 steals. He got his 10th last year in his 116th game.

A Padre hasn’t been caught stealing since May 14 in Pittsburgh. That’s 16 straight.

Bullish Bullpen

Boros keeps going to that bullpen (Craig Lefferts, for example, leads the majors in appearances with 25) and, though some starting pitchers haven’t always liked being pulled early, he has his reasons.

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He said: “One, I’ve always thought (that) to be fair to relief pitchers--for them to be effective--they have to be used often. Number two, I think so that relievers can do a better job it’s important to give them leeway. Bring them in before a game is out of hand or before the bases are loaded. So if they make a mistake and walk somebody, they can bounce back.”

Jack Buck, St. Louis’ exquisite baseball broadcaster, came up to Boros this year and started the following conversation:

“You coached with Whitey (Herzog), right?”

Boros: “Right.” (Boros was one of Herzog’s coaches in Kansas City during the 1970s.)

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Buck: “He’s been a big influence on you.”

Boros: “How can you tell?”

Buck: “By the way you manage.”

Boros: “Jack, that’s probably the greatest compliment anyone’s ever given me.”

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Boros loves Herzog, models himself after him.

Happy Tummies

Boros even has brought in some of his father’s homemade Hungarian sausage for a team meal. On the night he did it, Tim Flannery was saying: “Boy, this is good!”

Someone told Flannery who made it.

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His eyes bugged out.

“You’re kidding me!” he said.

Is the way to a ballplayer’s heart through his tum-tum?

Boros will try anything. Nice guys would rather finish first.

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