Padres Still Confused, but Several Will Benefit : Brown, Jefferson Among Those Who Will Get Another Chance Under McKeon
So what happens to the Padres now? If that’s what you are wondering this morning, after Chub Feeney dealt with his young team’s problems by firing a manager who chews sunflower seeds (Larry Bowa) in favor of one who chews cigars (Jack McKeon), you’re in good company.
Said Tony Gwynn: “If they are going to fire a guy who was supposed to manage a youth movement after just 46 games in his second season, then something else has to be going down. They have to have something else planned. If not, then what are we doing?”
Said Keith Moreland: “I thought Larry and us were going somewhere together. Now I’m confused.”
Said Tim Flannery: “This is the same ballclub Larry had yesterday. If anybody thinks Jack is just going to come in here and win . . . well, I question some things. I question loyalty, I question tradition.”
Combined, those players have 20 years’ experience. If they don’t know what’s happening, who does?
Patience, said the jovial McKeon, who has the potential to become Tommy Lasorda South. Give him, oh, at least seven days.
“There’s no way I’m just going to go down there and change things,” McKeon said before his first big-league game as a manager in 10 years. “I’ll have some answers in a week or so.”
McKeon will not stress hitting or pitching or fielding--he says the Padres already know how to do that. He will stress winning. He will stress positive thinking.
In other words, by the time the Padres took the field against the Mets Saturday night, he already had shaken enough hands and patted enough backs to bruise a palm.
“It’s the idea of knowing how to win,” McKeon said. “There’s too many games where you can tell by our lack of execution we don’t how to win.”
But there will be specific changes. Remember, McKeon agreed to take this job mainly because he built the team and was frustrated after Bowa ignored some of the building blocks.
Among other things:
* Chris Brown will leave the doghouse.
From tendinitis to a bruised tooth root, Brown said he was rarely healthy under Bowa. Problem was, it made Bowa so mad that even when Brown was healthy, he didn’t play. Brown missed starts in the last 16 games of Bowa’s regime.
“The guy is a legitimate All-Star third baseman when he plays,” McKeon said. “If he has a legitimate hurt, fine. If the doctor says he can’t play, fine. But if he can play, he’s out there.”
“No comment,” said Brown, who played in just 25 of the club’s 46 games under Bowa, with half of his missed games because of injury, the other half because Bowa was mad.
* Stanley Jefferson will leave Las Vegas.
Within a couple of months, look for Jefferson, who started the season as the Padre center fielder, to return. Benched, incredibly, after just one game, he was so intimidated by Bowa that he was sent to triple-A Las Vegas April 19 hitting .108 and minus all confidence.
He has still not recovered--he is hitting just .260 in Las Vegas--but many feel he will be renewed by Bowa’s absence. Many feel that the entire Las Vegas team, including former big-league phenom Eric Nolte and his 10.27 ERA, will be inspired, because getting sent to the big leagues will no longer mean getting sent to Bowa.
“When I agreed to do this job, I was on my way down to find out what’s going on,” McKeon said. “I won’t get down there, but I’ll find out. I want to give those kids some confidence.”
Many on the team feel that, in general, young players will benefit.
Said first baseman John Kruk: “It’s no excuse not to play well, but sure, guys were intimidated by him. Finally, I just thought it was funny. I’d swing at a bad pitch and look in the dugout and there Larry would be, rolling his eyes. It didn’t bother me; that’s the way he is.”
Flannery agreed with Kruk that although the intimidation was there, blaming your problems on it was a cop-out.
“A lot of young players didn’t like him, but they didn’t know what a big-league manager is like,” Flannery said. “I just wish they had to play for Dick Williams, who was 100 times meaner. Anybody who used Larry Bowa as a crutch, they are going to be out of this game soon enough.”
Year Manager Record Pct. Finish GB 1969 Preston Gomez 52-110 .321 Sixth 41 1970 Preston Gomez 63-99 .389 Sixth 39 1971 Preston Gomez 61-100 .379 Sixth 28 1/2 1972 Preston Gomez 4-7 .364 -- -- Don Zimmer 54-88 .380 Sixth 36 1/2 1973 Don Zimmer 60-102 .370 Sixth 39 1974 John McNamara 60-102 .370 Sixth 42 1975 John McNamara 71-91 .438 Fourth 37 1976 John McNamara 73-89 .451 Fifth 29 1977 John McNamara 20-28 .417 -- -- Bob Skinner 1-0 1.000 -- -- Alvin Dark 49-65 .430 Fifth 29 1978 Roger Craig 84-78 .519 Fourth 11 1979 Roger Craig 68-93 .422 Fifth 22 1980 Jerry Coleman 73-89 .451 Sixth 19 1/2 1981 Frank Howard (Half 1) 23-33 .411 Sixth 12 1/2 Frank Howard (Half 2) 18-36 .333 Sixth 15 1/2 1982 Dick Williams 81-81 .500 Fourth 8 1983 Dick Williams 81-81 .500 Fourth 10 1984 Dick Williams 92-70 .568 First -- 1985 Dick Williams 83-79 .512 Third (tie) 12 1986 Steve Boros 74-88 .457 Fourth 22 1987 Larry Bowa 65-97 .401 Sixth 25 1988 Larry Bowa 16-30 .348 Fifth 11 1/2
McKEON AS A MAJOR LEAGUE MANAGER
Year Team W-L Pct. Result 1973 Kansas City 88-74 .543 Finished 2nd, 6 GB 1974 Kansas City 77-85 .475 Finished 2nd, 13 GB 1975 Kansas City 50-46 .521 Fired July 24, replaced by Herzog 1977 Oakland 26-27 .491 Fired June 10, replaced by Winkles 1978 Oakland 45-78 .366 Repl. Winkles May 23, finished 7th, 23 GB