Padre Notebook : Davis Gave Up Some Leverage for Secure, Merry Christmas

Times Staff Writer

In the coming days and--knowing how the Padres sometimes work--weeks, you will be inundated with talk of the club’s four free agents.

For example:

--Eric Show said Friday he hopes he and agent Steve Greenberg will begin talks with Padre President Chub Feeney during the upcoming home stand. “I would like to get things started and get them decided as soon as possible,” Show said.

--Andy Hawkins has already said he and agent Jerry Kapstein will “wait until they approach us.”


--Garry Templeton has said, “I don’t think there will be a problem if it’s my choice I’m staying here.”

--Dickie Thon has said, “I’m not even thinking about it, but I don’t know why I’d want to leave.”

--Feeney has said he wants to begin talking soon and be finished talking by “mid-September. I want to have everything well in hand by then.”

All very well and expected, and soon to be very boring. So how about a quick interruption for somebody who could have been the club’s most sought-after free agent, who could have had a shot at millions?

Instead, Mark Davis decided last winter that he wanted security and a Padre uniform above all else. And this winter, instead of selling himself to a high bidder after six full seasons in the big leagues, he will begin the second year of a contract that will pay him around $500,000.

And, he said, he has never been happier.

“If I had to do it again, I’d do the same thing,” said Davis, one of the league’s top relievers with 20 saves and 69 strikeouts in 71 innings. “It’s a matter of what you want. I want to be here.

“This winter, they showed confidence in me by offering two years. That showed me something. That’s worth something, isn’t it?”

Said Padre Manager Jack McKeon, who negotiated the contract as general manager: “A lot of guys pitch better with security. We know that. Wherever we feel it appropriate, we like to do that.

“Sure, it’s a risk for them, but it’s also a risk for us. Usually, though, it’s a risk worth taking.”

Added Davis: “I know one thing. This Christmas, when I’m usually worrying about when I’m signing and for what, I’m going to be very happy. It’s going to be a good Christmas. And that’s worth something.”

When Jack McKeon Says He Needs a Power Hitter, Now You’ll Know What He Means: A glance at the National League statistics reveals the Padres’ needs this winter more than anything the manager can preach.

The Padres need a power hitter. The Padres need a run producer. They need them so badly that if they had them now, they would be pennant contenders.

“There is no question about that,” McKeon said recently.

First, for all of you who want to trade away the Padres’ pitching--which McKeon does not want to do except for a high price--check this out:

Entering Saturday, the Padres were tied for fourth in the league in ERA (3.50); fourth in complete games (17); fourth in runs allowed (437); third in fewest walks (330), a category in which they finished last in 1987; sixth in hits allowed (962); fifth in wild pitches (29); second in fewest hit batters (16). And nobody in the league has fewer balks (14).

“I really don’t want to break up our pitching,” McKeon said. “You can see why.”

Now for the hitting stats.

The Padres were dead last in the league in runs scored with 397, 15 fewer than the 11th-place St. Louis Cardinals; dead last in hits (922); dead last in RBIs (380); dead last in on-base percentage (.306); dead last in doubles (154); dead last in total bases (1,308). Eleventh in homers (62). Eleventh in slugging percentage (.346). And 11th in batting average at .244.

This before their 1-0 shutout loss to Houston Saturday.

A couple of more stats, to put the Padres’ hitting in perspective:

Keith Moreland hasn’t hit a home run from June 1 through Saturday, a span of 65 games.

A New Look: The lost statistic in Tony Gwynn’s recent 36-game rush toward the batting title is that he has had seven game-winning RBIs during that stretch. That gives him 11 for the season, already his career high and the highest on the Padres since Kevin McReynolds’ 14 in 1986. The team record is 15, by Terry Kennedy (1982) and Steve Garvey (1984).

Although the game-winning RBI may be an “overrated stat,” according to Gwynn, he has 47 RBIs overall, which may not seem like a lot but is just seven shy of what he had all last year while hitting .370. And his career high is just 71, in 1984.

You see, the biggest rap against Gwynn’s hitting is that he is not a run producer.

“I have always felt like to become a complete player, I have to drive in runs,” Gwynn said.

So the recent difference? You’ll never guess.

“It’s because I’ve struggled,” Gwynn said. “I’ve been so worried about getting hits, I haven’t thought about driving in runs.

“Before, if there was a guy on second base, I worried about where I could hit the ball so I could drive him in. Now it’s just, ‘I’ve got to hit the ball, period.’ ”

Who’s No. 1: Baseball America magazine recently ranked major league players in several categories, and a couple of Padres were winners. The magazine chose Eric Show as the National League pitcher with the best pickoff move. Benito Santiago was the catcher with the best arm and was one of the two best overall catchers, along with Mike LaValliere of Pittsburgh.

The weekly magazine, known for its extensive minor league coverage, also enlisted minor league managers to rank the players in their leagues. Again, the Padre organization came up with winners.

In the triple-A Pacific Coast League, Las Vegas’ Sandy Alomar Jr. was chosen as the best defensive catcher and catcher with the best arm; Joey Cora was voted the best defensive second baseman. In the double-A Texas League, Wichita’s Chris Knabenshue was chosen as the outfielder with the best arm; Terry Gilmore was chosen as one of two pitchers with the best control. In the high class-A California League, Riverside’s Paul Faries was chosen the best baserunner and best defensive second basemen; third baseman David Hollins was chosen the infielder with the best arm. In the lower class-A South Atlantic League, Charleston’s Darrin Reichle was chosen as the pitcher with the best fastball, Guillermo Velazquez was chosen as the best defensive first baseman and second baseman and shortstop Jose Valentin was the infielder with the best arm.

Memories Dept: When the Domino’s Pizza advertisement appeared on the Astrodome big-screen TV in left field Friday--an ad featuring that funny little character called a “Noid"--some Padres chuckled. It reminded them of their season-opening series here when, upon seeing that advertisement, a couple of players mentioned that the “Noid” reminded them of then-Manager Larry Bowa. For about a week afterward, “Avoid the Noid” became an underground clubhouse phrase.