Padres Seem Ready to Make a Move by Rehiring 4 Coaches : Giants Hand San Diego a 4-1 Loss
Last Friday, when pressed about decisions concerning the Padres’ future, team president Chub Feeney said, “Give me a week. Just give me a week and I’ll have something for you then.”
Sources say that “something” could be announced as soon as today, and will include the rehiring of at least four of the five Padre coaches. That would indicate that General Manager/Manager Jack McKeon likely will be rehired, at least as manager for 1989.
According to three team sources, McKeon and each of his coaches have met individually with Feeney in the past week. Those sources said at least four of the coaches have been offered similar jobs next season, leading one source to speculate on Tuesday, “This must mean that Jack is coming back as manager, because they would never hire the coaches first if somebody else was coming in to manage. The new manager is always allowed to bring in his own guys.”
Coaches Greg Riddoch (first base), Sandy Alomar (third base), Pat Dobson (pitching) and Denny Sommers (bullpen) have been offered jobs and, after an individual negotiation or two, are expected to sign contracts. Amos Otis (hitting) met with Padre officials Tuesday concerning his job.
Feeney would not comment Tuesday, and McKeon said, “Right now I don’t know about any announcement.”
Tuesday night at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium, the Padres lost to the San Francisco Giants for the second straight time. The 4-1 defeat dropped the Padres into fifth place behind the Giants.
There is still uncertainty over whether McKeon will remain as general manager. Feeney had asked McKeon to choose between the two jobs, stating, “I don’t see how one man can do both at the same time.” Feeney has been criticized for making that request. Last week he refused comment when asked if that request still stood.
Sources say that McKeon, worried about leaving the security of the front office for the dugout, would not take the manager’s job without either keeping the general manager’s job or receiving the security of a three-year manager’s contract.
Another announcement that could be made today concerns infielder Tim Flannery. His agent, Steve Greenberg, has an 11 a.m. meeting with Feeney concerning the $400,000 option on Flannery’s soon-to-expire contract. Because all that is needed from Feeney is a yes or no, Flannery and his agent expect the answer today.
“It’s really pretty cut and dry,” Greenberg said last week. “Either they want to pick up the option, or they don’t.”
Said Flannery, who turns 31 at the end of the month: “I just told Steve, please get an answer one way or another today. I want to get some sleep.”
Flannery, who has spent parts of the past nine seasons in a Padre uniform, actually could not be renewed and still wind up a Padre next year. Feeney could set him loose to be a free agent and then try to re-sign him for less than the $400,000 option price. But according to Greenberg, that could be as good as losing him.
“I have no doubt Tim Flannery will play a few more years in this league, somewhere, because there are teams out there with a need for his type of player,” Greenberg said of his client, who is hitting .282. “But I don’t think it’s overstating it to say he is one of the two or three most popular, if not the most popular, players to ever wear a Padre uniform.
“He hasn’t done it with 30 homers, but he’s done it with attitude and hard work and being a good human being. Does that mean the Padres owe him something? Not necessarily. But for good will’s sake, I just wish they would decide as soon as possible so we know what direction to move.”
While there is still intrigue in the case of Flannery, whose release could be a public relations nightmare, there should be no surprise about rehiring of McKeon and most of his staff.
Since coming down from the front office to take over a 16-30 club from Larry Bowa on May 28, McKeon has been nothing short of manager of the year material. He has taken the team to the best record (56-41) in the National League since that time. He has won the respect of players, his coaches and yes, on Tuesday there was even compliments from an umpire.
“I’ve heard views from everybody else, now I want to give an on-field view,” umpire Bruce Froemming said Tuesday before working first base. “McKeon has made this an entirely different club from the one that started the season here. We umpires see it and hear it on the field all the time.
“Just Monday night, Benito Santiago is standing on second base talking about how much fun it is to play here now. You can tell McKeon has the respect of all the players, even the bit players. I would chase McKeon out of a game tonight if he deserved it, I’m not playing favorites. I just know what I see.”
Another important Padre announcement could come today in the form of results on intensive X-rays performed on Tony Gwynn’s left index finger Tuesday. Gwynn, who had the finger surgically repaired during spring training, has been bothered by pain and swelling in the finger since the All-Star break.
After Saturday’s 6-2 victory over Atlanta, he was finally benched by McKeon and might not play the rest of the season, depending on the results of the X-rays. While Gwynn has talked uneasily of a possible second surgery, his agent John Boggs said Tuesday that if another surgery is required, he would recommend that Gwynn undergo it immediately.
“Whatever they want us to do, my feeling is that we should get it over with,” Boggs said. “Get it done. Now.
“It takes a lot for Gwynn to agree to come out of the lineup, so that should show you how much he’s hurting. You can’t play with nine fingers.”
Gwynn, whose average has dropped recently from .321 to .308, can still win the batting title without taking another swing. He entered Tuesday tied for second place with Chicago’s Rafael Palmeiro, just one percentage point behind Atlanta’s Gerald Perry (.309). Gwynn’s 516 plate appearances already have qualified him for the title, which requires at least 502 plate appearances.
The Padres could have used Gwynn Tuesday, when they struggled against Rick Reuschel for the umpteenth time. Reuschel, who improved to 18-8 on the season, allowed one run on seven hits in seven innings, throwing just 83 pitches. In 34 games against the Padres, Reuschel is 19-8. He has lost to them just four times in the past 10 years.
Padre starter Ed Whitson didn’t pitch badly, but did allow homers to Robby Thompson in the fourth inning and Candy Maldonado in the seventh, the first time the Giants have had two home runs in a game since Aug. 14. They entered this series with one homer in 16 previous games. They now have hit three in the two games.
The Padres, without Gwynn, could be in danger of taking last year’s season-ending dive, in which they once in their last 11 games.
“We’re just in a rut, we’ve been in ruts before, and we’ve got out of them before,” said McKeon, who has not presided over more than three consecutive losses since becoming manager.
Santiago described the loss differently. “We don’t hit, man, we don’t win,” he said