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Rehiring of McKeon Raises As Many Questions As It Answers

No red carpet.

No klieg lights.

No blaring trumpets.

No press conference.

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Just a six-paragraph news release.

Jack McKeon had been given a three-year contract extension that will make him the Padres’ manager through 1991. Bouquets were passed among owner Joan Kroc, President Chub Feeney and McKeon. And it was announced that all five coaches would be retained.

That was all, the Padres determined, that their fans need to know at this point, because that was all the information the club provided.

No press conference?

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This would have been the obvious place to get a few other questions answered, but apparently the Padre hierarchy felt the best way to avoid questions was to kill the forum at which they would be asked.

For heaven’s sake, the news release did not even say whether McKeon was being stripped of his duties as general manager . . . just that he had done a wonderful job of managing, which he has, and isn’t it wonderful that he will continue to manage, which it is.

That McKeon will be manager but not general manager is a rather significant point to overlook.

This begs a question that might have been answered at a press conference, the very question ownership likely wanted to avoid.

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Who is going to chart the course for this club in terms of player personnel?

What is the course this club will chart?

Jack McKeon is the man who built this organization into what it is today, and what it is today is maybe two players short of being a solid contender for the National League West championship in 1989. He built the club, and then he went downstairs to the dugout and kicked it into gear.

The decision that McKeon will continue as manager is an acknowledgement of the fine job that he has done but also a decision that leaves a gaping hole between the dugout and the owner’s box.

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To make that last step they must make to contend in 1989, the Padres must be directed by a strong, active and imaginative individual at the baseball end of the front office.

As of this morning, no such person exists.

What the Padres have at the top is a good ol’ boy who seems to be much more at home in either New York or San Francisco than he is in San Diego. That, of course, would be Feeney, who came out of retirement as National League president to go into retirement as the Padres’ president.

Chub Feeney has had the proverbial long and distinguished career in baseball, but he is not the man to do the shaking and baking that must be done in the winter of 1988-89.

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The Padres must do what the Dodgers did in the winter of 1987-88. They must make daring deals. They must spend some bucks in the free agent market. The guy running the show will have to be a guy such as Fred Claire, the Dodger executive who did what had to be done to turn his team around.

The Padres’ announcement Wednesday gave absolutely no indication who would be the architect putting the last pieces in place for them.

Is this any way to run a ball club?

See? Yet another question.

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And no press conference at which to ask them.

Why?

“I can’t answer that one,” a spokesperson said. “I don’t know. Chub indicated there would not be a press conference.”

Maybe there was no time to hold a press conference that would not have conflicted with Feeney’s lunch . . . or maybe his nap.

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What has happened is that the Padres went into the day with uncertainty as to McKeon’s status and came out of the day with uncertainty as to the status of the entire organization.

Was that any way to run a ball club?

I have heard rumblings that maybe McKeon would not be replaced. In this scenario, he would continue to have considerable input on personnel matters. Should that be the case, what we’re talking is semantics.

But should this be the case, why wouldn’t the news release be a little more specific in its description of McKeon’s role?

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Later in the day, McKeon himself said he will continue to fill both roles until the end of the calendar year and then be a field manager with “significant imput” in personnel decisions.

Realistically, this is still a little bit nebulous and undefined.

The rather mysterious bottom line is that it appears the Padres do not really have a clear idea of exactly what anyone is going to do down the road . . . or who is going to do it.

If that should, in fact, be the case, you can hardly blame these people for not having a press conference. It would have been embarrassing having to repeatedly say, “I don’t know.”

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