Imagine you were sitting in front of your crystal ball a year ago, and you had switched it to ESPN to see what might be upcoming in the world of San Diego sports.
Chris Berman's face would have emerged from the mist and said . . .
"Ah, San Diego, you are in for a face-lift. In your future, I see Jack (Of All Tradeables) Clark, Jim (Don't Call Me Ed) McMahon, Andy Benes (the Menace), Billy Joe (Jumped Off the Coronado Bridge) Tolliver, Al (Let's Go to) Luginbill (Texas), Mannie (Promises) Jackson and Darrin (To Be Great) Jackson. And San Diego Stadium will be Bruce Hurst's Castle."
You would have thought Berman had lost his head, which might have accounted for it being in a crystal ball in the first place.
However, an incredible number of new faces do populate the world of sports hereabouts. Let's take 'em in alphabetical order . . .
When organizations say they are trying to build from within rather than through trades or free agents, Benes is the kind of player they have in mind. This guy was really a developmental project. A couple of months in Wichita and a couple of weeks in Las Vegas and, zap, pow, bam, he's in San Diego in about the time it takes to say Batman.
One of the veterans, say Ed Whitson or Bruce Hurst, will get the Opening Day start in 1990. The rest of the 20th century will belong to Benes.
Is this guy the most feared .240 hitter in baseball or what?
No one seems to want to pitch to Clark. Atlanta walked him intentionally the other night in the first inning with first base open. Next, someone will be walking him intentionally in the ninth inning with first base occupied.
When considering his batting average, it also has to be understood that his on-base percentage is almost the same as Tony Gwynn's . . . despite the fact that Gwynn is hitting 100 points higher. There is value in taking a base on balls.
His home runs speak for themselves . . . loudly.
Since he missed most of the Chargers' training camp, presumably seeking a contract that would allow him to feed his boa constrictor in the manner to which it had become accustomed at Pitt, it's too early to tell how much of an impact player he will be on an already solid defensive unit.
One week before the Chargers' regular season was about to begin, this previously agreeable chap slammed the gates on the media at the practice field. Thus, the new coach succumbed to Raider paranoia.
Perhaps he was concerned that Al Davis would show up dressed as Lee Hamilton. Either that, or he is installing the single-wing to surprise those villainous Raiders.
How often can you trade chopped meat for a left-handed pitcher as solid as Bruce Hurst? In the best deal of the Padre off-season, Joan Kroc did it.
How many days can it take to sell $5 million worth of Big Macs?
The Padres have always had a center fielder, but how often have they had a guy who could play center field?
Mannie L. Jackson
I'm still skeptical about how wise it was to tie San Diego's National Basketball Assn. hopes to this Minneapolis businessman, no matter how enthusiastic and sincere he might be.
In fact, I'd be willing to wager my annual Coke Classic budget that the National Hockey League will be here first.
Give him a full year, and he will match Jack Clark homer for homer and bat .290. That will do.
You are a controversial choice as head football coach at a university repeated frustrated in its quest for credibility on the major college level. You play a reasonably good but hardly great football team in your debut and your team scores 36 points. Unfortunately, you lose by 16 . . . and defense is your forte.
Next up . . . UCLA.
You could be excused for wondering if maybe there is a job as associate athletic director available somewhere.
Another Dan, last name Fouts, experienced a whole lot of what San Diego State's new quarterback will experience this year. In their last few years with Fouts at quarterback, the Chargers scored 35, 35, 34, 41, 37, 31, 34, 31 and 31 points in assorted losing efforts.
Given what happened at Air Force, I have a rather realistic slogan McGwire and the Aztec offense might adopt in terms of a scoring goal: "Fifty-four, 40 . . . or it's gonna be a fight."
Another Big Mac at quarterback, but this one has some beef on defense. The Chargers really can think of the playoffs for the first time since Alex Spanos decided to expand his line of building projects to include a football team.
Previously, I had thought the Chargers' chances hinged entirely on McMahon's health, but that was before . . .
Billy Joe Tolliver
And now it is a matter of getting Billy Joe healthy, because everything he did in the preseason indicated the Chargers have more quarterback depth than they have had at any time since Dan Fouts was a backup for 10 minutes in 1973.