Padre Manager Jack McKeon has been fighting the urge for weeks. No matter how poorly they played, no matter how lopsided the defeat, McKeon never allowed anyone to see that his confidence in his club was waning.
On Wednesday night, after the Padres were shut out, 4-0, by Montreal Expo pitcher Oil Can Boyd for the second time this season, he could no longer fight it.
He uttered the dreadful words that must have the prospective Padre ownership group cringing.
"Sure, I'm concerned," McKeon said, "I've got to be concerned. I didn't think this would happen to us again. I really didn't. Not after what happened last year, but look at us. . . .
"It's pretty bad when you have to have meetings every other day to get them to play. Personal pride and being a big leaguer should be enough, shouldn't it?
"You're damn right I'm disappointed."
The Padres are in trouble.
Sure, you say, it's only the May. So the Cincinnati Reds have a 9 1/2-game lead over the Padres, equaling their largest of the season. They still have 15 games left against them, don't they? And the Reds (26-10) can't possibly play .722 baseball all season.
The arguments are all there for the eternal optimists, but when you are shut out twice by a man who has blood clots in his right shoulder, when you haven't come back from a sixth-inning deficit since April 15, and when have shown as much life on the field as senior citizens in a bingo parlor, it should be of little surprise that no one is stepping forward to dispute the gravity of the Padres' situation.
"You hate to count yourself out in May," said Bruce Hurst, the losing pitcher Wednesday, "but we've dug a pretty good hole for ourselves. If we could just hang close for the next few months, get within five games, then teams would squirm. But when you're almost 10 games out like we are, nobody's going to squirm.
"I'm not saying I've given up on this team, and I don't think anybody in here is. But if you ask if we're playing as good as we can, there's not anybody in here that would say we are. If you ask if we're even close, nobody in here would say we are. It's such a shame what happened last year, when we played so well and still were three games out. It's just a shame. And now we're doing it again.
"It shouldn't take Jack (McKeon) to yell us. It shouldn't take meetings among ourselves.
"What we need to do right now is look at ourselves in the mirror. We all should. It's that time."
The Padres, ever so quietly, have become the biggest National League enigma east of the Hudson River. This is a team that was supposed to to win the division, maybe even run away with it.
Now look at it.
They're just two games ahead of Atlanta, for heaven's sake.
"I can't even believe it myself," said Tim Raines, the Expo left fielder who stole his 600th career base in the fifth inning. "You look at that team, and they have all the talent in the world. Everybody thought they were going to win the West. You look at that team on paper, and they should be winning, but doing it on paper and doing it on the field are two different things.
"I'm not saying it's impossible now, but with the way Cincinnati is playing, they sure have a long road to haul."
What's a manager to do?
"Well, we could pray," McKeon said, "but I prayed yesterday and today, and look at what happened.
"I'm going to go to a synagogue next."
The Expos, who have outscored the Padres, 25-1, in their past three meetings, never gave the Padres a chance during this two-game series. They led in all 18 innings, allowed just four extra-base hits, and had to stifle their laughter while watching the Padres hitting in the clutch.
Just what did the Padres do with runners in scoring position during the two games here?
Try zero for 17.
"We went through the same crap last year," McKeon said, who had suddenly lost interest in his post-game sandwich. "We're second in the league in batting (.269) but that doesn't mean a damn when you're not driving in runs. We're getting four or five hits when the game's already over.
"I don't think Boyd's all that good myself, but Boyd ought to send these guys plane tickets so he can see more of them."
This is a guy who had not pitched a shutout in five years--since June 9, 1985, to be precise.
Courtesy of the Padres, he now has two in the past 10 days.
Boyd, 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA against the Padres this season and 1-2 with a 5.08 ERA against everyone else, took offense with McKeon's remark.
"I don't have anything to prove to him, anyway," he said. "I just get his team out. He sure doesn't have anybody over there who can throw it any better."
It wasn't enough that Boyd embarrassed the Padres with his arm, but he also humbled them with his bat. Boyd obtained his first major league hit off Hurst, who was a teammate in Boston, with two outs and nobody on base in the fifth inning.
Before Hurst knew it, DeLino DeShields was reaching base on an infield single that second baseman Roberto Alomar couldn't handle, and Marquis Grissom was hitting a little blooper into right field, scoring both runners for a 3-0 lead before the inning ended.
Then, showing what he thinks about the Padre offense, McKeon decided to pinch-hit for Hurst in the sixth inning. Yes, he said, it might have been only a three-run lead, and yes, Hurst was pitching quite well, but . . .
"The way we're hitting," McKeon said, "I couldn't afford to waste any more outs."
In what has become typical for the Padres, Jerald Clark led off with a pinch-hit double and never left the bag as Bip Roberts and Tony Gwynn flied to left, and Alomar struck out.
"Just nothing seems to be working," McKeon said.
And if the Padres' prospects for recovery do not look bleak enough, they suffered another setback when first baseman Jack Clark said that he pinched a nerve in his back while putting on his socks. Having already missed 16 games with a strained lower back, Clark said he likely will not return during the remaining seven games of the trip.
"Now, I'm back to square one," he said.
The Padres only wish they were so fortunate.
Padre right fielder Tony Gwynn and third baseman Mike Pagliarulo did not approach one another Wednesday. Pagliarulo accused an unnamed teammate of being selfish in recent published remarks, which Gwynn believes were directed toward him. Gwynn said he is waiting for Pagliarulo to tell him to his face, but Pagliarulo said that he does not plan to bring up the subject again. "Case closed," he said. . . . The Padres Wednesday began receiving lucrative licensing checks, which previously had been held in the Major League Player Assn.'s strike fund. All players, coaches and managers who have been in the major leagues for the past four years will receive $83,400, sources said. The licensing revenue has increased from $7,500 per player in 1986 to an expected $50,000 for the 1990 season. . . . Padre pitching Coach Pat Dobson, who will manage the Ft. Myers, Fla. team again in the Senior League, was informed Wednesday that the Senior League will reduce the minimum age of pitchers' eligibility to 32, instead of the previous 35. He also was told that the schedule will be cut back to 56 games, with workouts beginning Nov. 1. . . . Sandy Alomar, the Padre third base coach, is keeping his travel plans open for the All-Star break. If everything goes according to his wishes, he'd like to spend his break in Chicago, watching the All-Star Game or, more specifically, his two sons. Padre second baseman Roberto Alomar and Cleveland catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. are viable candidates. "What could make a father more proud than watching his sons playing in their first All-Star game," Alomar said. . . . Expo third baseman Tim Wallach homered again Wednesday and in the past three games against the Padres is nine for 14 with four homers and 13 RBIs. . . . Padre third baseman Mike Pagliarulo refused to open the Canadian morning newspapers, instead waiting to watch the Chicago Bulls-Detroit Pistons game on a tape-delay for the first time Wednesday on a French TV station. "It wasn't quite the same," Pagliarulo said, "but it was fun listening to everyone's names in French." . . . Padre outfielder Jerald Clark obtained his second pinch-hit double of the season in the sixth inning and has the only Padre pinch-hit doubles of the season.