Templeton Feels Like a Winner : Baseball: He starts at shortstop for the streaking Mets in a 6-3 victory over the Padres, going hitless except for a few more rips at Riddoch.


The Padres stared at him from the bench Friday night, looking peculiarly at the guy wearing the pinstripe uniform with orange and blue trim. They were confused. It was as if the image in their mind wouldn’t conform to what they were seeing.

Garry Templeton wasn’t supposed to be wearing a New York Mets uniform. He was destined to retire a Padre, remember? He wasn’t supposed to be wearing No. 11. His uniform was No. 1. He was supposed to be sitting with the Padres on the bench, not starting at shortstop for the other guys .

In the midst of their latest defeat, a 6-3 drubbing to the Mets in front of 30,706 at Shea Stadium, the Padres were left longing for their old buddy.

“We’ve had so many guys come and go from here,” Padre right fielder Tony Gwynn said, “but seeing him in another uniform was the strangest. He was here for so many years, and then to see him in a different uniform, wearing a different number, it just didn’t seem right.”


It was the first time since Templeton was traded May 31 to the Mets that he started against his former teammates. Although it was hardly a vintage performance--he went hitless in three at-bats and made an error--Templeton got the last laugh.

The Mets won their ninth consecutive game to stay 2 1/2 games behind the Pittsburgh Pirates in the National League East.

The Padres continued to unravel, losing their fourth consecutive game and their 11th in the past 14 games. They are five games under .500 (40-45) for the first time this season.

Funny, but weren’t the Padres supposed to drastically improve and be a team in complete harmony once they traded Templeton, considered a cancer in the clubhouse by Padre Manager Greg Riddoch?

“That’s the part that hurts me so bad,” Templeton said. “I wanted to stay in San Diego. I wanted to retire a Padre. I wanted to go out just like Flan (Tim Flannery) and Garv (Steve Garvey).

“But all it takes is one person to spoil the party.

“And that guy did a pretty damn good job of it.”

It was the open hostility between Riddoch and Templeton that led to his departure. Riddoch didn’t like Templeton. Templeton felt the same about Riddoch. Riddoch accused Templeton of turning the team against him. Templeton accused Riddoch of being too paranoid to recognize his value.


“He (Riddoch) never realized how good of an influence I was on the guys,” Templeton said. “When I left, there was a big void. The guys respected me for my knowledge. They trusted me. But Riddoch didn’t want me to take away from his knowledge of the game.

“It was like a fear, a paranoia.

“That’s why I feel so bad for the guys over there now. It’s tough when your leader is that man. There’s no trust, no trust at all. He stabs you in the back.

“The only thing you can do is take a guy for face value, and his face value is nothing.”

Templeton one day would like to return to the Padre organization. When you spend 9 1/2 years in one place, you don’t forget your roots. There would be nothing he’d like better than coming back for a front-office job or perhaps to be a manager or coach in their system.

He still has a good relationship with Padre General Manager Joe McIlvaine, whom he thanks profusely for reviving his career by trading him to a contender. They talked for nearly 15 minutes after Thursday night’s game, Templeton said, and he spent Friday getting reacquainted with his former teammates. He played golf in the morning with Andy Benes and later spent time joking with Fred McGriff, Benito Santiago and Bip Roberts.

“I think we all miss that guy,” Santiago said. “I’m always going to think good about him. Man, I never wished he left. You can see how much we miss him.”

That’s not all the Padres were missing.

The Padres, limited to three hits by Frank Viola and Alejandro Pena, have only 19 hits in the past four games. Over the past 14 games, they’ve been outscored, 67-40, and have scored three or fewer runs in nine games.

“It’s not like we stink,” Riddoch said, “it’s just that right now the other clubs are playing better.”

But any way you look at it, the Padres are going to find it awfully tough to win any games when the top five batters in their lineup go one for 19. Leadoff hitter Tony Fernandez’s single accounted for the only hit Friday.

It was Fernandez’s first game as leadoff hitter for the Padres, a spot for which he volunteered to help resuscitate the offense. Yet nothing helped Friday, and the Padres hope Bip Roberts will help take them off their life-support system with his expected return tonight.

“Well, if nothing else,” Riddoch said, “at least we utilized our hits.”

The Padres, in danger of being no-hit until Darrin Jackson’s solo homer with two out in the fifth inning, scored their second run on Templeton’s error and got their final run on Santiago’s solo homer in the seventh. That extended the Padres’ streak to 12 consecutive homers without a man on base. They have not had a homer with anyone aboard since June 26 when Fred McGriff hit a two-run homer against Scott Scudder of the Cincinnati Reds.

Considering the deterioration of the Padres’ pitching, they were thankful they had healthy bodies by the time the game ended. It was as if there was a curse on whoever took the mound wearing a Padre uniform once Ed Whitson was scratched. Whitson now appears on his way for surgery next week.

Adam Peterson started the game, but he gave up four runs and four hits before being removed in the fourth with a muscle strain in his lower back.

“It just never got loosened up,” Peterson said. “But with the way everything else has been going, I didn’t want to hurt that, too.”

It was Rich Rodriguez’s turn next. He pitched 1 1/3 innings, but just before his stint ended Dave Magadan hit a sharp bouncer that caromed off his left knee and ricocheted off his right ring finger. Rodriguez pitched to one more batter, and he, too, left the game.

“I was trying to kick-save it,” Rodriguez said. “The grass is so slick, I didn’t have a chance.”

Mike Maddux survived an inning without experiencing a bit of pain. But next was John Costello, who took a red-eye flight from Las Vegas to join the team and still had not slept when he arrived at the ballpark. He might not be sleeping too soundly after Friday’s outing either.

Costello was pounded for two runs, three hits--including a towering home run by Howard Johnson--during his two-inning stint, ending any illusions of a Padre comeback.

“What’s next?” Riddoch said.