Several Padres were angered because Williams seemed to go out of his way to make things difficult for some players. Starting pitcher Eric Show complained to the media after a loss that he had been pulled too soon. In his next start, Show was shelled early, but Williams would not take him out until he cried, "No más." Says Bevacqua now, "Yeah, there were some times when Dick's feelings got in the way of his better judgment. And that cost him respect."
"It got to the point where you didn't even want to win for a man like that," says centerfielder Kevin McReynolds, who personally knew the exact dimensions of Williams's doghouse. Said Garvey, "Williams literally wasted the season with Kevin McReynolds. He's the kind of player Tom Lasorda would have built up. But Dick just cut him down."
It's hard to envision Boros having that kind of problem. "I like players, I like young people—I basically like people," he said last week. "I will be close to my players. That's not going to change." He even adopted the number of a player he was once close to, the 22 of the Royals' Dennis Leonard. Boros says Leonard's attempted comeback has inspired him.
The Padres were generally impressed with Boros's style in the first week of camp. They appreciated his point of speaking briefly to everyone on the team on his first day. His move to bring back popular coach Harry Dunlop, whom Williams had sent down to the minors as retribution for Virgil's firing, was applauded. Boros's nonthreatening manner was also a welcome change. When shortstop Garry Templeton stepped in to take batting practice against him, Boros said, "Bunt a couple, Garry, to get used to my very mediocre stuff."
"For me," said catcher Terry Kennedy, "I think Steve Boros is the guy I need. There's a lot of young guys on this team who are like me—confident but not supremely confident in our abilities. When we hit the rough spots during the year, this is the guy who will get us through."
Getting the Padres back to the playoffs will take some doing. Partly because of the front office snafu with Williams, McKeon was unable to make a deal for a frontline player over the winter. The team's power base is still its 41-year-old third baseman, Graig Nettles, and its 37-year-old first baseman, Garvey. The hope is that McReynolds and Kennedy will improve upon last year. San Diego has lacked speed since the departure of Wiggins, and Boros is anxious to see if second baseman Leon (Bip) Roberts, a 5'7", 160-pounder who stole 40 bases in 105 games for Nashua, N.H. of the Eastern League last year, can make the leap from Double A to the majors. The Padres went from fifth place in the NL in steals in '84 to last in '85, and rarely pulled off the hit-and-run. "I want this team to be 90 feet smarter, 90 feet more aggressive than our opponents," said Boros.
Naturally, many players are lowballing the arrival of the new manager. "I sense a little wariness," said Boros. "I'd be wary if I were them, too. They are feeling, is this going to keep up, or is it just till we lose?"
"He could be a nice guy," said outfielder Carmelo Martinez. "He could be real nice. But if we don't do the job, it's going to get him lost."
"I've played for five managers here, and I've only won with Dick," pointed out infielder Tim Flannery. "The grass isn't always greener."
But two cubicles down, McReynolds nodded. "Yeah, it's not that different," he said. "Only night and day."