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In starting pitchers Dave Freisleben, Dan Spillner and Joe McIntosh, all 23, and in Randy Jones, 25, McNamara has the makings of a staff that could plague the league for years. And in sluggers Win-field, 23, Grubb, 26, and Ivie, 22, he may have the offense of the future.
Winfield, who stands 6'6" and weighs 215, is, in McNamara's opinion, a potential superstar. Last year, his first full season in the major leagues, he hit 20 home runs and drove in 75 runs. He got off to a quick start this season and by week's end was among the league leaders in batting average, homers and RBIs.
"I can't say enough about Winfield," says McNamara. "He's got everything you look for in a superstar. And he has leadership ability. He's not afraid to work."
Winfield, a former baseball and basketball player at the University of Minnesota, is not lacking in yet another essential for success—self-confidence. "People tell you you're a superstar," he said last week, "so what do you say? You can't say no. I just tell them to come out and watch me play."
Those who watched him play last week in the game that broke the losing streak would surely have been impressed. The Padres were trailing Houston 1-0 when they rallied for all four of their runs in the fifth inning. The rally represented a fine amalgam of young and old talent. Veteran Bobby Tolan drove in one run, Grubb drove in two with his ninth double of the season and after Willie McCovey—at 37, still one of the most feared batsmen alive—was intentionally walked, Winfield hit a bullet to left field. Actually, it should have been a mere single, but the ball was struck with such force that it was too hot for Astro Outfielder Greg Gross to handle and was scored as a double. Grubb crossed the plate while Gross searched for the ball.
But even with their newly refined skills, the Padres do not win games easily, and in the ninth, with one out and a runner on first, Reliever Bill Greif walked one Astro and hit another to load the bases. Having thus inconvenienced himself, he struck out two men to end the game.
"I figured that if I was throwing so hard they couldn't get out of the way of the ball, I might as well keep giving them fastballs," said Grief, who got his fourth save of the season. Greif was a starter last year, and he admittedly "resisted" efforts to convert him to a reliever. "There remains a stigma to relief pitching for a starter," he said. "It's like accepting a demotion." That he eventually succumbed to the entreaties of McNamara and Pitching Coach Tom Morgan is a measure of the team's new spirit.
"Last year, a five-game losing streak might just have been accepted," said McCovey of the changed attitude. "This year the guys just think they're better than that. It means a lot, thinking you're supposed to win."
"We have a lot of young players who have been winners in college and in the minors," said Ivie, a burly, blond Georgian. "I think we're a little like the A's were a few years ago. Once we've learned to play together, we'll be hard to hold. Right now it feels good to come into a locker room knowing everybody is in a winning frame of mind. Last year, I guess it was more like, 'Oh, well, we lost. Let's have the paycheck.' "
Ivie was drafted by the Padres as a catcher five years ago, when he was 17. He became convinced somehow that this was not his position and he nearly quit the game in despair. He was finally shifted to first base, where he is more comfortable. It is a mark of his advancing maturity that when McNamara asked him in an emergency last month to play third base, an unfamiliar position, Ivie replied, "I'll give it my best shot, but don't expect a Brooks Robinson out there."