The mad scientist here is general manager Jack McKeon, a throwback to the days when front office men smoked cigars and dealt players like trading cards. "Believe me," he says, "there aren't many players out there I haven't discussed in a trade." McKeon, who became G.M. in 1980, may be the only one with a cult following; the Padres even sell TRADER JACK T shirts in their souvenir shops. McKeon is also known as "The Sultan of Swap," and no wonder, because only six Padres came up through the farm system, and only two of them, rightfielder Tony Gwynn and McReynolds, are regulars.
Trader Jack may have pulled a fast one this past December when he dealt one of the many lefthanded relievers he has collected, Gary Lucas, to the Expos for starter Scott Sanderson, then sent Sanderson to the Cubs for Martinez, Pitcher Craig Lefferts and third baseman Fritzie Connally. "Actually, I very nearly had four teams involved in that deal, and possibly five," says McKeon.
Martinez reminds a lot of people of the Baby Bull himself, Orlando Cepeda. Charlie Fox, who managed the Cubs at the end of last season, also managed Cepeda when he was with the Giants, and he took to calling Martinez Plo-plo, Spanish slang for "fat boy," because that's what he called Cepeda. Martinez is hardly fat, although he does have a sizable rear, and he's a power hitter of great potential. He hit 37 homers for Triple-A Iowa and the Cubs last year, tore up the Puerto Rico Winter League and drove in 21 runs in spring training. A natural first baseman, he may struggle in left, but then the Padres have a long and rich history of bad leftfielders, going back to Al Ferrara and continuing with Dave Kingman, Jerry Turner and Gene Richards.
McReynolds was McKeon's initial draft pick in 1981. Trader Jack decided to take McReynolds while other clubs ducked because of a knee injury he suffered at the University of Arkansas. The Padres put him through a year of rehabilitation, and in his first two minor league seasons he was named Class A Player of the Year and minor league Player of the Year. McReynolds felt he embarrassed himself when he was called up to the Padres last season, but he's over that. He set a Padre record with seven spring-training homers. "I think the fans will get a lot more excitement out of Carmelo and me this year," he said after the Opening Night victory.
It didn't take long for him to make good on that promise, either. On Saturday he had three hits and four RBIs, and Martinez had three more hits and one RBI as the Padres beat the Cubs 7-5.
Neither Martinez nor McReynolds had ever heard of the M & M Boys, as in Mantle and Maris, before, but the label appears to have stuck. During the Welcome Padres luncheon at the Scottish Rite Center on April 3, Kennedy told everyone, "I read in the paper this morning about them being the M & M kids, and I just want to say that it's rather obvious which one is plain and which one is peanut."
M & M isn't the only thing the Padres have taken from the Yankees. On Jan. 6, they signed Gossage to a five-year, $6.25 million contract, despite whispers that he had lost something off his fastball. "Those rumors were started by the people who couldn't sign him," says Nettles. "I don't think he's lost a thing."
"All I know is that he scared the hell out of me on Opening Night," says Bevacqua. "And if he scares his teammates, imagine what he does to the opposition." So far, he's done plenty, pitching the last two innings of the team's first victory, getting the save in Thursday's 8-6 win and another on Saturday. In the Saturday game he also flied to right in his first regular-season at bat since he left Pittsburgh for New York in 1977. "I think having to bat helps a pitcher better understand hitters," he said. "It's helped me."
Gossage is overjoyed at having escaped the Bronx Zoo. "I would have left years ago, but I had a contract to keep," he says. "The game was no longer fun, it was a job. It tells you something when Graig Nettles, who was as tough mentally as anyone I've played with, couldn't take it any more."
After his debut as a Padre, Gossage said, "Hallelujah! Now I'm having fun again...it's like being reborn...a new lease on life...I feel like a kid...I haven't felt like this in a long time...it's great to be part of this team, just one of 25, and I don't care if I'm just a lug nut that holds the tire on."