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The Beast Team In Baseball
Steve Wulf
April 16, 1984
The menagerie known as the San Diego Zoo has been devouring its National League opponents
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April 16, 1984

The Beast Team In Baseball

The menagerie known as the San Diego Zoo has been devouring its National League opponents

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On March 31, the Padres traded pitcher Dennis Rasmussen, whom they had originally gotten from the Yankees, for Nettles. Nettles was unhappy at being platooned in New York, and New York was unhappy at Nettles being unhappy, so he was dealt. Nettles claims the real reason for the trade was his comments about Yankee owner George Steinbrenner in Nettles' recently published book Balls, though Steinbrenner denies it. In any case, the Padres were only too glad to take his lefthanded power, his glove and his leadership. And Nettles was only too glad to go home to San Diego; he and his family live in Del Mar, his folks in El Cajon.

"I was happy to get away from New York," Nettles says. "The owner said things about me being a destructive force on the club, so why play for a guy who keeps sniping at you? I finally had enough of him. I'll always be a Yankee. I love those guys, I love the team, and I'll always root for them. In fact, I have to get home now to watch the Yankees. They're on at 5:30."

It may be only a coincidence, but the Padres will be changing uniforms next year, getting rid of their Halloween colors and going to pinstripes: thin brown and gold stripes on white (home) and gray (away), with an all-brown cap.

The other major change the Padres are attempting this year is making Alan Wiggins the starting second baseman. Wiggins, who has stolen 101 bases in a season and a half, shuttled between the outfield and first base last year. But he began his professional career as a second baseman, and made himself into one of the best outfielders in baseball. The Padres think he can be successful there as well. "I'm still not as comfortable at second as I was in the minors," says Wiggins, "and I know I'll have days when I embarrass myself. But I think I'm going to be a pretty good second baseman someday."

The Padres do have some known quantities. Kennedy, the clubhouse wit whose face resembles Pinocchio's before he told a lie, had more RBIs (98) than any fulltime catcher in baseball last year, and that was despite being constantly pitched around. Garvey, who missed 62 games in '83 after suffering a thumb injury, homered and drove in four runs Thursday. Templeton's chronically bad knees are better, and he's only 28, so it's possible that he could still be the best fielding shortstop in baseball, even better than Ozzie Smith. He was the star in Friday's 3-2 victory, getting three hits and sliding home with the winning run in the bottom of the ninth. Gwynn has a chunky build, a funny voice and a stinging bat—he batted .309 last year and was hitting .461 through Sunday.

"We still have some ifs and buts," says Kennedy, and one of the ifs is starting pitching. The starters were lit up in spring training, but, Manager Dick Williams says, "That was true of the staff I had in Oakland the years we won the Series." If Eric Show, who is publishing a book of his guitar solos, can remain consistent, and Dave Dravecky and Tim Lollar, another former Yankee, can return to form, the Padres' pitching will be fine, especially with Gossage there to save them.

"GOOOOSE!"

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