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Says one National League manager, "I know there's dissension over there." Obviously, good team chemistry wasn't promoted when Gwynn, the Padres' best player and a four-time batting champion, had to defend himself in May against charges by teammates that he's a selfish player who cares more about getting hits than winning games. It also doesn't help that Gwynn and first baseman Jack Clark, an influential presence in the clubhouse, don't get along, as sources insist.
Nor has team harmony been enhanced by the managerial situation. In June, Jack McKeon, San Diego's manager-general manager at the time, began dropping hints that he might want to become a full-time general manager. (McKeon began managing the Padres on May 28, 1988, but said all along it was not a permanent move.) On July 11 McKeon resigned as manager and was replaced by first base coach Riddoch. In his first day on the job, Riddoch was taping a radio interview from the visiting manager's office at Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Stadium. As he began answering a question about the status of the Padres, someone flushed a toilet in the office, and the sound of the rushing water drowned out his response. Perhaps it was an omen. Afterward, the team, to quote Gwynn, "went down the toilet," losing 11 of its next 12 games.
When Riddoch, 45, was managing in the minor leagues, from 1973 to '81, he spent his off-seasons teaching psychology and other subjects in junior high and high school in Greeley, Colo. Last year the Padres players nicknamed him Psychology Today, and he had T-shirts made up with those words inscribed on them. Riddoch says he believes in "positive affirmation," and predicts that his background in psychology will help him as a manager "because things I know as far as creating atmosphere will help the players." Some disagree, but Riddoch says that the Padres' attitude "has been good. Even when we're behind, guys are cheering for each other. If everyone had a pillow and was asleep on the bench, I'd rattle some cages."
What has hurt the Padres most is injuries. Benito Santiago was leading National League catchers in batting, homers and RBIs when on June 14 he was hit by a pitch that broke his left arm. (The next day, coincidentally, Tom Werner, the producer of Barr's show, Roseanne, took over operation of the club from Joan Kroc, who had inherited the team from her husband, Ray.) When Santiago went down, the Padres were 30-27 and in second place, six games behind Cincinnati, but then they dropped 26 of their next 34 games. San Diego was also hurt by the loss of Clark, who spent four weeks in May and early June on the disabled list with a strained back and fractured cheekbone. Santiago probably won't play until mid-August at the earliest.
McKeon refuses to use injuries as an alibi. Nor does he blame several key players' slumps. Still, it's hard to ignore these disappointing performances. Hurst, who was 15-11 with a 2.69 ERA last year, was 6-8 with a 4.10 ERA through Sunday. Andy Benes, one of the top young pitchers in the league, went from June 5 to July 26 without a win. Carter was batting .220 at week's end. Clark had only 40 RBIs.
During its 3-21 stretch, San Diego's sloppiness—on defense, on the bases and just about everywhere else—became obvious. After an atrocious 8-3 loss to St. Louis on July 19, Lynn said, "Fundamentally, this is the worst team I've ever been on." That from a guy who played on the 1988 Baltimore Orioles, who lost 107 games, and the '89 Detroit Tigers, who dropped 103. Says another San Diego player, "Some guys don't even know how to play. And not just the kids, but the veterans also."
The team's poor play has intensified trade rumors. Clark's name has been mentioned in talks with the Philadelphia Phillies and the Boston Red Sox. It's also possible that Hurst may return to Boston. McKeon doesn't believe that the Padres need an overhaul, just some fine tuning. "I still think the nucleus is good," he says. "I really think if next season began tomorrow, and we started out 10-2 [the way the Reds did this year], we would win it." Dream on, Jack.
Even if the season were opening tomorrow, San Diego would still face some critical questions. Riddoch doesn't know if he will be asked to manage next year. (Either way, he plans to continue teaching as a substitute in Greeley during the off-season, as he has since '83.) In addition, All-Star second baseman Roberto Alomar, the brother of Sandy Jr., doesn't know if he will play second or shortstop in '91. He was shuffled between the two positions before and after the All-Star break. "It's like spring training around here," says one player. "Guys are being tried at new positions."
Riddoch says he probably will use Alomar at second for the rest of the season, even though Alomar is the team's best shortstop. That means that the Padres may have to find a new shortstop, because Garry Templeton, 34, is on his last legs as a regular. San Diego has been looking for a third baseman for three years and is currently platooning Eddie Williams, who had more errors (16) than RBIs (10) in 1989, and Mike Pagliarulo, who has only three homers and 23 RBIs in 75 games. The Padres would also like to find a centerfielder so that Carter, who has struggled at that position, can move to leftfield, or a first baseman, should Clark be traded. San Diego may pursue St. Louis outfielder Willie McGee, who can be a free agent at season's end. But McGee has said he will consider joining the Padres only if Clark stays. Says Deshaies, "The last thing they should do is dismantle that team."
One person certain not to be back next year—or any year—is Barr. The decision to have her sing The Star-Spangled Banner was made by Werner, a big baseball fan who often sits in the stands instead of his private box. Needless to say, the decision was not one of Werner's savviest.