San Diego minor league pitching coach Tom House, all 5'9", 160 pounds of him, surveyed the formidable Padre pair of reliever Rich Gossage (6'3", 215) and catcher Terry Kennedy (6'4", 220) and said, albeit from a safe distance, "Shamu and Namu in the same battery."
Sea World isn't what the Goose had in mind when he flew his Bronx Zoo coop after a six-year stay. Gossage was looking for peace of mind when he left the Yankees. "My personality was changing," he says. "I wasn't so nice. The atmosphere was rubbing off on me, and I didn't like that." If Gossage has peace of mind, so do the Padres, who lost 22 games last season after blowing a lead from the seventh inning on.
Love manager Dick Williams or hate him—and lefthanded reliever Gary Lucas disliked Williams so much that he now pitches for Montreal—Williams deserves credit for taking an inconsistent bullpen and an injury-plagued lineup and putting together a second straight .500 finish after three seasons of sub-.500 records. "The biggest thing we had last year was the play of Alan Wiggins," Williams says of the fellow who batted .276, stole 66 bases and did such a sparkling defensive job in leftfield.
So why, you ask, has Williams moved Wiggins to second base, the position he played in the minors. Simply because the Padres suffered a tater famine in '83, getting only 23 homers from the starting outfield. Replacing Wiggins in left will be rookie righty Carmelo Martinez, who smacked 31 homers at AAA Iowa and six with the Cubs last season.
April 2, 1984
The other outfielders are Tony Gwynn (.309 and a league-best 25-game hitting streak in '83) and Kevin McReynolds, the Minor League Player of the Year last season for his 32 homers, 46 doubles, 116 RBIs and .377 batting average at Las Vegas. McReynolds hit only .221 in a seven-week trial with San Diego in '83, but first baseman Steve Garvey calls him "the best young hitter I've seen in 10 years." This spring, McReynolds slammed five homers and had a .269 average. McReynolds, Garvey (who missed the last two months of the '83 season with a dislocated thumb) and Kennedy give the Padres the strongest middle of the batting order they've ever had.
The starting rotation has never looked better, either. Injuries to Tim Lollar, Dave Dravecky and Ed Whitson allowed rookies Mark Thurmond (7-3, 2.65 ERA) and Andy Hawkins (5-7, 2.93) to gain experience, giving San Diego a young, seasoned rotation; Lollar, 28, with three seasons under his belt, is the veteran. With Sid Monge, Luis DeLeon and the Goose in the bullpen, the Padres could have a whale of a season.
The grass was greener for the Padres when it was real: On natural turf they were the league's biggest winners (67-53, .558); on ersatz swards they were mowed down (14-28, .333). San Diego had the major leagues' poorest home-run ratio, hitting 93 and giving up 144, for a minus 51, but ranked fourth overall in stolen bases with 179.