Results tagged ‘ Cubs ’

Dark cloud hovers over 1984 Padres

PHOENIX — When Braves Minor League manager Luis Salazar was recently struck in the face by a line drive and lost his left eye, it was another strange hit to the 1984 Padres, the first team in club history to win the National League pennant and ascend to the World Series. They lost in five games to the Tigers.

Salazar was a back up infielder, displaced at third base by an aging Craig Nettles, who was obtained in a trade with the Yankees just prior to the start of that regular season. This year, Salazar was standing in the dugout during a Spring Training game in Florida and didn’t know what hit him.

There is a dark cloud hovering over the ’84 Padres team and this was just the latest incident.

Starting pitcher Eric Show and second baseman Alan Wiggins died young, Show, at 37 of a drug overdose, Wiggins at 32, from AIDs linked to the injection of drugs.

Then there is the cancer cluster. Dave Dravecky lost his left (throwing) arm to cancer. Coach Jack Krol died of cancer related to his constant use of chewing tobacco. And Tony Gwynn, the NL batting champion that season and an eight-time winner in his 20-year career, is battling cancer for the same reason.

Phil Collier, the beat writer for the San Diego Union who covered that team, was diagnosed that year with prostate cancer and eventually died from it. Wayne Lockwood and Barry Lorge, both columnists for the Union back then, are also gone. Wayne had Parkinson’s and Barry died of cancer. Bob Chandler, a now retired Padres play-by-play announcer, is a prostate cancer survivor. I was the beat writer for the San Diego Tribune that season and I’ve survived colon cancer — not once, but twice. In another ironic twist, I’ve been blind in my left eye since a childhood accident.

Ray Kroc, the McDonald’s founder and club owner who saved the team for San Diego, had a major stroke and died before the start of that season. The Padres wore an “RAK” patch on their shoulders all that year to honor him. His wife and successor, Joan, died in 2003 because of a brain tumor.

With apologies to the 1998 Padres team that also went to World Series where they were swept by the Yankees, the postseason in ’84 is still the most exciting week of Major League Baseball ever played in San Diego. It was staged at the old ballpark in Mission Valley before it was expanded and enclosed for football in front of raucous crowds of almost 60,000 for every game.

It included the Padres’ come-from-behind victory over the Cubs in what was the final best-of-five NL Championship Series.

Steve Garvey won Game 4 in Mission Valley with a two-run walk off homer in the bottom of the ninth. In Game 5 there was Tim Flannery’s grounder that skidded through the legs of Leon Durham, the first baseman whose glove had been accidentally doused in Gatorade by Ryne Sandberg, the NL’s MVP that season. The Padres even split the first two World Series games, winning Game 2 at home over a Tigers team that won 111 games — including the postseason — and was clearly one for the ages. Unfortunately they lost the next three at old Tiger Stadium.

To those among the survivors — Dick Williams and Jack McKeon, Tim Lollar and Andy Hawkins, Steve Garvey and Puff Nettles, Goose Gossage and Garry Templeton, Kevin McReynolds and Carmelo Martinez, Craig Lefferts and the first Greg Harris, Ballard Smith and Dick Freeman, and of course, Bruce Bochy, Terry Kennedy and Tim Flannery — stay well and healthy.

And to Louie a speedy recovery. May the wind always be at your backs.

Giants hanging in there with 10 games to go; Sabean, Bochy should both return in 2010

PHOENIX — No matter what happens to the Giants in the National League’s Wild Card race, they’ve had a wildly successful season.

Coming off 90 losses in 2008, the Giants at least secured a .500 record with their 5-2 victory over the D-backs at Chase Field on Wednesday night. At 82 wins with 10 games to play, that’s already 10 victories better than ’08. Coupled with a Rockies loss to the Padres in Denver, the Giants are four games behind in the Wild Card race, tied with the suddenly surging Braves.

“We’re still breathing, we got help,” manager Bruce Bochy said after the game. “We’re running out of games. We know that, but there’s still hope.”

The Giants head home to play the Cubs this weekend, while the Rox get the NL Central-leading Cardinals at Coors Field. The Cards need a win or a Cubs loss to capture another division title. The Braves, meanwhile, get three vs. the 99-loss Nationals in Washington.

What the Giants have done should be enough to secure the jobs of Bochy and long-time general manager Brian Sabean, whose contracts both expire at the end of the season. Bill Neukom, the team’s new managing general partner, has told both men they’ll be evaluated with everyone else in the organization this offseason. Here’s hoping that the process doesn’t take long and neither of them are left dangling. They are both consummate professionals. Thus far, Neukom has kept his word and there has been silence on the subject internally and externally.

The Giants haven’t made the playoffs since 2003, but that’s not for lack of effort. In the post-Barry Bonds era, Sabean deserves credit for resisting the trade of his young pitchers — Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Brian Wilson — for more grizzled veterans. With his future and job on the line, it would’ve been easy to take the “win it at all costs now” route. But Sabean didn’t. He stayed the course and the Giants should reward Sabean by staying with him.

Bochy has done one of his best managerial jobs this year, keeping a team with a thread-bare offense — the Giants’ 112 homers are next to last in the 16-team NL  — in contention for a playoff spot. But that’s not surprising. In his 12 years managing the Padres and now three with the Giants, Boch has always gotten the most out of every club. He won four division titles and the 1998 NL pennant in San Diego and was on a two-year playoff streak when he up and left the Padres for the Giants with one year left on his contract. The Giants owe him a debt of gratitude for coming and an extension for a job well done.

It’s tempting in this era of  instant Twitters and instant success to look elsewhere. But is anyone better out there? Ask Astros owner Drayton McLane, who fired GM Tim Pupura and manager Phil Garner only two years after a World Series loss to the White Sox. McLane brought in Ed Wade and Cecil Cooper. Since then the Astros have continued to falter and Cooper has been dismissed. Sometimes it’s better to stay the course.

The Giants still have an outside chance of making the postseason. If they tie the Rockies after 162 games, they’ll host a one-game Wild Card playoff at AT&T Park by virtue of a 10-8 head-to-head record with Colorado. If they don’t, there’s nothing to hang their heads about.

“Our goal this year was to go to the postseason,” Bochy said. “We all thought we had the team here to do it. But no question, as an organization we wanted to make an improvement. That’s something we wanted to accomplish. We wanted to play winning baseball and now we’ve done that.”

And so, the architect and the manager should be rewarded accordingly.

 

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