Col. Coleman to lead Padres on uphill charge
Counting World War II and the US conflict in Korea, new manager Jerry Coleman of the San Diego Padres flew a combined total of 120 bombing missions and still holds the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps (ret).
But the best is yet to come if he can somehow lift the Padres into the upper stratosphere of the National League West this season. There is considerable doubt, however, that he has enough pitching to do it.
Previously Coleman was San Diego's play-by-play announcer and, back in the late 1940s and 1950s, played on eight American League pennant winners with the New York Yankees. Jerry was a second baseman with class in the field, but he really had only one outstanding year (1950) with the bat.
What Coleman can do for the Padres as a manager is still an open question, better reviewed at the end of the season. But he will have several new people at his command as the result of trades and free agent signings, and they all are expected to fill holes that were troublesome to the Padres last season.
Back in November, San Diego owner and McDonald's fast food king Ray Kroc spent $3.8 million (that's an awful lot of Big Macs) on two free-agent pitchers.
Bought over the counter were Cleveland right-hander Rick Wise and San Francisco left-hander John Curtis. Between them they won a total of 35 games in 1979, but more will be expected of them in San Diego uniforms.
Wise and Curtis will join a five-man rotation that aleady includes Randy Jones and Eric Rasmussen for sure, plus either Steve Mura or Juan Eichelberger. Rollie Fingers, Bob Shirley, and John D'Asquisto will handle most of the work out of the bullpen.
Gaylord Perry, who was the National League's Cy Young Award winner with the Padres as recently as 1978, has been traded to the Texas Rangers. Perry went to the Rangers, along with infielder Tucker Ashford and minor league pitcher Joe Carroll, for slugger Willie Montanez.
Willie, who 10 years ago hit 30 home runs with the Philadelphia Phillies, will bat fifth behind Dave Winfield and play first base. Dave Cash, obtained from the Montreal Expos in exchange for infielder Bill Almon and utilityman Dave Briggs, will play second base. Cash is a lifetime .287 hitter who had back-to-back .300 seasons with the Philadelphia club in 1974-75.
The Padres' new third baseman is Aurelio Rodriguez, who batted .254 last year in 106 games with the Detroit Tigers and won a Gold Glove for his fielding in 1976.
Ozzie Smith, despite a batting average that skidded from .258 to .211 last season, is still expected to play shortstop, mostly because he gets to nearly everything in the field. If Smith doesn't make it, coleman plans to take a look at both Barry Evans and Chuck Baker, up from the Pacific Coast League.
Doing the catching for the Padres will be Gene Tenace, who also expects to play some first base, and Bill Fahey, who has shown a lot of promise at the plate.
Right now San Diego figures to have an outfield of Gene Richards in left; Jerry Mumphrey in center; and Dave Winfield in right; with Jerry Turner and Von Joshua in reserve. Although Mumphrey was with St. Louis last year, he was actually acquired from Cleveland, who got him in an off-season trade.
Offensively Winfield is one of the best hitters in baseball and led the National League in runs batted in last year with 118. But so far Dave and the Padres have not been able to agree on the financial figures of what is expected to be a long-term contract.
Coleman's batting lineup probably will have Richards leading off, followed by Cash, Mumphrey, Winfield, Montanez, Tenace, Rodriguez, Smith and the pitcher.
Although it seems likely that San Diego will score more runs and improve somewhat on last year's 68-93 record, calling the Padres a serious contender at this point seems a little ambitious.