Jack McKeon, general manager of the San Diego Padres, today blamed baseball's league presidents for not moving quickly enough in negotiating to avoid a strike by major league umpires.
"Why don't they get off their rear ends? They were slow at the switch," McKeon said of National League President Chub Feeney and American League President Bobby Brown. "They've been dragging their feet on this."
McKeon's comments came from the Padres' locker room after their loss to the Cubs on Day 2 of the umpires strike over increased postseason pay for all umpires.
Richie Phillips, the umpires' representative, met with Brown in Kansas City Tuesday night and with Feeney here today.
Just before the meeting with Feeney, Phillips told an ABC television interviewer, "I need some cooperation from the baseball people. At some point they'll come to realize that the umpires make a valuable comtribution to the game and they ought to be compensated for it."
Phillips went on to say, "I think they're stonewalling us to send a message to the players who are going to be negotiating with them. They want to show the players how firm and tough they are."
Tonight, there was no word that any significant progress had been made.
When Phillips was asked before the meeting with Feeney why he went to the league presidents, he answered, "I have to posture myself so that I don't seem like the bad guy, like the guy who's trying to take baseball away from America."
Blake Cullen, the National League supervisor of umpires, was asked if the meetings between Phillips and the league presidents offered hope for a quick solution. "Yes," he said, "this thing is going to be settled."
Cullen then paused and said, "Eventually."
A four-man crew of subtitute umpires from the Big Ten Conference worked the National League playoff game today in Wrigley Field. A crew of six fill-in umpires was scheduled to work the American League game between the Kansas City Royals and Detroit Tigers tonight.
Dave Slickenmeyer, Joe Pomponi, Joe Maher and Dick Cavanaugh had what most would call an uneventful game. And several players and San Diego Manager Dick Williams complimented Slickenmeyer on his work behind the plate.
McKeon said he was told by the league four different substitute umpires, from Arizona, will work Game 3 of the series Thursday in San Diego.
McKeon said the strike may never even have occurred if the league presidents had paid closer attention to the umpires weeks ago. "Something should have been done long before this week," McKeon said. "They (the presidents) knew about this possibility. There should have been some strong, some strong, negotiations."
The umpires want an increased amount of money for postseason work that would be given to all umpires, not just those who work the playoffs and World Series games.
Both league presidents and Peter Ueberroth, the new baseball commissioner, have objected to all the umpires receiving such an increase.
Considering that the whole issue is basically being fought over about $300,000, McKeon said he knew where the the league presidents could find better negotiators.
"Maybe they ought to have some of us who have experience in negotiating big contracts get involved," he said. "It's a crying shame not to have the best (umpires) when it really counts."
When McKeon was asked if he thought Ueberroth should step in he said, "I'd like to see somebody step in. Whoever's been handling things so far hasn't been doing too good a job."
When a reporter asked him if he wanted the strike to be settled before the end of the series, McKeon became very animated and said, "Noooo, let it go. Let's go with the second-line umps all the way.
"Are they afraid we might get some locals out in San Diego tomorrow who might tip the scales in our favor.
"No, let's ride it through to the World Series. Everything will be even then. Either that or let the series start all over, then let the NL umps step in," said McKeon, whose team now trails the Cubs, 2-0, in this best of five series.
"I'd be very disappointed if they came back for the third or fourth game. At least give us a shot at our own locals."
McKeon said he was only joking, "that I want to make perfectly clear that these (substitute) umpires didn't cause us to lose. It's the situation I'm upset about, not these umpires. They came out and seemed to do the best they could."
San Diego catcher Terry Kennedy, who referred to the substitutes as a "bunch of clowns" after Game 1, said today plate umpire Slickenmeyer "was better (than Cavanaugh the day before).
"He missed some, too," Kennedy said. "But he showed no favoritism. None of them did. They haven't homered us here."
Kennedy joked that he wanted to try new West Coast substitutes and see how they were. "Let's get out there and get some umps who throw frisbees between innings and wear some Hawaiian shirts and sandals.
"Yeah, I want our guys back," Kennedy said, referring to the NL umpires.
Mark Thurmond, the starting pitcher for San Diego, said, "the guy behind the plate was good. I thought he did a really good job, a typical game (by the major league umpire standards). I thought the other three put their hats over their eyes and tried to stay invisible."