- The Washington Times - Monday, April 15, 2002

MILWAUKEE When Davey Lopes was a ballplayer, he spent the lonely days of winter critiquing himself.
"What can I do to become better?" he would ask, reviewing everything from his offseason conditioning program to his eating habits, focus and dedication. "There's always something you can improve upon."
It's no different now that Lopes is managing.
When he sat down for his annual self-review last winter following the Milwaukee Brewers' worst season in 17 years, Lopes decided what needed attention most was his scowl.
So he pledged to be more patient with those who look at his moves and motivations and not pounce with disdain on what he deems foolish questions.
"People are going to see a different side of me this year," Lopes said. "Just being a little more tolerant, a little more tactful at times, maybe taking a deep breath."
His makeover was tested immediately. The Brewers lost seven of their first nine games. But Lopes didn't blow his top.
In the 35th season of his baseball career, Lopes still has the powerful presence that marked his playing days, and his baritone voice still booms with authority.
But for the first time, fans are seeing a "lovable" Lopes, a man who bluntly assesses his team's shortcomings instead of getting defensive about them.
This is a giant leap for a man whose tempestuous nature made him a great leader and a ferocious foe in his 16-year major league career.
"That edge served me well as a player, very much so," said Lopes, his salt-and-pepper goatee highlighting his craggy face. "I'm not saying I'm going to be Mr. Nice Guy every single day."
When the season went sour last summer, Lopes became flustered, and his anguish reached a pinnacle when he threatened to have Rickey Henderson plunked by one of his pitchers for stealing a base during a blowout.
General manager Dean Taylor said after last season that Lopes needed to be a better liaison between the midmarket ballclub and its frustrated fans who have endured nine straight losing seasons and haven't sniffed the playoffs since 1982.
"Davey has worked diligently in the offseason to improve his image with the media and with the public, and I believe he's been successful in doing so," Taylor said. "Obviously, he is a tremendous competitor who wants to win at all costs. But I know he realizes he has to have a softer side, as well. And I think he has successfully improved the image that he projects."
And although Lopes focused on changing his public persona, his clubhouse communication skills also have improved, players say.
"He's much more relaxed this year," All-Star pitcher Ben Sheets said, echoing a sentiment shared by many of his teammates. "It seems like he's finally got who he wants around him. He's been wonderful this year. He's been a dream to play for this season, everything you could ask for in a manager."
Lopes' survival instincts may be taking over because he's in the final season of a three-year contract. But the 56-year-old manager said he's not worried about his future and that this change is more about self-improvement than self-preservation.
"It's just like a player in the last year of his contract. I'm going to get paid sooner or later," Lopes said. "That's how I feel. You interpret that the way you want. I'll be in the game. I hope it's here in Milwaukee. I want it to be in Milwaukee. I still have a job to do. I don't have any doubt that I'm the right man for the job. Other people may, but I don't."
One thing Lopes won't change is his stone-faced look during games, another aspect of his personality that has drawn condemnation from fans.
"It's not a personality contest, and I think sometimes people expect it to be," Lopes said. "Joe Torre doesn't smile much during a game. You have that game face on in the dugout because you're 'playing' the game, especially if you played the game."

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