Philadelphia Daily News - Baseball '80
Strength and Flexibility
Hoefling Has Made Believers of Carlton, Boone
By Stan Hochman
It all started with a Wheaties' boxtop. A Wheaties' boxtop and 15 cents, mailed to Jack Armstrong, the Ail-American boy.
Gus Hoefling wanted to be ready, in case the Japanese attacked Iowa. If Hirohito and those slanty-eyed devils came after Iowa's corn, Gus Hoefling, the blacksmith's grandson, would be prepared.
So he sent the Wheaties' boxtop and the 15 cents and they sent him a pamphlet about jujitsu in a plain brown envelope.
Confucious was right. A journey of 10,000 miles begins with but a single step.
The patriotic Hoefling used the jujitsu holds, on his grade school classmates until they turned red, white and blue. He was hooked.
The family moved to California and Gus gave a guy $90 to teach him karate and the guy said Gus couldn't break a board with a sledgehammer so Gus enrolled at Vic Tanny for two months and went back and reclaimed his $90... and after that he found an old guy in an old garage who taught him some very old martial arts moves... and then he went to Hong Kong and maybe further to learn from the inscrutable Kung Fu masters...
Building and Bankrupting
And then back to California... through two shattered marriages... leaving a trail of splintered bamboo sticks behind (he breaks them by pressing them against his windpipe)...mingling with pros and cons...
Building a contracting business and bankrupting it on the crap tables at Las Vegas... seeing his first pro football game on a pass left by Koman Gabriel... hired by Mike McCormack and fired by Dick Vermeil... and now... and now...
And now, what? Flexibility coach with the Philadelphia Phillies, hired by the club owner, who he calls the best conditioned athlete on the team.
Gus Hoefling will be 46 in July. His upper body looks like a beer keg. A stainless steel beer keg.
He drives a mustard-colored 911 Porsche. Fast. He. worries about his triglyceride count, he eats in cheap Chinese restaurants, he carries a leather shoulder bag wherever he goes, loves kids, hates Bruce Lee movies.
Has an expense account to go with his estimat ed $40,000 salary, which is more than any of the other coaches make, which cannot be terrific for morale.
He Watched and Read
Has never had any formal training in medicine, physiology or anatomy, but he lived for a while with a Hollywood doctor who let him watch his operations and read his books.
He knew very little football when he went to work for the Eagles... and he knew even less baseball when Carpenter hired him.
"It was ‘75, or maybe ‘76," Hoefling recalled. "This guy came shuffling wearing a pair of khaki pants, a beat-up shirt. I thought he worked for the city.
"I’ll work with anybody who wants to work. I knew his name was Ruly but I never paid any attention to the last name.
"I got him on the situp board and I wanted him to do 250. He started to crap out at 230. I kicked the side of the board, cussed him.
"Afterwards, someone said, "You know who he is? That guy owns the Phillies.' I said, Big deal."
"At the end of the ‘76 baseball season, Ruly came down and struck up a deal with me to work out some of his players."
Maybe Carpenter felt that's what his players needed... a good swift kick in the slats? Maybe Carpenter felt so good after Hoefling's workouts, he wanted everybody else to feel that good? Maybe he was entranced with Hoefling's Kung Fu background, and the way Steve Carlton and Bob Boone responded tobit?
The deal has evolved to include an off-season weight-training program which has had mixed results (impressive upper-body development for Mike Schmidt, chronic shoulder miseries for Warren Brusstar).
It calls for Hoefling to supervise calisthenics for the entire squad, to handle the running program for the pitchers.
Only a Tool
"I believe in using running only as a tool," Hoefling said. "Do not equate more with better. Running does not loosen von, it tightens you.
"Running does not make you stronger. In the end it makes you weaker."
Dallas Green, the Phillies' manager, says he is from the old school, and the old school included running for pitchers as a basic part of the curriculum.
Steve Carlton does not choose to run. If nominated, he will not swerve. He chooses, instead, to submit to Hoefling's eye-bulging, breath-sapping flexibility exercises and the semi-secret Kung Fu lessons.
It made for a comic opera first day of spring training, as the manager sloshed awkwardly out of the freshly-painted corner. It was fun for the media, but not for Green, Carlton or Hoefling.
"There is no cross-fire between Dallas and myself." Hoefling said. "I understand what Dallas wants, and I am trying to do it.
"I know where he gets his I-We stuff from. I alone can do nothing. We, together, can do it alL
"I don’t know why Lefty wont run. Apparently, he doesnt feel he wants to. He is not reflecting my views on running.
"I remember my first meeting with Steve. We were to talk about Kung Fu. He said, ‘I hate to run.'”
Boone Explains Benefits
Carpenter, who thinks the world is flat talks only to certain writers. Carlton, who knows the world is round, and offers little place to hide, talks to no writers.
That leaves Boone, an articulate, sharp, Stanford graduate, to describe Hoefling's program and its benefits.
"I had been looking for someone like Gus my whole life." Boone said.
"There's no question, the things I’ve done are attributable to increased strength and flexibility and overall body conditioning.
“He doesn’t change your skill. But the results came because of how I felt And I knew, right away, I felt better.
“Mentally, I felt better because you go through something so grueling and survive… and have something left. Two athletes of equal ability, the better conditioned one is going to win.
"I am not going to hit more home runs. But being better conditioned, I can work at practicing the things I have to do to improve my skills.
"You can only hit so many baseballs before you get tired. But if you can work longer without fatigue, you are better off.
"The martial arts part, I can't pinpoint the results, but you learn, you see things, your periphery widens, you react to movement.
"When I'd slump it would be because I was always a lunger. I'd be reaching for the balL In fighting, you reach, you get hit. You've spread out.
“See, you exist in this circle. Doni go outside it. In baseball, let the ball get there. That's mental control.
"You get slapped a little (in Kung Fu) you learn that. Plus, you get so fatigued, you learn to cross the pain barrier.
"Does it hurt? It can be killing me, but it could be a little worse. Hard is soft, soft is hard. You can get to total fatigue and still be alert, your mind floating.
"You show yourself there's a little more left. You get into a doubleheader, the eighth inning of the second game, you can say, 'Let's push it.’
"You learn how to draw a little extra. You learn how to rest quickly. You get a 10-second rest, you use it. It's amazing the mental toughness you can develop. You know what you're made of.
"If Gus can help me and Steve Carlton, and nobody else, he's still worth the little dab he's getting. You're talking about a million dollars a year in salary for two guys.
"It does contribute a few points on my average, some added power. I will last longer.
"And Lelty... Letty has made a lot of turns because of that man. A lot of pitchers say, 'My arm hurts.' The great ones say, "Bleep it and keep going."
Boone has made a remarkable recovery from knee surgery. Carlton, at 35, was five lengths ahead of every other Philadelphia pitcher this spring.
Hoefling cannot turn a.220 hitter into a.320 hitter, he cannot transform a base-running mule into a gazelle, a Gary Nolan into a Nolan Ryan.
"It's a proven fact," Hoefling confessed, "you do not have to be in good condition to play baseball.
"But it has to enhance your skill, being in condition. Take a border-line major leaguer, enhance his strength, increase his range of motion, and his skill is improved.
Only 2 Factors
"It takes strength to create motion. It takes flexibility to permit it. There is nothing we can do about the neurological efficiency we have inherited.
"That leaves strength and flexibility, the only two factors we can do anything about. You make an athlete stronger, he will jump higher, hit harder, run faster. Provided he is coached properly.
"In condition, your concentration level is higher, your sense of competition is keener, your will to win is higher.
"What the Chinese teach you as far as defeat... it's a fate worse than death. They also teach you to never gloat over victories."
It would help his credibility if he wasn’t so thick in the middle.
"I am not," he admitted, "in good condition at the moment. Laziness on my part. The old do as I say, not as I do routine."
It would enhance his gospel of self-discipline if he had not squandered $270,000 in Las Vegas.
"I had opened a Kung Fu parlor in Redondo Beach," he said. "It drew very well. In 90 days I had 150 students at $40 a month.
"Opened right down the street from Chuck Norris, who was national champion at the time. I put a sign in the window saying. 'I'm better than the guy down the street'
"Opened a second one in Hermosa. Beach. A third in Hawthorne. A fourth, in, heaven forbid. Las Vegas. A fifth in Phoenix.
"In Vegas. I'd go from teaching a class at the Jockey Club, still in my karate shirt and pants, right to the crap tables at MGM. I couldn't resist."
He is vague about some of his travels, admitting that he has studied in Hong Kong, in Kowloon.
"I owe everything to James Wing Woo." he said. "He completely changed my life., Showed me the truth.
"In the beginning he had only 13 students. He rented an eld morgue and fixed it up. We slept there, ate there. "
"He decided to open classes to outsiders. He said, 'We’ll hang up sheep's wool and feed them dog meat' An old Chinese proverb. Now, he has stopped teaching the hard styles.
"He felt you did not have to have money to be rich. I remember driving up in a white Cadillac El Dorado, with a $300 suit on.
'I Was Embarrassed'
"I had not seen him in three or four months. He said, 'How many pairs of shoes can you wear at one time?' I was kind of embarrassed."
Woo is the only instructor he will single out by name. He insists he has never been to mainland China, yet he has a parchment master's degree from the Chinese Martial Arts Association in Canton, dated 1966.
"I can only say at this time that I have never been to China," he hedged. "But the certificate is genuine. It was not printed at Mr. Speedy's."
Nor did it come in return for a boxtop and 15 cents, which is how Gus Hoefling's incredible journey began. And what was an Iowa farm kid doing, eager to learn jujitsu?
"The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor," he explained "Iowa was the bread-basket of America. I just knew they had to attack Iowa next.
"I sent for the booklet How to overpower your enemy. I practiced the holds, became proficient at them.
But it started even earlier than that. Even as a little boy, I'd hang bags in the basement. I'd fill 'em full of newspapers. I'd punch at 'em, kick at 'em."
And maybe that is what Ruly Carpenter likes best about Gus Hoefling. A kid punches newspapers, kicks 'em. he can't be all bad.
Phillies Are In ‘Arms’ Race
The Phils, Pirates, Cardinals and Expos are all excellent teams that lack pitching depth. Any one of them could win the National League East title. A little luck wouldn't hurt, either.
By Bill Conlin
There they are, the four great Eastern Division contenders, engines revving at the red line, ready to take the green flag and go screaming into what, hopefully, will be a long season.
Damn the suspect pitching staffs. For the Pirates, Cardinals, Phillies and Expos, it is full-speed ahead.
All can score runs in bunches. The Pirates, with virtually the same offensive cast which came from a 1-3 deficit to win the World Series last October. The Cardinals, who led the National League in team batting average last season, with a swift, line-drive stinging cast bolstered by the addition of Bobby Bonds. The Phillies, repaired and prepared by Dallas Green, in apparent good health and anchored by Mike Schmidt, Pete Rose and a svelte, determined Greg Luzinski. The Expos, with baseball's best young lineup juiced by the addition of swift Ron LeFlore.
May we have a few choruses of the flugel-horn, please, Mr. Mangione.
By Oct. 5, they'll be playing the Requiem from Rocky II over three of the above. Cause of death will be listed as arm failure – thrombosis of the starters complicated by sclerosis of the bullpen.
Give any of the Big Four in baseball's strongest division a certified pitching staff and you can start the celebration early. Hell, the race could be over before the May 22 strike deadline.
But with everybody wondering where the next complete game will come from, this division title could be won by the traveling secretary who can make the best flight connections from Oklahoma City, Columbus, Tulsa and Denver, by the trainer who can keep a rotation together with a minimum of disabled-list time or a faith healer.
Going into the Vet opener with Montreal, Green's rotation consisted of Steve Carlton and pray for a rainy April.
Espinosa Return Uncertain
Nino Espinosa, who accounted for 14 of the Phillies' modest 84 victories during the plague year of 79, came north on the disabled list with a lame shoulder after working just two "B" game innings in Clearwater. His estimated time of arrival in the rotation is about as definite as a release date for the hostages.
Larry Christenson and Dick Ruthven, who emerged from therapy long enough to combine for 12 victories last year, are both coming off autumn surgery.
Christenson, whose spring training progress was severely curtailed by a groin pull and a Jason Thompson line drive off his left knee, had a spur removed from his right collarbone, the one he shattered falling off a bicycle 14 months ago.
Ruthven, who had his first bone-chip operation in 1974, underwent a second one on the same elbow after a season when he gritted his teeth, tried to fool 'em, and didn't know if the tears in his eyes were from the pain in his arm or his back. He says his arm is fine, but the 28-year-old righthander's back bothered him during the curtailed exhibition season and he was wild high. It should also be pointed out that when Ruthven, whose elbow area now resembles the intersection of the Santa Monica, Harbor and Santa Ana Freeways in downtown L.A., was cut in 74, he spent most of the following season in Toledo.
Randy Lerch, Carlton's companion lefthander, is approaching the fish-or-cut-bait stage of his career. He's been around three seasons, or long enough for the "promising" to be deleted from in front of his name. He's worn that tag long enough to be listed as Promising Randy Lerch on the '80 census rolls. It is time for the 25-year-old Calif ornian to move on to something else. Unfortunately, after a rocky exhibition season, he is beginning to look more and more like Suspect Randy Lerch.
"There comes a time in a pitcher's career when he has to stop experimenting and start getting somebody out," Green says diplomatically.
Questions About Lerch
"Randy spent a lot of time this spring working on his breaking pitch and that's fine. He's been, told it's time to go out and go after hitters."
The April monsoons and open dates will enable Green to go with a four-man rotation. If one of the above falters, next in line to start prior to Espinosa's return would be righthanders Dickie Noles or rookie Scott Munninghoff, a 21-year-old former No. 1 draft choice, who is making the jump from Double A.
"Munninghoff s role will be to pitch," Green says. "Start if we need him, long" relieve, pitch to one righthander, short relieve, whatever. He's here to pitch, not to watch. With his motion I think he'll be very effective against righthanders."
Noles is a rawhide tough young righthander who was brought up from the minors last season when pitchers started dropping like flies and was the Phillies' most effective starter behind Carlton during several stretches.
"Dickie started showing signs of being the pitcher who was so good in spots for us last season toward the end of the spring." Green says. "We think he's got big-league stuff, big-league competitiveness and he'll pitch a lot for the Phillies."
The starters are cloaked in such uncertainty you've got to wonder why Paul Owens spent the winter trying to find Green a bullpen "hammer." The bullpen, though not of the Pirates' caliber, seems set and reasonably solid.
Free agent Lerrin LaGrow came to camp in tremendous shape, fully recovered from offseason heel surgery. He allowed just one run in 10 exhibition innings and is programmed for the middle-short role once handled so well by ill-starred Warren Brusstar.
"He's the guy we want to come in when a starter falters and keep a ballgame close, get us out of an inning and hold 'em until we can pinch-hit for him," Green says.
Kevin Saucier, the cocky lefty who proved so hard on left-handed hitters as a rookie, will be entrusted with the chore of handling the Dave Parker, Willie Stargell types.
Which brings us to aging hammers Ron Reed, 37, and Tug McGraw, 35.
McGraw leads all active pitchers with 144 saves and he had 16 more last year. But he set a major-league record by throwing four grand slams during a bizarre season and his ERA ballooned to 5.14.
“If you used the Callaway Handicapping System they use in golf – throw out the bad outings – I would have had a helluva year," Tug says.
Reed had a deceptive 13-8 record. That's too many decisions for a National League short man. And the trouble last year with both McGraw and Reed was that Danny Ozark used them too many days back-to-back. He'd use one reliever until he was ready to drop while the other sat gathering rust.
"I can help both of them." Green says. "Tug and Ronnie are both starting to show a little age and I can make them more effective short men by taking innings-pitched away from them. I don't want Ron Reed or Tug McGraw out there pitching three innings three days in a row."
Events have a way of putting more pressure on a bullpen than a manager or pitching coach would care to see. Cutting down a short man's innings is a luxury Green can afford only if he's getting at least six innings from his starters. The best bullpen, after all, is the one you never have to use at all.
The offense, when healthy and together, which it rarely was last season, is one of the game's most productive when handled with intelligence. That is to say it is a lineup which must rely more on finesse than the long ball. Despite the presence of Mike Schmidt and Greg Luzinski as home-run threats, Green proved last September that it must use the stolen base, the bunt and the hit-and-run to keep defenses honest.
"We can no longer afford the luxury of laving back for the big inning," the manager says. "We're no longer a lineup that's gonna blow people out, although Schmitty and The Bull will give us that appearance when they're both hot.
"We've got to play grind-it-out baseball and we've got the personnel to do that with the best of them."
Green's offensive game plan revolved around using Manny Trillo as the No. 2 hitter behind Pete Rose, who had a splendid spring and appears ready to crank another 200-hit season into the record books. But Trillo didn't look comfortable in the role and Green decided in the final Clearwater days to go with the revitalized bat of Bake McBride in the key two hole.
"Bake's hot right now and he's earned the right to hit second against both sides," Dallas said. "He pulls the ball and doesn’t strike out a lot He's not an ideal hit-and-run guy, but he can flat-out hit and in my opinion he hits lefties better than righties."
Green will probably go with Garry Maddox, whose contract problems remain unresolved, in the No. 3 spot. It's about the only place in the middle of the lineup where the manager wont have to worry about the brilliant centerfielder's inability to bunt and unwillingness to take pitches.
"Garry gives me speed in the top of the lineup and should set the table pretty good for Schmitty and Bull," Green said. "Bob Boone will hit sixth, Manny seventh and (Larry) Bowa eighth."
Dallas surrounded proved reserves Del Unser and Greg Gross with rookie outfielders Lonnie Smith and George Vukovich and long-balling rookie catcher Keith Moreland. Luis Aguayo, a slick 20-year-old rookie made the club as the No. 1 infield reserve and veteran John Vukovich added catching to his list of utility skills.
Green's bench will have some flaws. Moreland needs to improve his catching skills. Boone is a horse, but he's a horse coming off knee surgery, and he's not going to catch 162 games. Gross, Unser and G. Vukovich should give the Phillies a solid corps of left-handed pinch-hitters, but Moreland will be his only right-handed long-ball threat.
The jury is out on whether Smith, a four-year regular in Triple A, can adjust to the kind of "leg" role Matt Alexander played for the Pirates last year. Gross figures to get first call when McBride needs a rest.
Hey, it's a fine team if everybody stays in a semblance of one piece. But off the performance of the starters behind Carlton so far, don't bet the mortgage money on the outcome.
If the unfolding scenario includes a return to health and form by Christenson and Ruthven, the blooming of Randy . Lerch and resurrection of Espinosa, a Comeback of the Year effort by The Bull, normal years by Schmidt, Maddox, Rose and McBride plus some durability by Trillo, you could spend the third week in October dancing in the streets.
But Murphy's Law states that it always gets darker after dawn and that bodies in motion tend to remain in motion. Have the Phillies recovered emotionally from their 1979 free-fall? Depending on your faith or lack of it, you can pencil the Phillies into any spot between first and fourth in a slam-bang race between excellent teams which could all use more pitching.
Third place is not a safe guess for this team by any means. But it is a realistic one.
A little luck would help.
Mad Dog What Bucks Needed
By the United Press International
The Pittsburgh Pirate infield already included a Crazy Horse, a Scrap Iron and a Pops. It needed a Mad Dog to make it complete.
“Bill Madlock was the catalyst,” Pirate Manager Chuck Tanner said. “When we got him, we were able to move Phil (Scrap Iron) Garner from third to second, where he had been an All-Star in the American League.
"With Tim (Crazy Horse) Foil at short, that gave us the best double-play combination I've ever had on a team."
Together with Willie (Pops) Stargell at first, they combined to form a colorful and effective infield that brought the Pirates a World Series title And it was that June 28 deal that sent pitcher Ed Whitson, Al Holland and Fred Breining to San Francisco for Madlock, infielder Lenny Randle and pitcher Dave Roberts that made so much of the difference.
"I enjoyed coming to Pittsburgh," Madlock said. "I was in a bad situation in Candlestick."
He played like he was happy to be a Pirate. After batting .261 with, the Giants, he. hit .328 with the Pirates and played an excellent brand of third base.
"They needed a right-handed hitter who could play every day," Madlock said, explaining his role once he came to the Pirates. "When I was with San Francisco, we always used to pitch lefthanders against the Pirates because they had no one to balance their left-handed hitting."
Tanner agreed Madlock helped with that part of the game and also with others.
Madlock laughs when people ask him about the Pirates' spirit on and off the field.
"Pittsburgh was the winningest team in the 1970s," he said. "They must have had some spirit. They must have been doing something right. There's nothing different now. It's just that now we've got a song for it."
Still, Madlock will never forget the feeling of winning a World Series, especially since he was not exactly headed toward one with the Giants.
"It's tough to put it into words," he said. "You just don't believe what has happened to you."
Phils’ Facts: Do You Know Them?
The Phillies are the first National League Eastern Division champion to win over 100 games two years running, 1976 and 1977.
Steve Carlton has the Phillies' record for most wins in one season at Veterans Stadium, finishing 17-3 in 1977.
The most pinch-homers in a season by a Phillies' player is five by Gene Freese in 1959.
The "most strikeouts against the Phillies in a nine-inning game is 16 held by several pitchers, Sandy Koufax and Steve Carlton, twice each; Bob Veale and Bob Gibson, once.
The last Phillies' player to hit a home run in every National League park in one season was Wally Post in 1959.
The most home runs hit by a visiting player in one season at the Vet is seven by Montreal's Gary Carter in 1978. The old mark was five: Pittsburgh's Bob Robertson (1971) and Montreal's Hal Breeden (1973).
The biggest inning in Phillies' history came in the sixth inning against the Cubs, July 21, 1923, the first game of a doubleheader, when they scored 12 times.
Steve Carlton of the Phillies and Sandy Koufax of the Dodgers share the modern National League record for most wins by a lefthander in one season, 27. Koufax did it in 1966, Carlton six years later.
The Phillies hit 186 homers in 1977, which easily smashed the 1929 club record of 153.
Lefty O'Doul of the Phillies set a National League record for most times reached base in a season when he got on base 334 times in 1929 on 254 nits (also an N.L. record), 76 walks and 4 hit by pitches.
Vince DiMaggio holds the Phillies season record for the most grand slams, hitting four in 1945.
The longest game in Phillies' history was a 2-1 loss to the Cubs in Chicago, July 17, 1918, 21 innings.
The most strikeouts for a Phillies' pitcher in a nine-inning game is 17 by Art Mahaffey, April 23, 1961. against the Cubs.
The Phillies hold the National League record for most doublehead-ers in one season, playing 43 in 1943 (11 wins, 14 losses, 18 splits).
The Phillies have homered, six times in one game seven times since the turn of the century.
By Bill Conlin
The voice comes at you like the public address system in a prison yard. Dallas Green would have been a great stroke caller on a Roman galley. He is the latest in a long line of Messiahs entrusted with leading the Phillies to the Promised Land, which is appropriate. Put a rod in his right hand and dress him in a flowing robe and you have a Charlton Heston look-alike. Here are Green's thoughts on managing after his first spring training and his expectations for the Phillies this season. Please turn down the volume on your set.
Q. – Did yon think last October when yon took the manager's job fall-time that yon were going to like it as much as you're obviously liked it daring spring training?
GREEN – I don't think so. I wasn't on an ego trip, had no illusions of grandeur, no thoughts of continuing managing after a certain length of time. I had one thought in mind – to move on in other directions in baseball. I felt I was the best guy for the job after Paul Owens gave me the pat on the back and said I had done a good job.
Q. – When did you start to feel that you might like to do the job longer than on an interim basis?
GREEN – The last series in Montreal Paul encouraged me to at least think about it. I had not thought about it with any seriousness until that point in time. Paul told me not to sell myself short; he felt I could do a good job. I started to weigh the pluses and minuses with my thought of going on as a general manager. If we stayed inside (the organization), which was my recommendation, and I had Paul Owens' backing, I felt I was the best guy, because 1 know Ruly and Paul's thinking as well as anyone. I know the minor league system as well as anyone, I know these guys on the ballclub because I've grown up with a lot of them and I am a Phillies' guy. I want nothing more than what they want and that's to win the world's championship.
Q. – How difficult was it going from the front office to the field on such short notice and considering the difficulties of the situation?
GREEN – It wasn’t much of an adjustment in terms of putting the uniform on because I've always been a field guy, a guy not glued to the office, not a book man, not a stat man or whatever. I'm a guy that gets down on the field and likes to be with his players even at the minor-league level. It was scary because I had not been thinking lineups, rules, running a ball-game, ins and outs of strategy, that aspect of baseball for maybe 10 years, other than second-guessing like any executive will do up above. That kind of made me nervous. But I realized when I went down there that I had some good baseball people in Bobby Wine and Billy DeMars and felt we could handle the job.
A Good Spring Training
Q. – There seems to be a consensus among the players that your spring training camp was as good as any they're been through. How much planning went into that?
GREEN – A great deal of planning in terms of what we needed for the Philadelphia Phillies. I've been so used to doing this for 150 ballplayers for 10 years that it was really no big deal putting the program together. It was gearing the program for the Phillies that took quite a bit of thought and quite a few one-on-one situations with baseball players during the winter, with our coaches and a lot of thought on my part as to what we could put together that would help our baseball players return to even better form than they showed winning three straight division titles.
Q. – Why did you keep stepping op the tempo of fundamental drills as spring training went on, rather than easing off the way most clubs do?
GREEN – In the past I'm sure we've come out of spring training prepared somewhat, but maybe not as well prepared as we're gonna be in 1980. If youll check the records we have gone uphill April, May and June in terms of wins and losses, in terms of being relatively injury free. We hit a dead spot after that and start downhill in August and September. We did it even during the championship series. All that says to me is. No. 1, we let our physical program go and, No. 2, we do not work our game of baseball for 162 games: We start playing baseball and forget everything else and we can't do that and still continue to be champions because the talent is so even that the little things are gonna make you world champion in my opinion.
Q. – How does the Eastern Division look to you if the Phillies are, indeed, a revitalized force in it?"
GREEN – Let's face it, we've got to beat the world champions. The Pirates have a good baseball team, there's no question about that. They remained relatively sound in 1979; they had a heckuva year from almost all their players. Montreal did basically the same with a good young ballclub. St. Louis is interesting because they can really hurt you offensively and if they get any pitching they can be just as tough as anyone. In my mind I'm not sure Pittsburgh and Montreal can play any better in 1980 than they did last year, especially considering they had no injuries. If they get an injury or two I know they can't play that capably. I know the Phillies can play better than they did last season. That's what I'm banking on.
Resurgence to Come?
Q. – From what specific areas do you expect a resurgence to come?
GREEN – Mental attitude is the biggest thing that I've worked on and the biggest thing I've been pleased with in spring training. We've had, a good mental approach to playing the game, to working, to trying to do things we never have tried individually or as a team before, things that will make us better. We do have good talent. I have eight guys who can play with anybody and those eight guys will be playing throughout the year, so they're the guys who are going to win or lose it. Our players have said to me time and time again that they want to win a world -championship. If they're willing to approach it mentally and to sacrifice themselves physically and do the things we have to do as a team, I think we've got enough to win.
Q. – How much pitching slippage can a team on the field as good as this afford and still win?
GREEN – Pitching is a concern to me because of the physical problems last year. More than that because pitching is probably 75 percent of any baseball game on any given night. We've got enough offensive power and run-scoring ability to overcome some of our weaknesses, but we can't continually overcome it if our big guys – Steve Carlton, Randy Lerch, Dick Ruthven and Larry Christenson and Ronnie Reed and Tug McGraw – do not continually do the job that they're capable of doing. If they break down, if they do not come up with good years, we're gonna have to scratch for guys to do their job. It will depend on some rookie players, on some guys who are maybe not household words in Philadelphia, but nevertheless have pretty good credentials to maybe get the job done. It's gonna be a spotty thing.
Q. – In the division title years, the bench was a strdngpoint, last year not so strong. Do you see improvement in that vital area?
GREEN – I think the bench will be improved by kids. I don’t see veterans improving the bench for the simple reason that maybe it's my minor-league background. I've always been a believer – and I told Ruly, Paul and Danny Ozark this from Day One – that none of us broke into the big leagues as a .350 hitter or an 18-game winner. We all broke in as a bench guy, as a bullpen guy, looking for a chance pinch-hitting or middle relief, doing something for the team. That's the way I see our kids – Keith Moreland, Lonnie Smith, George Vukovich, Luis Aguayo, the guys I think will fill that type bill. We will get away from the stereotype of a guy can help you just because he's had major-league experience. 1 want to go with some guys who have a fresh approach to this game.
How Good Is Moreland?
Q. – How good a hitter can Keith Moreland be?
GREEN – Keith is well on his way to being a darn good hitter day-in-and-day-out. We don't know a lot about Keith coming off the bench. That will be a difficult assignment for him because he's a gamer day-in-and-day-out. He may be the type that needs to play, but I think he's offensively along enough to adjust to coming off the bench and doing the job in a key situation, right-handed. And that's what we're looking for.
Q. – Will Lonnie Smith ever play good enough defense to be a regular?
GREEN – He's a streak-type player. All through his career he's excited people for months at a time. Then he'll go on a one-or-two-week vacation and you wonder if he's even in the ballpark. I think a lot of that has been youth, a lot of that has been Lonnie maturing as a person, understanding that he is part of the Phillies' family. I think Lonnie has the potential to fit in a day-in-and-day-out situation if a spot were to open up for him.
Q. – How will you use Lerrin LaGrow?
GREEN – Possibly, he could do for us what Warren Brusstar did several years ago. Come in and stop a rally, then pinch-hit for him and get to our short men. He looks like a bulldog to me. His stuff looks good enough to do it for me and that's probably where I'm gonna try to use him.
Q. – Could LaGrow conceivably be used in place of a Ron Reed or Tug McGraw?
GREEN – I've been a little disappointed in Ronnie's performance overall. And you have to be concerned with his age. But I go back again with both Tug and Ronnie; if I can keep innings-pitched away from them I can help them be good hammers. They have the experience. They don't panic and they have enough stuff to do the job. They have a job as long as age hasn't caught up with them.
Q. – Can you compare the Greg Luzinski you inherited in September with the one you see now?
GREEN – I can’t tell you how proud I am of Bull. When I got with him last year he was confused and mentally frustrated and he projected that image to me. I was kind of frustrated too, because I didn’t know how to help him. I honestly think he did what I asked him. He went home and looked in the mirror, sometimes a very difficult thing for a young baseball player to do. Bull has a lot of pride in his ability and what he wants to do for Philadelphia. He was willing to look in that mirror and make the sacrifices he had to make to at least show Philadelphia that he wanted to be a big part of what's going on in 1980. You start with the glasses, start with the weight, start with a haircut, feeling good and looking fresh and I couldn't be prouder of his approach.
Black Ump Didn’t Strike Out
By Thom Greer
There were two outs. It was the bottom of the seventh in the second game of a twi-night doubleheader. Doubleheaders are only seven innings in the AAA Pacific Coast League. But it was still late... too late and too beautiful out to be bundled up in a mask and chest protector and shin guards calling balls and strikes at a baseball game.
But there was Eric Gregg, behind the plate on a magnificent California night, working his way up to the major leagues.
The batter dribbled a grounder to third, which the third baseman bobbled before taking aim to first base, and then dropped the ball. When he dropped it, the runner on third started home. The third baseman picked up the ball and threw it home. "It was late," remembers Eric Gregg, "and I was tired. But I wasnt going to let that affect my call. The catcher caught the ball and made a swipe at the runner sliding in. I called, "Safe! and the game was over.
"Frank Howard (a player with the old Washington Senators who was managing in the PCL at the time) went nuts. What made it so bad was that I had already thrown him out of the game in the sixth inning. But Frank went crazy. He led the dugout to the plate and they surrounded me, calling me everything. The police had to wade through the crowd and then escort me to the dressing room.
The umpires' dressing room was next door to the visiting team dressing room. Frank Howard's team. I hear all this noise outside the umpires' dressing room. Then, Frank Howard starts kicking down the door. He finally kicked the door open and he's standing there, 6-8 and naked as a jaybird, raising all kinds of hell and threatening to beat me up.
"I calmly put my mask on and walked up to Frank Howard and said, "Well, let's talk about it.'"
Perhaps it was the sight of this chunky little umpire standing there in his mask that cooled off the big guy. Or maybe Frank Howard only wanted to put on a good show for his team. Whatever, Eric Gregg was not beaten up. He wasn’t even beaten up by the Pirates last September at Veterans Stadium when he lost Keith Moreland's line-drive foul in the lights and determined, based on the reaction of ballgirl Mary Sue Styles, the ball was fair and a home run.
'I Could Have You Killed'
Beaten up? There was a time in the Dominican Republic when then-Dodgers' Coach Tommy Lasorda, revered as a virtual baseball God on that island paradise, became so upset with a call by Gregg, he looked around the stands at the hooting and howling fans and said, "Don’t you realize I could have you killed right where you stand?"
"I realized he was serious," Gregg remembers. "He was so powerful down there, he actually could do it. I don’t think I've ever been so scared in my life."
But none of the threats or the embarrassing moments like that day at the Vet or the punishing travel schedule or anything matters to Eric Gregg.
Major league umpires are an extremely loyal breed, strike last season notwithstanding. It does not matter to umpires that their's is the most rapped aspect of America's grand ol' pastime.
"I couldn't be happier where I am," Eric Gregg was saying over the long-distance telephone line on a recent evening after working a Phillies-Mets game. "I never worry about what might have been. Hey, my idol always was Joe Namath and I always wanted to follow in his footsteps and play football for Bear Bryant. But it didn't happen.
"But you know what, I still wouldn’t want to change a thing. I wouldn't want to be a player. I want to be an umpire. Sure the money isn't as good, but I've got something that means something to me... something I'll have for most of the rest of my life."
It should also be noted that this profession in which Eric Gregg is fast becoming one of the best is something he did with his own hard work and ability. He had no friends in New York or Philadelphia to recommend him and influence the direction of his career. Even the fact he is a black man, which obviously did not hurt him, was nothing he could use as a crutch. Several others have tried and are no longer among the ranks.
"Al Barlick (a veteran umpire who was a supervisor at the school Gregg attended) walked up to me one day and said, 'You know, Eric, you do a few things that may seem a little cocky to some people. But you're the first one who is here strictly on ability. You're here because you can umpire... not because you're black.'
Respect from Other Umps
"That makes me feel good when I'm umpiring because I know every umpire in the National League respects me as an umpire first. They will go anywhere with me."
Of course, that he is respected for his professionalism instead of his racial persuasion does not make him oblivious to the fact he is the only black man umpiring in the major leagues. Believe it or not, there have only been three black umps in the 104-year history of big-league baseball.
"Two of them are deceased," Gregg says, placing proper emphasis on the word "two" in order to say, without saying, he is the Lone Ranger. "Emmett Ashford was the first black ump (1965 in the American League) and he died earlier this year. Art Williams was the other one. He came up in 1972. He was brought up too soon. He was given the opportunity to do the job but he just didn't work out."
It occurred to Eric Gregg the day he read about the death of Emmett Ashford that he should make some expression in the memory of the game's only black umpires. An expression not unlike the No. 5 worn on the left sleeve of NBA referees in memory of the late Mendy Rudolph.
"So I decided I'd wear a black armband," Gregg says. "My wife was concerned that some other umpires or people in the league would be upset. But nobody has said anything about it."
It is amazing to Eric Gregg that there is only one black umpire in major-league baseball. But he is dumb struck that the average fan doesn’t even begin to associate blacks with umpires.
"I came out of the ballpark one night and these people waiting on autographs ask me if I'm Willie Stargell or somebody. When I tell them I'm an umpire, they said, 'Come on, I never saw a black umpire. There are no black umpires.’ It's really something.
"But you know, black kids just don't come out for the job. Most young black kids want to be like Dr. J. or O.J. Simpson."
Gregg, who grew up near 44th and Haverford in West Philadelphia, was not like your average youngster. All he ever wanted was to be in the major leagues. And when it became apparent in high school he did not have enough playing skills to get there on the same road as Roy Campenella Gregg adjusted his course and decided to take the road Shag Crawford used.
"I played baseball," he says. "But I just wasn't good enough. I was the best street player in the area. But I just couldnt cut it anywhere else. My high school coach even let me play JV couple of years. But my senior year, he said, 'Aint nothing happening, Eric. You'd better find something else.’"
The idea for something else came one Saturday afternoon when he was sitting at home watching baseball. Curt Cowdy read a commercial about a school for young, men wanting to become major-league umpires. Although he was too young to enter the school at the time, a friend of Umpire Ed Sudol's got Gregg a job umpiring Little League games in North Philadelphia. The next year, after the age limit for entering the school was lowered to 19, Eric Gregg applied and was accepted.
'This Is for Me'
"When I got to umpiring school, I said,' '.Hey. this. is for me. I want to do this and there is no reason I cant.' I worked so hard. Man, I was the youngest kid in my class, but I rated out No. 1 in the whole class. And I never stopped working. Even now, I work hard at my job because I love my job.
"I always appreciated an ump who takes charge of a game from behind the plate. I've always tried to do that. And I try to make the emphatic call... loud so everybody can hear it. When an umpire takes charge and shows he is into the game, then, everybody respects you for what you're trying to do.
"It's like when Pete Rose runs to first base all the. time. If you see Garry Maddox jog to first, that doesn't mean he's not working as hard as Pete, but Pete is respected more for the effort he gives. That's why I make the loud strong calls and work hard at my job.
"Now hot-dogging it, that's something else. But I don't consider what I do nearly as flamboyant as, say, Ron Luciano. I'm not saying Ronnie's not a good umpire, but all those machine-gun outs and stuff, that's not me. I just give the good emphatic out and do a few things with Phillie Phanatic because he's a nice kid and I like to do things that make his act better. But hot-doging it? Noooooo, not me.
"I remember when I was coming up and I'd talk to umpires about that kind of stuff. One day, one umpire asked me, 'Are you going to be like Emmett (Ashford)? Are you going to dance on the field or are you going to umpire?' I decided that real flamboyant stuff was not generally appreciated in the profession. So I pretty much went the other way."
Eric Gregg contends his profession has been good to him. The travel is tough, but he says he enjoys visiting different cities 'and seeing different' people and being part of big-league baseball.
"Well, not as much now as before I was married," he says. "Umpiring can be really terrible on home life. There are a lot of divorces with umpires. Players always know they will have 17 days at home. But umpires don't have a home park. If I didn't live in Philly, I'd never get home to see my family. We've got guys from Miami, and there is not a major-league team in Miami."
Gregg and his wife, Conchita, have been married six years, have one son, Joseito, and another child is due in about a week.
Help from a Friend
There is no question in Gregg's mind that if he were not in baseball he would not have met his wife, a native of the Dominican Republic, where he worked winter baseball. But it also was through a friend in baseball that he and his wife were prevented from being separated up to 18 months while she waited for a visa to leave the country.
"In order to get a residency visa, you had to wait about a year-and-a-half," Gregg remembers. "I went to the league president and he said the best he could do was six months, if this friend of his would do it I told him I was leaving Tuesday and I didn't want to leave my wife behind. He said the only other thing he could suggest was Tommy Lasorda."
Yes, sir, the same Tommy Lasorda who had almost scared Eric Gregg to death by suggesting his life hinged on one word from him. The same Tommy Lasorda who was viewed as a virtual God by many in that country.
“Lasorda s team was already eliminated from the piayoffs, so I went to him and said I needed this big, big favor," Gregg says. "When I told him what it was, he said, 'Is that all? Call this guy and go pick up the visa tomorrow.' When I went to pick it up, the guy kept saying, 'You're a friend of Tommy Lasorda? He's a great man. Here's your visa for Conchita.'
"Even now when I make a tough call against Lasorda's team, he says, 'Hey, Gregg, you can't do that because I'm the guy who got your wife a visa.'"
The more Gregg talks about his profession, its fun days and its times of woe, the more he becomes amused by it all... as if he is going over the whole thing in his mind for the first time.
It's kind of funny," he says. "I was playing catcher and wanted to get in the major leagues. But more than anything else, I wanted to be in the big leagues. I couldnt make it as a player so I worked hard at something I could do. And here I am.
“You want to know something? I’m happy where I am.”
National League Preview: Take Your Pick from the Top 7
By Gary Smith
If the NCAA basketball tournament skunked you and your ouija board, don't even bother frying your brain over the 1980 National League pennant race. Just write these seven names on seven pieces of paper: Expos, Pirates, Cardinals, Phillies, Dodgers, Astros and Reds.
Now dump them in a hat, stir well, stick your hand in... and pull all seven out. Voila. You are an expert. In your fist is one of the two teams that will be in the World Series next October.
Now, now, don't get carried away and go picking just one of the seven. You'll only make a fool of yourself.
Any one of the seven could win it all this year and if you'd sit down and give 'em each five minutes of your ear, you'd walk away convinced they all will at the same time.
Expos? Look, mon ami, we've added Ron LeFlore and his 78 stolen bases to a lineup that had We Are Familee wetting its pants to the last day of the season last September. This year it's Nous Sommes la Famille. Our whiz kids all got their baptisms in stretch-drive pressure and are ready now to make like Les Canadiens.
Cardinals? Don’t laugh, buddy. We led the league in line drives and team batting average last year but didn’t have anybody to jerk the long one. Now we got Bobby Bonds. Don! worry, we’ll trade him as soon as we clinch it.
Phillies? Listen, man, we got voodooed out of it last year. We couldn’t have that many injuries this season if we drove Pintos all summer. The Bull's got eyeglasses and dropped 20 pounds, which means we got rid of two blind, overweight guys in one year. Ozark's coaching the Dodgers now.
Pirates? Do you have to ask why, turkey?
Dodgers? Hey, man, we're pulling a Steinbrenner on you poor stiffs. Signed Dave Goltz and Don Stanhouse for a couple mill each and we even got a manager that just got sucker-punched by one of his old players. The Damn Dodgers got it wrapped up, man.
Reds? You going senile? We won the West last year, remember? And we still got All-Stars coming out our ears – Bench, Foster, Concepcion, Knight, Seaver. Got rid of that troublemaking runt Morgan, too.
Astros? See what just went by your kneecaps? No? That was a Nolan Ryan fastball, kid. There, see that one? No? That was J.R. Richard's. How's anybody gonna hit what they cant see? We had the best staff in the league last year and now we got Nolan just to rub it in. Maybe he’ll have a heart and throw a changeup or two this 'summer. Then again, maybe he wont.
Had enough? Pretty convincing, arent they? So why take chances and make a jerk of yourself like you did in the NCAA tounament?
Just keep all seven slips of paper in your fist until the end of September. By then they'll all be so blurred from your sweat that you won’t be able to read any of them.
And that's the last time you’ll do anything so dumb as try to predict the 1980 National League pennant race.
National League East
EXPOS: If outfielder Warren Cromartie makes the transition to first base, the Expos lineup is studded with angry bats and brilliant speed. Third baseman Larry Parrish hit.307 with 30 homers last year playing with a bad wrist. Gary Carter is the closest thing in the league to Johnny Bench. The outfield – Ron LeFlore, Andre Dawson and Ellis Valentine – is so fast you couldnt drive one through the alleys with a nine-iron.
Free-agent signee Fred Norman fleshes out a starting rotation of Bill Lee, Steve Rogers and two kids who threw like hell down the stretch – David Palmer and Scott Sanderson. If Ross Grimsley rediscovers his 20-game form of 78, it's over. Elias Sosa (1.95 ERA) is the star of a decent bullpen.
PIRATES: Dave Parker is coming off a lousy year. He only hit.300 and change. Nearly everyone else on the roster played to the limit of his ability and the question this year is if they can all grind at maximum efficiency for two straight seasons.
The starting pitching staff won't blow your doors off, especially if John Candelaria's back is cranky every other week again. But Kent Tekulve covers up a lot of warts. The Pirates lost Bruce Kison via the free-agent route but picked up southpaw, Andy Hassler the same way. Only other semi-significant loss was backup second baseman Rennie Stennett, who signed with the Giants as a free agent.
CARDINALS: Everybody will wearups this season against the Cardinals, the line-drive leaders of all baseball. Bobby Bonds will bring home maybe 30 runs that died on the bases last year and that might be enough to win the division if...
If the starting staff of Silvio Martinez, Pete Vuckovich, Bob Forsch, John Fulgham and Bob Sykes doesn't pitch as lousy as they are all very capable of and if somebody lends Mark Littell a hand now and then in the bullpen. Highly rated rookie Bull Durham will breathe hard on outfielders Tony Scott, Bonds and George Hendrick.
PHILLIES: See Bill Conlin's preview on Page B-3. He has to watch them every day.
CUBS: Dave Kingman might just bust Roger Maris' home-run record one of these seasons if he doesn't get hurt. The Cubs hope rookie outfielder Karl Pagel, the American Association MVP who jolted 39 homers last year, will be the left-handed power complement to Kingman that they have been crying for. That'll mean a few more ivy stains on the baseballs but not a whole lot more wins.
Anything Pagel and Kingman do, the pitching. staff usually offsets with a few gopher balls of its own. Rick Reuschel, Lynn McGlothen, Dennis Lamp and Mike Krukow won't make any kneecaps chatter. Dick Tidrow and Bruce Sutter gives them a superb lefty-righty bullpen combo but too often the flames are already out of control. Team speed is weak, while we're at it.
METS: Same bellyache the rest of this division has: pitching. Craig Swan gets genuine respect but Pat Zachry is on the disabled list with a tender elbow and the rest of the staff is a jumble of question marks. Skip Lockwood skipped out as a free agent and that leaves nobody to clean up the mess the starters leave. Lee Mazzilli is the one truly enjoyable player to watch on this team but his arm was so weak they have moved him from center field to first this year. Jerry Morales will replace him in center. The annual third-base sweepstakes, ended in a tie: Elliott Maddox and Phil Mankowski will share the position.
"I'm just hoping people will be patient with us," says Manager Joe Torre. Why not, they should come around in another decade or two.
National League West
DODGERS: You cquld always count on the Dodgers to pitch their way out of a slump, win a 2-1 game here and a 1-0 there until the bats started crackling. Until last year, that is. L.A. slumped to a 3.83 team ERA, worst for it in 18 years.
That shocked the Dodgers into opening their checkbooks for free agents Dave Goltz (14-13 at Minnesota last year) and reliever Don Stanhouse (7-3, 21 saves for Baltimore). That rounds out a staff that also includes NL Rookie of the Year Rick Sutcliffe, Burt Hooton, Don Sutton and Jerry Reuss. With Bob Welsh's head cleared from a bout with alcoholism, his sinister fastball could saw a few bats, too.
Only hole to fill in the starting eight could be in center field, where aging Rick Monday is coming off surgery on his Achilles' tendon.
ASTROS: The Astros could win it all if an old-timer named Joe Morgan and a couple kids named Alan Knicely and Dan Heep kick some life into a stale offense.
"Instead of us getting one run a game, now well get two," rejoiced third baseman Enos CabelL "Imagine all those runs! With runs like that, well never lose."
Morgan, 36, must rebound from injuries and .236 and .250 seasons along with providing the day-to-day leadership the team lacks. Knicely, a catcher, and Heep, an outfielder, were co-MVP sluggers in the Southern League last year.
The starting staff is the jewel of the league. Nolan Ryan (16-14). Joe Niekro (21-11) and J R. Richard (18-13) are the nucleus and if Joacquin Andujar or Ken Forsch get hot it's lights out. Joe Sambito ( 1.78 ERA) is the hammer out of the pen.
REDS: Rookie Ron Oester has to fill Joe Morgan's vacancy at second. Ken Griffey has to come off knee surgery sound and Dan Driessen has to put a 30-point jump in his .250 average of ‘79 if the Reds are to keep pace with the improved Astros and Dodgers.
All three could do just that and Cincy will still spend all summer fretting over its pitching. Tom Seaver is 35. Frank Pastore and Mike LaCoss show promise but not consistency and a rook named Charlie Leibrandt is the top lefty in the rotation. Bill Bonham will likely be the fifth starter and the bullpen is adequate with Tom Hume and Doug Bair.
BRAVES: You can laugh at their owner but not at their power. With the off-season addition of first baseman Chris Chambliss. Atlanta has four players capable of 25-plus homer seasons: Chambliss, Gary Matthews, Bob Horner and Dale Murphy. Ex-Phillies' catcher Bill Nahorodny will pop a few, too.
Horner, happy and healthy unlike last year, could take a run at Mike Schmidt and Kingman for the home-run title. Bullpen should be better with Al Hrabosky signed to aid Gene Garber, but the fielding and the starting pitchers are still pretty awful. Phil Niekro is 41 and behind him are nobodies Larry McWilliams, Rick Matula, Preston Hanna, Tommy Boggs and Tony Brizzolara.
GIANTS: Question marks galore. Darren Evans made 30 errors at third last year and Roger Metzger and John LeMaster combined for 36 more at shortstop. New second baseman Rennie Stennett, signed as a free agent, has the range of an oven ever since breaking his leg. Scouting report: Tap a ground ball and take your base.
Pitching, the team's ex-strength, collapsed last year as Vida Blue's ERA ballooned over 5.00. Ed Halicki and Bob Knepper went south , and John Montefusco went nowhere, winning just three. Bullpen got stronger out of fright. with Gary Lavelie, (2.51), Greg Minton, Randy Moffitt and Pedro Borbon.
PADRES: Jerry Coleman went from the broadcasting booth to the manager's hot seat over the off-season. He may run shrieking back to the mike by the All-Star break.
Bullpen star Rollie Fingers is coming off a bum elbow, Gaylord Perry is gone, defense is downright rank, offense was last in team batting, 10th in runs, 10th in home runs and ninth in steals.
Rick Wise and John Curtis were signed as free agents to prop up the pitching staff, which also includes over-the-hill Randy Jones, Eric Rasmussen, Bob Shirley and Bob Owchinko.
The good news is Dave Winfield. The bad news is he may go free agent at the end of another brutal year for the Padres.
American League Preview: Brewers to ‘Yank’ Title from Orioles?
By Thom Greer
George Bamberger is 54 years old, stocky, thick-necked, large-nosed and more resembles an enraged Brahma bull than a timid fawn as his nickname, "Bambi," implies. Bamberger had been in baseball 33 years before anyone thought of him as managerial timber, yet when the Milwaukee Brewers offered him the job as field boss, he accepted it reluctantly.
Though George Bamberger had never managed anywhere before, his team won 93 games in 1978 as he transformed it from a sixth-place also-ran that had lost 95 games the year before into a solid contender.
If not for the Baltimore Orioles' impressive 102-win season, the 95 games Milwaukee won last year would have been more than enough for the championship in the American League East.
This season, Baltimore may be hard pressed to beat off the formidable challenge of Milwaukee's musclemen.
And even though the Kansas City Royals plugged up the only hole (first base) in their powerful and speedy every-day lineup with the acquisition of Willie Mays Aikens and appear set to return to their title winning ways in the American League West, it seems wholly possible that George Bamberger will capture an American League pennant in his third – and probably last – year as a manager.
But if this is indeed the year Milwaukee drives to the top of the East, it will be awhile before the Brewers' manager will be steering it. Bamberger suffered a mild heart attack March 6 and recently underwent an eight-hour, five coronary bypass operation. He hopes to return June 6 but says this will be his last year in baseball. Third-base Coach Buck Rodgers is serving as 'nterim manager.
"Give us a little more improved pitching, a healthy Larry Hisle and the continued offensive and defensive performance we've displayed in the past and I think well be right in the thick of the divisional race in 1980," Bamberger said at the opening of his club's Sun City, Ariz., training camp.
Early indications are that he has everything he needs. The pitching, anchored by Mike Caldwell (16-6 and a .727 winning percentage, best among AL starters last year), needs only to sharpen its bullpen production to guarantee the Overthrow of the Orioles.
Can Hisle. whose long ball and clutch hitting earned him the AL's 1978 MVP Award, come back strong from the shoulder injury that sidelined him most of last season? If he can, the ex-Phillie will surely beef up the consistently productive Brewers' offense that last year was anchored by free-swinging Gorman Thomas, the AL home-run king (45), Cecil Cooper (.308, 24 home runs, 123 RBI) and Sixto Lezcano, who not only hit .321 with 28 home runs and 101 RBI. but was ranked third with a .573 slugging percentage.
But the secret ingredient in Milwaukee's success is defense. The Brewers own the league's youngest and most capable double-play combination in second baseman Paul Molitor, 23, and shortstop Robin Yount, 24. "Barring unfortunate happenings, " says Milwaukee GM Harry Dallon, "you'd have to say we have the middle set for a long time."
In attaining what has become one of the league's most solid defenses, , Bamberger has proved to be an inveterate lineup tinkerer and position-changer. However, his moves are not designed to advertise his own tactical genius but to make certain everyone has a chance to play. He actually has permitted his players to decide for themselves when and where they will play.
And the system works. He won 95 games last year with a club that is just beginning to realize its potential, some experts say.
Indeed, some experts insist Bambi's Brewers can win it all.
American League East
ORIOLES: Despite that small piece of news. Earl Weaver's classy defending AL champs are generally perceived to be a strong pitching, long-ball hitting, iron-clad defensive team that is superbly managed and ran away with the title last year. So they came up short in the World Series after building a seemingly insurmountable 3-1 lead. The heart of the club is back for another war.
Pitching is the name of the game in Baltimore, last year posting a team ERA of 3.26, which was almost a point lower than the league average of 4.22. Cy Young Award winner Mike Flanagan had 16 complete games, five shutouts and 190 strikeouts en route to a brilliant 23-9 record. Scott McGregor (13-6), Jim Palmer (10-6) and Dennis Martinez (15-16) fill out the rotation.
Eddie Murray (.295, 25 homers, 99 RBI), Ken Singleton (.295, 35 home runs, 111 RBI) and Gary Roenicke (25 home runs) provide ample power. But the Orioles' weaknesses are more subtle. They are basically a slow team, with poor gloves and so-so arms in the outfield and glaring question marks at shortstop, catcher and in the bullpen... any or all of which could be crippling factors by September.
RED SOX: In some ways it seems unfair that such a dynamic duo as Jim Rice and Fred Lynn are sentenced to play such awesome roles in an embarrassingly-poor production. But the cast of characters remains basically the same.
To be sure, Captain Carl Yastrzemski, Dwight Evans and Butch Hobson complement the big sticks of Rice (league leading 369 total bases, 39 homers) and Lynn (league leading .333 average, 39 homers). But the pitching, after ace Dennis Eckersley (17-10, 2.99 ERA), is a joke. Carlton Fisk, despite optimistic reports from their Winter Haven, Fla., camp, remains a question mark.
"If Carlton Fisk can catch 120-130 games, we'll be one tough ballclub," says Manager Don Zimmer. But Fisk and backup Bob Montgomery sustained exhibition injuries necessitating the acquistion of Dave Rader, the Phillies' third-string catcher. The Red Sox did acquire free agent Tony Perez, who will add stability.
YANKEES: Not even new Manager Dick Howser can right this Ship of Fools from its southerly course, established last year when New York fell from the AL title to fourth place in the East.
Reggie Jackson (.297, 29 home runs), Graig Nettles (.253, 20 homers) and newly-acquired Rupert Jones (.267, 21 homers with Seattle) will keep the offense alive. But they all swing from the left side, which should give designated hitter Bob Watson (.337, 13 homers in part-time duty with Boston) considerable action. Tommy John (21-9, 2.97 ERA) and Ron Guidry (18-8, 2.78 ERA) are quality performers. If Rich Gossage returns from a thumb injury, additional heat will be generated from the bullpen. But with shortstop Bucky Dent batting .230, some suspect pitching and ex-Blue Jay Rick Cerone replacing the late Thurman Munson at catcher, not even George Steinbrenner's bank account can save the Yankees.
"We used to be the best team money could buy," says the sharp-tongued Jackson. "But inflation hit us."
TIGERS: Can Mark (The Bird) Fidrych, who is back in the minors with more arm miseries, return? Can "Senor Smoke," amazing relief pitcher Aurelio Lopez, maintain the marathon pace he set last year? Can John Hiller, at 37, regain his old form to accompany "Senor Smoke" in the bullpen? Can Jason Thompson find himself? Did the Mets completely extinguish the fire that once burned inside Richie Hebner?
If these and numerous other questions can be answered in the affirmative. Manager Sparky Anderson will have at least some semblance of strength to join ace Jack Morris (17-7, 3.27 average) and leftfielder Steve Kemp (318, 26 homers) . If not, another fifth-place finish seems almost assured.
INDIANS: According to one preseason baseball publication, the Indians "don’t have enough to even merit the purchase of warpaint." That seems to say it all.
BLUE JAYS: Shortstop Alfredo Griffin was co-winner of the AL Rookie of the Year Award. "Once he learns to improve his bunting, starts to get out of the batter's box more quickly, gains a little more knowledge of stealing bases, understands hitting behind runners, he can turn a team around," says Toronto batting Coach Bobby Doerr. The Jays, under their new manager, 64-year-old Bobby Mattick, may be in the building stage for decades.
American League West
ROYALS: "I think in Aikens we got potentially one of the best young power hitters around." says new Kansas City Manager Jim Frey. "His record in the minors and last year in he big leagues (California) indicate he has the ability to hit for both power and average."
Frey, a Baltimore coach last season, immediately placed Aikens (21 homers and 81 RBI in 379 at-bats for the Angels) in the infield with All-Stars Frank White and George Brett (a Gold Glove winner who hit .329 with 23 home runs, 20 triples and 42 doubles). Darrell Porter (.291. league-leading .429 on-base percentage), the All-Star catcher, is said to be recovering from alcoholism.
The problem area, however, will come off that elevated bit of turf between the plate and second base. Kansas City pitchers last year gave up more home runs than the Royals' sluggers' could produce. Southpaws Paul Splittorff and Larry Gura and righthander Dennis Leonard head the staff.
ANGELS: They call them the California Crunch – Don Baylor (139 RBI, 36 homers). Brian Downing (.326), Rod Carew (seven-time AL batting leader). Dan Ford. Al Cowens, Carney Lansford and Bobby Grich and they grind out runs at an average of five per game. Even with the defection of free agent flame-thrower Nolan Ryan, the Angels' pitching should keep them in the thick of the pennant race, especially if Frank Tanana and Chris Knapp are healthy.
RANGERS: Jim Kern boldly says he should have won the Cy Young Award over Baltimore's Mike Flanagan. And if you consider that the 6-5 righthander (13-5 and a 1.97 ERA), as a relief pitcher, posted considerably better stats than Flanagan and is the heart of the Texas staff, perhaps he is right. Suffice to say. the Rangers' rotation is thread bare.
Third baseman Buddy Bell and catcher Jim Sundberg, both Gold Glovers, will add punch to the offense that features Al Oliver (.323). Richie Zisk (disappointing .262 average, 18 homers last year) and Mickey Rivers (.293).
But pitching is the name of the game, as Manager Pat Corrales has painfully discovered too often.
TWINS: Only the genius of Manager Gene Mauch kept Minnesota, with its one-man bullpen of Mike Marshall (AL record 90 appearances), one-man power attack in shortstop Roy Smalley (24 homers, 96 RBI) and virtual two-man starting rotation in Jerry Koosman (20-13) and soft-baller Geoff Zahn (13-7), in contention last season. The loss of former 20-game-winner Dave Goltz to free agency won't help an already thin starting rotation.
Weak hitting and pitching will overwhelm good strategy every time.
WHITE SOX: Chicago finished fifth in the West. 14 games back, and there is no reason to believe they will improve, despite Bill Veeck's continued shuffling of managers and accent on youth. The class of the club is centerfielder Chet Lemon (.318), whom one Boston columnist calls "the most underrated player in the American League."
MARINERS: There is Bruce Bochte (.316, 16 homers. 100 RBI) and little else. The most ominous sign for Seattle is that despite some promising young talent, the club ranked 12th in both runs scored and pitching last season.
A's: "I came to Oakland to build a winner," says much-troubled, much-traveled Manager Billy Martin. "I dont know any other way of playing this game. We have something to build on."
It will have to be with new names and faces like 21-year-old Rickey Henderson (.274), who stole 33 bases after joining Oakland in late June. Or perhaps it will be a youngster like catcher Jeff Newman (22 homers last year). Or young pitchers like Mike Norris or Brian Kingman.
It's all they have. Thus, Oakland finishing last in the AL West is the closest thing to a mortal lock in baseball.
2 Rule Changes For '80 Season
Two rule changes concerning suspended and protested games are in effect for the first time in 1980.
Rules 4.11 and 4.12 were altered creating suspended games instead of reverting to a prior inning when rain forces the umpires to terminate play under certain circumstances.
If a game is called while an inning is in progress and the visiting team has scored one or more runs to tie the score or take the lead, the game will be considered. suspended rather than ended.
The rule on protested games (419) now reads: Even if it is held that the protested decision violated the rules, no replay of the game will be ordered unless, in the opinion of the' league president, the violation adversely affected f the protesting team's chances of winning the game."
How to Qualify for…
QUALIFICATION FOR BATTING CHAMPIONSHIP – Highest batting average and 502 or more plate appearances.
QUALIFICATION FOR PITCHING CHAMPIONSHIP – Lowest ERA and 162 or more innings pitched.
QUALIFICATIONS FOR A "ROOKIE" – Not more than 45 days on a major-league roster between opening day and Sept. 1 and has not exceeded 130 official at-bats (or 50 innings pitched).
QUALIFICATIONS FOR A SAVE – Credit a pitcher with a save when: 1. He is the finishing pitcher in a game won by his club, and 2. He is not the winning pitcher, and 3. He qualifies under one of the following conditions: (a) He enters the game with a lead of no more than three runs and pitches for at least one inning, or (b) He enters the game with the potential tying run either on base, at bat, or on deck (that is, the potential tying run is either already on base or is one of the first two batters he faces), or (c) He pitches effectively for at least three innings. No more than one save may be credited in each game.
Official Ground Rules
DUGOUTS – Ball has to actually enter dugout area or hit the yellow bars or yellow line to be considered out of play. Ball entering open area above end of dugout inside yellow - line is considered out of play.
FENCES – Glass areas have openings at top. If ball sticks in opening it is a ground-rule double. In left and right field the stands protrude to a point near the foul lines. If ball lands in fair territory and bounces over the points and lands in the playing area, it is to be considered in the stands and ruled a ground-rule double.
Will Morgan Be the Leader?
By The United Press International
Cabell spied Joe Morgan standing by the batting cage Bmb and decided it was a good opportunity to poke fun at Houston's skimpy offense.
"Joe's gonna give us one run a game." the Astros' third baseman chuckled to no one in particular. "Instead of us getting one run a game, now well get two. Imagine all those runs! With runs like that, we'll never lose."
Cabell was alluding to last year's Astros, who finished just 1½ games behind Cincinnati in the NL West despite averaging just 3.57 runs per game.
But he was also voicing the hope of many of his teammates, namely, that their new second baseman can help them overtake Cincinnati and win their first title.
Morgan is already busy trying to prove he can still play despite two consecutive off-years caused in part by injuries. He still has a minor foot problem but he says he doesn't mind being viewed as a leader. In fact he adds, he's used to it.
Whether Morgan, 36, can rebound from .236 and .250 seasons to re-establish himself as one of the best all-round second basemen in baseball remains to be seen. But his credentials as a winner cannot be argued.
Morgan played eight years with Cincinnati before signing with the Astros. Over that span, the Reds went to the playoffs five times and played in three World Series, winning two.
"People say that the Astros choked last year," Morgan said. "I don't think that's true at all. To me, choking is when you're in a situation and you don't even want to try. You don't want to shoot that foul shot or you don't want to be the man in the batter's box.
If anything, it was just the opposite in Houston last year. They were a little inexperienced. and what happens in a situation like that is people try to do too much. A guy says, 'We don't have much power, maybe I'll try to hit a home run," Then he doesn't do what he does best."