Philadelphia Inquirer - April 11, 1980
On with the show
Leader through thick and thin
By Frank Dolson, Sports Editor
The Phillies’ first spring training under Dallas Green came to a rather unusual – you could also even term it spectacular – conclusion the other day in Clearwater, Fla. Surely, no spring camp run by Danny Ozark ever ended the way this one did. Sadly, there was no crowd of fans at Jack Russell Stadium that rainy afternoon to watch it, no photographers on hand to snap it.
The last pitch had been thrown. The last bat had been swung. The last sprint had been run. Sweat dripping, the final group of players, led by their practically fearless new leader, came romping across the wet grass toward the clubhouse. In their path was a mud puddle. Not your average, run-of-the-mill mud puddle, mind you, but a king-sized mud puddle that was very wide and very deep and, above all, very muddy.
Normally, you would have expected a group of fully grown men – all believed to be of sound mind and body – to exercise reasonable restraint and run around that big, deep, muddy puddle. Not this group.
Perhaps inspired by those “We, Not I” signs posted in the clubhouse, or by the ringing rhetoric of their new leader, these Phillies chose this time to follow Dallas Green through thick and thin – especially thick. When the manager, giving in to a sudden impulse, took a head-first dive into the mud puddle, sliding through the good on his slimmed-down stomach, the troops dutifully followed.
One by one, they flopped into the mud. Randy Lerch… Larry Christenson… Lerrin LaGrow… Kevin Saucier… and, of course, Tug McGraw. It was, by any measure, an inspiring example of togetherness. I mean, we’ve all heard of managers and coaches whose leadership qualities were such that their players would run through a brick wall for them. But Dallas Green may be the first big league manager whose players would dive into a mud puddle for him.
Don’t laugh. There could be considerable significance to that rather sloppy, camp-ending vignette. Look at it this way: for the last seven years the Phillies have been managed by a man who repeatedly wound up with egg on his face. Now they’re managed by a man with mud on his face. Just how meaningful a change that is, only time will tell. But at least it is a change.
The 1979 Phillies provided convincing evidence that they could use a motivator sitting in the manager’s office in 1980. Now they have him. Ozark’s let-‘em-play approach has been replaced by Green’s make-damn-sure-they-play approach.
Greg Luzinski put it this way during spring training: “I think the only difference between Dallas and Danny is Danny gave the big league ball players more credit than he should have as far as organization goes – doing things on your own to get ready. Dallas is saying, “I want you guys to do it and I know you’ll do it, but it’s going to be organized and supervised.”
Well, this year’s spring training camp was organized and it was supervised, and knowing Dallas Green you can assume that the regular season will be, too. The Phillies gave up their right to Ozark’s “Let-‘em-play” approach by finishing fourth in ’79. Now we’re about to find out if strong leadership, rather than a wholesale shakeup, can help the Phillies return to the top of the National League East in ’80, or whether the gung-ho Green approach will turn off more of the established layers on this team than it will turn on.
The danger, of course, is in getting carried away with the importance of motivational qualities in a big league baseball manager. The Phillies, after all, did win three straight division titles under Ozark, a man who many felt couldn’t motivate a thirsty horse to take a drink of water. No matter how successful Green is in motivating the ’80 Phillies, they will only win if the pitching staff, riddled with injuries a year ago, permits them to win.
“The Phillies can’t possibly have the injuries they had last year,” Montreal manager Dick Williams said in Florida. “A club that won three years in a row, there’s no reason why, if they stay sound, “they” can’t be real strong contenders.”
No reason, at all. The Phillies, under Dallas Green, figure to be in there all the way this year with the Pirates, Cards and Expos, all of whom also have their share of pitching question marks. So let’s forget labor problems and pitching problems for a day and start the new season with a fitting toast to Dallas Green’s 1980 Phillies:
Here’s mud in your eye.
Maddox, Phillies reopen contract talks
By Jayson Stark
Garry Maddox said last night that he is again optimistic about signing with the Phillies.
In fact, Maddox said he is so optimistic, he has agreed to let contract talks continue during the season. Earlier, Maddox had said that if he didn’t sign by today, he would break off negotiations until October.
“We’re close enough to where we feel we can work something out,” Maddox said last night during a Phillies workout for tonight’s opener with Montreal. “I’m optimistic. I can’t say definitely that (the talks) will lead to a settlement, but I’m pretty optimistic about it.
“I would think I would have to be very optimistic about signing for me to move back the deadline.”
Last Sunday, Maddox had said that talks had bogged down again and that he expected to be traded. Paul Owens had said the same day he felt the Phillies and Maddox were close to “a final impasse.”
But Maddox lowered his asking price Tuesday, and that apparently spurred some movement from the Phillies’ end, which is now being handled exclusively by owner Ruly Carpenter.
“I don’t know what got them to come up or make a move,” Maddox said. “But I did come down. That’s what I’d have to say got it started.”
Maddox said, however, that “if the talks we’re having right now don’t lead to settlement, that would be it,” meaning he would again stop talking until the season ends.
Phillies people have hinted Maddox wants more money than Pete Rose. But he continues to deny that.
“I don’t want $800,000,” Maddox said. “I’ll take it, but I don’t want it.”
Phils, Green optimistic
By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer
The last time the Phillies played a baseball game was 10 days ago, when they were seen sleepily extending their exhibition losing streak to five in rain-pummeled Pompano, Fla.
At that time, you might recall, Dallas Green was questioning whether the Phillies might have begun their own strike a few days before Marvin Miller and Co. made the other one official.
“It’s obvious,” Green fumed then, “that we can’t think about baseball and think about strikes at the same time.”
Green went into those 10 gameless days with considerable apprehension. But as the Phillies prepared for tonight’s 1980 opener with the Expos at Veterans Stadium, Green found himself thinking about all the good things you could say about not playing for 10 days.
For one, when you don’t play any games for a week and a half, you can’t lose any, either.
“I think the strike freshened us up,” Green said before his first opening day as a big-league manager. “For two or three days, we didn’t do anything. And when we came back out, I saw some new life.
“We’d lost five in a row before that, and we looked kind of dead. We were doing things we hadn’t done all spring in terms of breakdowns. But the strike seemed to take our minds off that.”
The impending strike date of May 23 will, of course, hang over the proceedings tonight. The odds on the Opening Night banners being 100 percent friendly are right up there with the odds of Kiteman not crashing into the new home run display.
But Green thinks that striking is one of the more remote matters in his players’ thoughts now.
“I think the vote settled everything in everybody’s mind,” he said, “in terms of striking, not striking, playing, not playing…. Settling that got everybody’s minds back on the game.”
If Green had one thing bad to say about the strike, it would be that it left his starting pitching slightly disheveled. However, Steve Carlton, who starts tonight against Montreal’s Steve Rodgers, is exempt from all such worries. In Carlton’s last outing, he fanned nine Yankees in six innings.
But everyone else “needed those 10 days,” Green said. “We didn’t get the pitching staff exactly where we wanted it. We’ll just have to live with that and hope for the best.”
Green’s other two starters this weekend are Dick Ruthven (tomorrow afternoon vs. Bill Lee) and Larry Christenson (Sunday vs. Scott Sanderson).
Ruthven’s spring was characterized by untypical wildness, and at one point he gave up at least one run in nine straight innings. Christenson’s camp was marred by his success in getting Jason Thompson to mash a line drive off his leg March 20. Randy Lerch, who starts Tuesday in St. Louis, was 1-3, 7.36 in Florida.
“Truthfully, spring training is very difficult to judge,” Green said, hoping it was this time, anyway. “If you had judged Pete Rose off spring training last year, you’d have said we made the worst deal in America. When the bell rings, guys are capable of getting out there and doing things they didn’t particularly do in spring training.”
If there wasn’t much Green could do to get all his pitchers looking like Ron Guidry, he certainly couldn’t have done much more to get everyone else ready. Workouts continued to be baseball’s version of marine basic training right to the final day.
“Usually, every team I’ve ever been on is pretty well physically ready when it leaves spring training,” said Del Unser, who has been through camps with five different teams. “But this one is more mentally ready than I’ve ever seen it before – and than I’ve seen others before.”
“I think it made us realize there’s more than one way to run a camp,” Garry Maddox said, “that there’s more than one way to manage and still be successful. We did a lot of things this spring that we’ve done in the past. But this time we did them and repeated them. I think it’s especially important when you’ve got a lot of young players on the team, like we do.”
And if fundamentals don’t necessarily get teams off to a fast start, maybe togetherness will.
Every Phillie stayed in Florida and worked. Eleven Expos bolted, including starters Andre Dawson, Ellis Valentine, Ron LeFlore, and Rodney Scott. Two key pitchers, Elias Sosa and David Palmer, also left.
“I go back to what I said, that I’m really proud our guys stayed together,” Green said. “That helped us to make those 10 days productive. I thought initially it was really going to hurt us. But I feel a little better now.”
NOTES: Bill Giles said last night that tonight’s game is not even expected to draw 40,000, “unless we get a real good gate sale.” Last year’s home opener drew 48,251. Giles is blaming mostly strike backlash…. But then, things aren’t all bad. A couple of thousand people showed up to watch last night’s workout. “Looks like Opening Day in Atlanta,” said Pete Rose…. Then there was Kiteman 3, who said yes, he had indeed seen files of one of his predecessors crashing into the stands in center. “Oh, Lord,” said Kiteman 3, “I was pulling for him. I said, ‘Come on, man.’ I hated to see that, boy.” But Kiteman also vowed, “I’m gonna ruin it for everybody else. I’m gonna do it right.” … The Phillies have not won an opener since 1974, when they beat the Mets. Winning pitcher that day? Mac Scarce…. New numbers – Lerrin LaGrow 39, George Vukovich 29, Luis Aguayo 16, Ruben Amaro 12, Keith Moreland 6…. It turned out Mike Anderson had an option left after all these years, so the Phillies were able to option him to Oklahoma City instead of outrighting him.
Today’s sports calendar
Phillies are a-changin’
If you haven’t noticed that the theme of the Phillies’ 1980 season is, in a word, change, check out tonight’s 8:05 p.m. opener.
First, the weather should be beautiful, a distinct change from last season, when the home opener was postponed because of rain. Even the first-ball delivery will be different from a year ago, when Army parachutists dropped in.
Can there be any doubt that the Phillies are pulling out all the stops to try to change their luck from last season’s dismal, fourth-place finish?
Tonight the Phillies are reverting to an old standby from pervious championship seasons – Kiteman. He (T.J. Beatty in real life) will fly from high atop the stands to the plate, where he will deliver the first baseball of 1980 to Mayor Bill Green. Green, who also wasn’t here last year, will go to the mound and throw the ball to manager Dallas Green, who wasn’t around a year ago, either.
The schedule of opening-day ceremonies also includes a performance by the bands of Plymouth-Whitemarsh and Bishop McDevitt Highs, the national anthems of Canada and the U.S. by the all-Philadelphia boys choir and – oh, yeah, the Phillies vs. one of the Eastern Division’s strongest teams, Montreal.
Vet’s eye-catching display is a headache for hitters
By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer
The good news about the Phillies’ new outfield home run display is that it’s really easy to see.
The bad news about the Phillies’ new outfield home run display is that it’s too easy to see.
It’s so easy to see, that even guys coming to bat can see it. What’s bad about that is that they see it instead of the baseball.
“Hey, if I’d had that when I was playing, Gene Mauch might have thought I was a helluva pitcher,” manager Dallas Green said. “I might have won another game.”
The first people to discover that the display interfered with the hitter’s background were the Montreal Expos.
The Expos took batting practice yesterday afternoon, then sent their manager, Dick Williams, to vice president Bill Giles’ office. Williams said Montreal was considering protesting the game if the display was still there tonight.
So last night Giles had the portion of the display closest to dead center field taken down. He is hoping that will be enough.
‘As long as I can still keep most of it up, I’m not upset,” said Giles, who was walking around wearing a sign that said, “Goof Tickets Still Available.”
“If I have to take the whole thing down, then I’m upset.”
Giles was taking this pretty well, considering that it seems as though every time he gets a big promotional idea, the players come along and mess it up. Who’s running this show, anyhow?
“They want us to his home runs, right?” Green said. “Well, if they want us to hit home runs, we’ve got to be able to see.”