Philadelphia Inquirer - April 13, 2019

Maddox homers, Phils club Expos

 

By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer

 

For more than a century now, the world's scholars have debated that momentous question: What does spring training mean, anyhow?

 

Well, if the Phillies' 6-2 victory over Montreal yesterday was any indication, spring training ought to be regarded with the same weight one gives to statements made by Iranian politicians.

 

For example, Dick Ruthven (spring earned-run average: 7.88) held the Expos to one run in an encouraging seven innings.

 

And Manny Trillo, who got eight hits all spring, stroked three yesterday and already has five in the two days since that proverbial bell rang.

 

And then there was Garry Maddox, who played only six games in Florida amid a fun-filled backdrop of contract talks, trade rumors, back problems and a muscle pull in his leg.

 

Maddox yesterday merely managed to crunch a single, double and homer; run about 12 miles to catch a pop-up that landed 30 feet in back of the infield, and cut off a potential triple by Gary Carter With consummate ease.

 

It's doubtful all that will help get Maddox an extra million bucks or two out of Ruly Carpenter. But a fast start at least ought to keep people from suggesting that he deserves to make less than George Vukovich.

 

"I'm sure people probably want to see if I'm worth the money I'm asking for," Maddox said. "Those plays I normally make, if I don't make them, they'd be saying, you know, 'You want all that money for that?'"

 

He showed yesterday, however, how valuable he can be. In the first inning, after the Expos had taken a 1-0 lead, Maddox roped an RBI double to left-center to tie it. Then he upper-cut a Bill Lee breaking ball into the lower deck in left for a homer that untied it in the third.

 

But the day's entry in the Garry Maddox Journal of Remarkable Catches came when Ellis Valentine lofted a pop-up behind second base in the sixth.

 

Manny Trillo drifted out after it and started tapping his glove. But there, behind him, was Maddox, running like a guy who was about to miss the midnight subway. Trillo put on the brakes, looked over his shoulder, then bailed out. Maddox hauled it in loping.

 

"The ball was hit high. The wind was blowing pretty strong. You don't know what's going to happen out there," Maddox said. "So I just started going after it as hard as I could.

 

"I saw Manny come out, and then he looked at me. As soon as he looked at me, I called for it, so at least there's no doubt somebody goes for the ball." Everybody always knew Maddox was the closest thing there was to a guy playing three outfield, positions' at the same time. Add in second base, and the guy becomes a regular King and His Court.

 

What's truly significant about Maddox's performance the first two days, however, is that, apparently, he is able to handle playing baseball and talking contract at the same time.

 

"I feel like it's not going to be any problem," Maddox said. "But I don't know. I Just go out there every day and try and play.

 

"Yesterday I got a call from Ruly Carpenter, and he asked me to not make any statements about my contract. He said that if guys have questions they should talk to Jerry Kapstein (his agent) or Ruly. He said I should just concentrate on playing baseball. I didn't mind him saying that. That's what I need to do."

 

And what Ruthven needed yesterday was to make tough pitches at a few crucial junctures, which is precisely what he did.

 

None of his seven innings went 1-2-3. But three double plays and a pitch-out that nailed Ron LeFlore stealing helped make up for the five guys Ruthven walked.

 

Those walks were surely uncharacteristic of the real Dick Ruthven. (Last year, despite all his other troubles, he never walked more than three in any of his 20 starts.) But Dallas Green was hoping the good pitches that Ruthven used to get out of his various jams were a harbinger of more to come.

 

"I wouldn't say this was as good a game as I've seen Dick Ruthven throw in the past, especially early," Green said. "But I thought he got better. Booney (catcher Bob Boone) said his location was much better as the game went on. And that in itself was encouraging."

 

Ruthven's biggest pitch was a down-and-away slider to Andre Dawson with the bases loaded in the fifth. Dawson bounced it at only medium speed to Larry Bowa. But Bowa shoveled it to Trillo, and The Arm howitzered it to first in time to just get Dawson for the inning-ending double play.

 

You know Trillo is going to gun guys out, of course. But after he batted .190 in Florida, it wasn't so certain he was going to hit. Trillo, however, has traditionally been the Rod Carew of April. So apparently, he is just reverting to form.

 

"Let's see if I can do this another two months," Trillo said. "I'm waiting to see if I can do it myself."

 

Beside the contributions of Maddox, Ruthven and Trillo, the Phillies continued their ode to the joy of fundamentals. In the third, after Maddox's homer had put them ahead, 2-1, they manufactured a third run when first Mike Schmidt and then Greg Luzinski challenged the low-voltage arm of LeFlore, the Expos leftfielder.

 

Schmidt turned a single into a double by trotting to second as LeFlore lobbed his hit in the corner to third. And Luzinski went all the way to third after an RBI single when LeFlore let the ball get away, then couldn't make a strong throw to third.

 

Green wouldn't quite say the Phils were attempting to run at LeFlore, who separated a shoulder last year.

 

"Just say we do our homework," he said.

 

The Phillies got another run in the sixth because Ruthven bunted Trillo to second, where he scored on Pete Rose's double. And they scored their sixth run an inning later because Schmidt tagged and went from first after to second on Luzinski's fly to center. Boone then singled him in.

 

All that appeared to kill off the Expos. But Ron Reed came on in the eighth, walked three of the five guys he faced, and Montreal got to within 6-2.

 

Then Tug McGraw got his first grand-slam opportunity with two outs in the ninth after allowing a single and two walks including Rodney Scott's fifth. Valentine then cranked the ball 400 feet – but to dead center. Maddox caught it for the last out.

 

"Those two guys (McGraw and Reed) are supposed to be the guys for me," Green said. "We'll find out about them early enough."

 

 

NOTES: The Phillies have won nine of 12 from the Expos since Montreal swept the first eight games from them last year.... The Expos' who didn't stay together during the strike, continued to look mentally ragged. "It's going to take a few days until we get our timing back," LeFlore said. "This is something that could have been expected." ... Rose (1-for-8) took extra batting practice after the game. One of the guys shagging for him was Dallas Green.

On baseball:  Beginning means little with strike

 

By Allen Lewis

 

Just in case the Phillies get off to the same kind of start as last year, and then the season is suspended by the threatened strike, their fans shouldn't assume that they would have gone on to win the division title.

 

If the strike is called after games of May 22 as planned, the Phillies will have played 34 games, provided there are no rainouts or ties.

 

After their first 34 decisions a year ago, the Phillies had a sensational 24-10 record and led the National League East by four games. The 34th decision was that 23-22 victory in Chicago, but the Phillies were never the same team after that, losing 12 of their next 15 games and 16 of their next 21 to drop to fourth place, their final resting place.

 

 

Following a column in mid-January which detailed the tremendous escalation in both player salaries and club revenues, we received a letter from Donna Dougherty of Glenolden, who wrote in part: "I just read your column in The Inquirer. The figures just amazed me. I want to know who pays the players and also who will be there when baseball is bankrupt? I'm only 12, but that's exactly what worries me will baseball be there for me to take my kids to a major league baseball game? . . . What will happen when the owners' pockets are dried? ... I just hope some people start wising up so we can have a chance to (go)."

 

No matter which side wins in the present struggle between players and owners, it will be the fans who are the losers. One of these days, the fans may decide they no longer care. If that happens, everybody loses.

 

NOTES: When Bob Rodgers was picked as interim manager of the Brewers after George Bamberger was hospitalized, general manager Harry Dalton said that coach Frank Hpward was also qualified, "but I know Bob better and I know his work better." Had Howard been named, the 6-foot, 7-inch, 300-pounder would have been the tallest and heaviest bg league manager in history. Instead, the 6-5 Dallas Green of the Phillies retains his title as the tallest big league manager in history, with Wilbert Robinson, at around 230 pounds, the heaviest when he managed the Dodgers (1914-31). . . . Gene Mauch, who will soon complete 20 years as a major league manager and is the first ever to manage that long without winning a pennant or a division title, may come closer to his platoon dream than ever this season. He figures to have only one righthanded batter (third-baseman John Castino) in his batting order when the Twins face righthanded pitchers, and only one lefthanded batter (outfielder Ken Landreaux) when facing lefties. . .  Jesse Outlar. the sports editor of the Atlanta Constitution, suggests the best way to restore balance to baseball is to make Marvin Miller the commissioner for the next two years, while Bowie Kuhn heads the Players Association. ... Ex-Phil Jay Johnstone, now with the Dodgers, and his wife, Mary Jayne, recently purchased a 57-year-old, 18-room Spanish home in San Marino, Calif., her hometown. It was built by one of the three men who founded the Los Angeles suburb. The home should be big enough for their five cats, two dogs and five cars; including two Corvettes. ... Jerry Garvin, who suffered with elbow trouble the last two seasons, appears ready to help the Blue Jays again.  The lefthander may have the best pickoff move in the American League. He nailed 22 runners in 1977.

 

 

The answer to last week's Trivia Question: Carl Yastrzemski of Boston had 186 hits and 128 walks in 1970 and is the last major league player to reach base more than 310 times on hits and walks in a season. Walter Dohse of Telford was first with the correct answer.

 

 

This week's question: Name the last major league team whose three regular outfielders batted over .300 in the salhe season, each playing in at least 140 games.

The name’s the same, but the pitcher isn’t

 

By Frank Dolson, Sports Editor

 

Think it's easy being a big league pitcher?

 

Think it's a snap to stand there, 60 feet, 6 inches away from a guy swinging a bat and try to throw a baseball past him?

 

Certainly, it hasn't been all that easy for Dick Ruthven, despite the God-given talent that made him a big league pitcher smack out of college.

 

There were those tough formative years in the majors, where he had to learn how to pitch while facing the greatest hitters in the world. And there was the even tougher year that followed, when he was shipped down , to the minors to pitch for the Toledo Mud Hens. ("The Mud Hensf Ruthven would say in those days. "If somebody asks you what you do for a living, how can you answer, 'I'm a Mud Hen'?")

 

Somehow, he survived all that not to mention the miserable, two-plus years he spent pitching for the Atlanta Braves, who run neck and neck with the Toledo Mud Hens as Dick Ruthven's least favorite team.

 

And on top of everything, there were the two trips to the hospital for elbow surgery, the second last year after a 6-0 start got buried under an avalanche of ailments.

 

"Any time you cut on an arm, you're going to be a while getting over it," Phillies manager Dallas Green said. "It wasn't like (Larry) Christenson's operation, where you just open him up and chop a piece of bone off. You're in there fooling with an elbow, a joint, doing some scraping, cleaning out and everything else. That's a little scary."

 

So the important thing in spring training wasn't how effectively Dick Ruthven pitched, but how he felt. "We had to eliminate from his mind that he had arm problems," Green said. "I knew once we did that, he'd, be the pitcher we knew him to be."

 

In all honesty, the Dick Ruthven who pitched for the Phillies yesterday only bore an occasional resemblance to the Dick Ruthven who seemed headed for a Cy Young-caliber year last spring. That Dick Ruthven didn't go around walking No. 2 hitters named Rodney Scott three straight times, which is precisely what this Dick Ruthven did.

 

"He's not the Ruthven I've seen before," Montreal manager Dick Williams said yesterday.

 

OK, that wasn't Dick Ruthven at his best yesterday. Ruthven at his best doesn't allow six hits and five walks in seven innings. But it was a pain-free Dick Ruthven, and his performance provided reason to believe that the best is yet to come.

 

"I've been encouraged every time out the whole spring with the way I felt," he said after beating the Expos. "It's kind of an adjustment to feeling good again after trying to win (last year) while feeling lousy. The strategy, the sequence of pitches, the release points are different."

 

But even if he was struggling to recapture the old Dick Ruthven form, some things hadn't changed. For instance, when Warren Cromartie smashed a pitch up the middle in the seventh inning, guess what right-handed pitcher reacted by sticking his bare right hand in the path of the speeding baseball? If you answered Nino Espinosa, you aren't paying attention.

 

"It's heredity," sighed Ruthven, his pitching hand still stinging from the impact. "I bet I've done that 30 times. ... I'm liable to do that in batting practice. I just react. Every time I do it, I tell myself, 'What did you do that for?'"

 

For Ruthven, it's all part of a day's work. When Dick pitches, interesting situations always seem to arise. Yesterday, there was the 3-2 pitch he threw in the dirt to pinch-hitter Rowland Office in the fifth. Office started toward first base . . . and plate umpire Jerry Dale hollered, "Ball three!”

 

Well, umpires are human; they make mistakes, too. But this mistake wasn't rectified until Dale, prodded by Dick Williams, walked to the Phillies dugout and placed a call to the press box.

 

Naturally, the person who answered the phone didn't know the count, either. It would have been an awful mess if the home team, exhibiting a rare sense of fair play, hadn't informed Dale that yes, indeed, it was ball four.

 

"They weren't that quick," Dale griped later. "They could have told me sooner, but they waited 'til I got to the dugout."

 

"I'm supposed to go out there and tell him what the count is?" countered Green. "I'm on the Philadelphia Phillies, not the Montreal Expos."

 

And through it all, Dick Ruthven stood there, wondering if he would be required to throw ball five. The man just has a knack for being caught up in strange situations.

 

The most interesting of. all, perhaps, occurred in the seventh inning when the last batter Ruthven faced turned out to be his brother-in-law, Tommy Hutton, who smashed a line drive into second baseman Manny Trillo's glove.

 

To Dick's way of thinking, that was simply the law of averages catching up.

 

"My first loss last year was when I thought I broke his bat – he swears I didn't and he blooped a hit, and then (Andre) Dawson hit a home run," Ruthen said. "I've been teasing him about that weak base hit all summer and all winter, so when he hit the ball right at the second baseman, he said to me, 'We're even.' I just smiled and said, 'Right, we are.'

 

"I sure wish he was in the American League. Damn, I wish he was in the American League. I don't know if Dick Williams does that on purpose, but sending my brother-in-law up there ... it bugs me."

 

 

But then nobody ever told Dick Ruthven that pitching in the big would be easy.