Wilmington News Journal - April 13, 1980

Ruthven victory keeps Phillies unbeaten

 

By Ray Finocchiaro, Staff Correspondent

 

PHILADELPHIA - The Phillies got an unexpected complete game out of Steve Carlton in Friday night's season-opener, but Manager Dallas Green wasn't expecting an encore from Dick Ruthven.

 

In fact, Green was happy that Ruthven lasted seven innings in yesterday's 6-2 victory over the Montreal Expos at Veterans Stadium that kept the Phils unbeaten in two games.

 

"I was very pleased," Green said of Ruthven, who is coming off arm surgery to remove bone chips around his right elbow. "He pitched six good innings and threw 84 pitches. I wasn't looking for nine innings from him. I didn't like the way he was throwing in the seventh and, rather, than let him struggle another inning, I figured he had had enough.”

 

Ruthven, too, was pleased with his first effort of the season after a spring-training grind marked by wildness and general ineffectiveness.

 

"I've felt okay every time out," said Ruthven, while icing his arm in the trainer's room after the game. "My only adjustment is to feeling good after trying to do things differently last year. There was so much improvisation In the way I pitched last year that it's still a tough mental process to go back to my old way of pitching."

 

Ruthven makes it clear that he is not afraid of reinjuring his arm. He just wants to work out the kinks.

 

"Nothing hurts and there's no chance of hurting myself," he said. "I'll just keep pitching until the guy (Green) tells me I'm done. Right now I'm tending to overthrow. I'm not using my legs as much as I should. I think any problems now are more mechanical than having to build my arm back up."

 

Ruthven walked five, struck out nobody and surrendered six hits and a run in his seven innings. Considering that Ron LeFlore opened the game with a triple and scored, Ruthven did exceptionally well with six shutout innings before hitting the ice.

 

“I don’t walk five guys when I’m pitching well,” he said, “but I made the pitches when I had to and the guys behind me made the plays when I didn't make good pitches. The two double plays on (Andre) Dawson were good pitches. The way the runners got on weren't good pitches."

 

Dawson hit into a roundabout double play to take Ruthven out of hot water in the first inning, grounding to short and then watching teammate Rodney Scott get gunned out at third by first baseman Pete Rose after LeFlore had scored.

 

In the fifth, Dawson was handcuffed by a Ruthven fastball and bounced into a 6-4-3 double play that ended a bases-loaded, one-out threat.

 

The Phillies, meanwhile, used a barrage of eight extra-base hits to make a loser of Bill Lee, who won his last six decisions last season, and make life miserable for reliever Fred Norman.

 

Back-to-back doubles off the wall by Bake McBride (right field) and Garry Maddox (left) tied the game in the bottom of the first, showing that the "burners" also have a little sock on occasion.

 

Maddox put the Phils ahead to stay in the third when he drilled a Lee pitch into the stands in lower left. Mike Schmidt followed with a double and scored on Greg Luzinski's single to left.

 

Maddox, still wary about the fans' reception – which has been overwhelmingly positive – because of his contract stalemate with the Phillies, hopes he can stay in a good hitting groove.

 

"I wasn't swinging good last night but I felt good, today and I hope I have something going," said Maddox, who continued his dazzling defensive play in center field, contract disputes notwithstanding. "I've got a good stroke but it's not just me. The whole team has played well the last two days."

 

Maddox credits that to the team's togetherness once the players' practice strike was called in spring training.

 

"You have to give the team credit for staying together during the strike," he said. "Nobody went home and I think that showed people we really wanted to win. Some of the other teams weren't as close as we were, so we may have a little edge."

 

The Montreal Expos, for one, were hardly close-knit once the strike was announced. Sixteen Expos left camp and there was some early squabbling about not practicing with the coaching staff around. The Phils, on the other hand, worked out with everybody – players, manager and coaches – involved.

 

"And it helped us," Maddox said. "We had a few intrasquad games and I got a chance to work on some things. We all did."

 

And, for the short haul at least, it could pay off.

 

Manny Trillo, a spring-training bust who was demoted to eighth place in the batting order after Green had verbally stationed him in the No. 2 slot while making the off-season banquet circuit, had three hits yesterday, as did Maddox.

 

"Just a lucky day," said Trillo, who tripled home yesterday. Reliever Ron Reed walked three men in Larry Bowa in the fourth after Bowa had opened the two-thirds of an inning in the eighth and Green yanked inning with a triple of his own. "Let's see if I can go two him without a word or second-thought, months like this."

 

Green said Trillo was dropped to the eighth slot to purge his mind of the hit-and-run doggerel that was force-fed to him all spring.

 

"Manny's hitting well now," said Green, "but, down there (Florida), we talked hit-and-run so much that he was doing things Billy DeMars didn't like. We dropped him down in the order to get that hit-and-run stuff out of his mind.”

 

It wasn't all sunshine and extra-base hits for the Phils yesterday.  Reliever Ron Reed walked three men in two-thirds of an inning in the eighth and Green yanked him without a word of second-thought.

 

“Ronnie knows we weren't looking for walks in that situation," said Green of Reed's quick hook. "He did not the well and that's why I went to Tug McGraw.  Those two guys are supposed to be it (in short relief). We’ll find out."

 

McGraw, who set a major-league record by allowing four grand slams last season, came close to another one in the Expos’ ninth. With two out, Ken Macha singled. Rodney Scott walked for the fifth time, tying a National League record, and Dawson watched four straight balls to load the bases for cleanup hitter Ellis Valentine.

 

Valentine drilled a long fly that Maddox tracked down near the center field wall, 400 feet away, and McGraw had his first save of the season.

 

Barely.

 

EXTRA INNINGS – Phils hit safely in every inning, collecting 14 hits... Bowa's fourth-inning triple tied him with Cy Williams for sixth place on the Phils' all-time hit list with 1,553... Rose tied Rabbit Maranville for sixth place on National League games-played list at 2,670... Junior Baseball Federation crowd of 36,962 included 22,065 paying customers... Schmidt, Maddox, Trillo and Bob Boone received their Gold Glove trophies before the game... Larry Christenson, another surgically reconstructed right-hander, goes against the Expos' Scott Sanderson today at 1.35 p.m. in Channel 17's first telecast of the regular season.

 

Baseball will survive

 

The game prospers with free agency, but a strike could bring a fall from grace

 

By Thomas Boswell, Washington Post

 

Baseball got a most blessed reprieve when the players chose both a wise and modest course.

 

Instead of feeling the need to show their strength by striking on opening day, they instead decided to show their confidence and solidarity by calling a token strike during spring training, and postponing the real thing for six weeks.

 

Throughout the spring, the owners have maintained a tactical and a public-relations initiative. They've played it smart, tough and united for the first time.

 

Their best hope was that the players would strike on opening day, thereby alienating the public, which still has not had the time or inclination to understand baseball's new set of labor issues.

 

Players, who had not received a significant paycheck since September, could cool their heels while the public, and probably the press, pilloried them.

 

The owners, who have tried assiduously to precipitate just such a strike, could sit back during the least profitable portion of their season and say, "Gee, we wanted the season to start on time. It's all the players' fault."

 

Now, the tight shoe is back where it has been for several years – the owners' collective fat foot.

 

The players have a strike authorization vote in hand; their weapon is cocked. They also have shown a trace of conciliation by agreeing to play six weeks without any basic agreement, a notion that offends any union anywhere.

 

Slowly, the public is getting the picture. The players don't want anything new. The owners want to turn back time.

 

Four years ago, the owners agreed to an "experimental" resolution of the enormous reserve-clause, free-agent issue.

 

In the short run – over those last four years – the experiment was not only a success, but the most enormous boon to baseball since the lively ball was introduced in 1920.

 

Every empirical measuring stick – attendance, TV ratings, value of a franchise on the open market – has shot up.

 

Higher salaries have made players seem more glamorous. Yet teams that spent millions for free agents have gotten the money hack at the box office more quickly than they even dreamed.

 

A fan who thinks his team has gotten something for nothing can't wait to get through the turnstiles. A mere tit-for-tat trade is mild stuff by comparison.

 

Despite this, competitive balance has been helped, rather than hurt Teams that have done little or nothing in the marketplace – Baltimore, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Detroit and St. Louis – all won 85 or more games In 1979.

 

Clubs that spent big – the Phillies, San Diego, Atlanta, New York (Yankees) and Cleveland – all finished fourth or lower last season. Big-buck boys in Boston and Texas finished third.

 

The conclusion seems healthy: spend wisely, as did Milwaukee and Montreal, and win 95. Spend dumb, as San Diego and Atlanta, and lose 90.

 

Spend nothing, but build smart (Baltimore) and go to the World Series. Spend nothing, but build dumb (the Mets) and finish last.

 

The final blessing of free agentry appears to be that, on the one hand, any team can transform itself quickly,, while, on the other hand, no dynasty – not even the rich Yankees – lasts long.

 

All this makes baseball owners crazy, perhaps with cause.

 

They love what's happening. But they can't believe it will last They're raking in the bucks at the same instant when, in their hearts, they think bankruptcy truly may be around the corner.

 

Unfortunately for the owners, and perhaps for all of baseball, labor negotiations are conducted on what exists, not on fiscal palm reading.

 

The owners' plea for a new system of partial com pensation that would put a damper on free-agent madness and in time lower the whole salary structure of the game, might well be a farsighted and absolutely correct compromise.

 

However, as of this moment, it is not backed by a shred of evidence.

 

The players can back their status quo with a list of debater's points as long as J. R. Richard's arm.

 

The owners, after all the smoke is blown away, only can say that, as experienced businessmen, they can foretell the bust that follows a boom before it happens.

 

The owners foresee a recession economy. But they can't prove it They foresee franchises failing. But the last-place Mets just sold for $22 million and even the pathetic Oakland A's, the worst imaginable team in the worst market in baseball history, drew bidders both to move the team and keep it by the bay.

 

The owners fear that baseball is dividing into haves and have-nots, contenders and abominations. There is some documentation for that Yet such clubs as Milwaukee, Montreal, Detroit and St. Louis nave gone from the depths to the heights within the last four years.

 

Baseball will find a resolution. But, will it be after a strike that does far more damage than free agency ever could? Will it be after the bloom is off a blossoming public affection for the old game?

 

Or will that compromise, that Inevitable middle ground of every labor battle, be reached before the players' May 23 deadline?

 

One fact is more important than all the technicalities of the proposals now on the table between Marvin Miller and Ray Grebey. Baseball isn't the only game in town. Everybody's health and wealth is tied far more directly to the game's general popularity than it is to who wins these labor arm-wrestlings.

 

Neither side seems to care what the fans think. Yet the fans' opinion is, in the long run, far more important to both sides than any single issue – even the issue of whether there is, or not, a system partial sation.

 

Baseball has had marvelous on-the-field luck the last five years: vivid championship teams, historic individual players, playoff and postseason games for the ages, and exceptional pennant races (three of which went to, the final week last season).

 

No person, no union, no owner, no commissioner1 deserved any significant portion of the praise. It simply their great good fortune – their dumb luck – that baseball is now, and has been for a century, a great and unsinkable game that produces indelible drama.

 

Baseball might be unsinkable, but it is not undamageable.

 

For the next six weeks, the players and owners should remember that the other side probably is right.

 

A form of partial compensation more liberal than the-one the owners propose – perhaps a team's 26th-best player rather than its 16th-best as compensation – would certainly work. It would quiet the players' rocketing rate of salary growth, but it would still leave them wealthy.

 

By contrast, leaving baseball totally unchanged also would work. Owners might need to learn self-restraint.

 

Partial compensation might even look wise to the players by 1984.

 

Or maybe it would look unnecessary, even then.

 

No one can pretend to know.

 

Both sides are left with one certainty. The worst eventuality is a strike – a long, bitter midseason strike that breaks the game's century of essential continuity and leaves the lingering thought in every fan's mind that the game no longer can be depended upon as a faithful friend.

 

Any settlement will work - for both sides. No resolution by Memorial Day would be like a fungo bat over the cranium to both sides, one which they would richly deserve.

 

Baseball has gotten its one reprieve, its typical dose of unexpected luck. It has no right to ask for more.