The Sporting News - April 19, 1980
Bull Says He Won't Be A Dog Again
By Hal Bodley
PHILADELPHIA- Ruly Carpenter picked up the phone several times, then put it back before dialing the number. Finally, last November, he called Greg Luzinski.
"He invited himself to my home," Luzinski recalled. "He said it wasn't urgent, but he had some things he wanted to discuss. I told him to come over whenever he wanted to."
Carpenter drove to Luzinski's New Jersey home a few days before the winter baseball meetings. The Philadelphia Phillies' owner felt it was time to put everything on the table, to clear the air.
"It was a good meeting," Luzinski said. "He told me some things and I told him some things."
When Carpenter gets in such a mood he can be extremely effective. He thought the problems with Luzinski had gone too far and he was determined to do something about them.
Basically, Carpenter told his left fielder to take off some weight, to start working out at Veterans' Stadium before spring training and to try regular eyeglasses instead of contact lenses.
Luzinski and Carpenter have always had a close relationship, ever since Greg was 19 fresh out of high school. They hunt together and always have had great respect for each other.
When Carpenter watched Luzinski balloon to nearly 240 pounds and suffer through a dreadful 1979 season, it nearly tore his heart out. When the fans, who had always loved The Bull, turned on him, matters grew even worse.
"Ruly was concerned," said Luzinski. "In addition to the weight and the glasses, he told me that if a deal came up where they could help the team in three or four spots, it would be hard to turn down. I told him I wouldn't expect him to turn it down."
Carpenter also told The Bull that, despite what was being reported, he was not on the trading block and that Player Personnel Director Paul Owens was not going to put him on the block.
"That was great," said Luzinski. "It gave me some peace of mind. Sure, I have an attachment to Philadelphia, but in this business you have to accept the fact that you can be traded. There's nothing you can do about it."
Luzinski went on a strict diet, began workouts and tried regular glasses.
From 238 pounds, Luzinski melted to 214. He is seeing the ball better than he has for years. And, above all, he was regained the short, devastating stroke that made him the best two-strike power hitter in baseball. He was hitting .412, had three home runs and was second only to torrid Mike Schmidt in runs batted in with 10.
"I'd be willing to bet that Greg will have a super year," said Manager Dallas Green. "He has it all back together. It's a beautiful sight."
"I got a lot of static about the weight but I never felt it bothered me," said Luzinski, 29. "I got tired of hearing everybody else talk about it, so I decided to take the weight off. Now that I have done it, I feel better than I have in a long time."
Last year Luzinski's batting average slipped to a career-low .252, or 33 points below his lifetime average of .285. His power production also fell off, from 35 homers and 101 RBIs in 1978 to 18 and 81.
He was handicapped by a thigh injury most of the year and got into some bad habits at the plate. If he had to do it over again, he says, he probably would have gone on the disabled list.
"I wanted to contribute, so I played," he said. "Then I heard people say in the off-season I might be through. That really got me thinking about what I had to do to regain my old form.
"I never cared for weightlifting because I thought it would build up my chest too much. I explained my reasons and the club accepted them, but wanted me to work out with Billy DeMars (hitting coach) on my swing and do some running. It really helped."
PHILLERS: Warren Brusstar, who attempted to make a comeback after sitting out most of 1979 with a sore shoulder, may not pitch at all this year. The righthanded reliever tried to throw late in training but the pain forced him to stop. Starter Nino Espinosa also is a question mark. He has been bothered with a sore shoulder and probably will open the season on the disabled list.... Green has been experimenting with infielder John Vukovich and outfielder Mike Anderson as emergency catchers. "We'd use them just for an inning or two if we got in a jam," Green said.... Garry Maddox missed several games because of a pulled leg muscle.... The Phils ended New York Yankees lefthander Ron Guidry's string of 21 perfect innings of exhibition pitching on March 31 when Larry Bowa walked.
Here's a Vote for Pirates, Dodgers
By Bill Conlin
PHILADELPHIA- Would it offend your sensibilities if this piece was about baseball at the top?
As much as you've loved reading about Marvin Miller and Ray Gerbey, war chests and strike insurance, compensation and litigation, hey, it's Play Ball time. The old gong has been rung, just like in a J. Arthur Rank movie. That's Nolan Ryan's Express rushing up to the plate. Pete Rose's 3,733 hit one-hopping to an outfielder. That's Dave Goltz and Don Stanhouse hoping to turn the Dodger pitching around, Bob Horner about to launch a reign of terror in Atlanta Stadium and Bruce Sutter throwing a pitch that is part fastball and part groundhog.
If you're more into legal briefs than line scores, salaries than batting averages, turn away a minute while I take a stab at the National League races:
Pirates: John Candelaria's back is aching. Dave Parker is grumbling about all the publicity Willie Stargell gets and the rock is blaring at 100 decibels in the Bucs clubhouse. Everything is set, in other words, for a Pittsburgh repeat in a wild race.
Cardinals: Bobby Bonds' big bat and the line-drive presence of Keith Hernandez, Ted Simmons and Garry Templeton add up to that league's best offense despite a lack of home run power. Team speed, above-average defense and a good bench may be enough to offset shaky pitching.
Phillies: Their stock fell during spring training as a troubled pitching staff continued to come up lame. Nino Espinosa, a 14-game winner last season, is on the DL. So is hard-luck reliever Warren Brusstar. A knee injury set back Larry Christenson's comeback from collarbone surgery. With Dick Ruthven and Randy Lerch scuffling, only Steve Carlton appears headed for a normal big year. An impressive starting eight and new-look bench might not be enough.
Expos: The Tigers are pushing lefty Dan Schatzeder as a potential 20-game winner. The Expos gave him up to get Ron LeFlore. A 20-game winner could push Montreal over the hump, but don't look for 20 from Bill Lee or Ross Grimsley. A solid lineup could profit from big years from catcher Gary Carter and outfielder Ellis Valentine. Dick Williams is the league's best tactical manager. The Expos must have another injury-free year and solid bullpen to challenge.
Cubs: Preston Gomez, who has managed in the eye of other hurricanes, deserves a better fate. Sutter will get a chance to do his Cy Young thing if Dick Tidrow has another good year in front of him. Dave Kingman will uppercut his way to 45-plus homers.
Mets: I picked fireballing rookie righthander Juan Berenguer to be the East's top rookie. Unfortunately, he was optioned to Tidewater with an ERA that sounded like a January gold price. The Mets will rely on youth. Youth will not be served.
Dodgers: Nobody but the Reds and Dodgers have won the division since 1971. It's the Dodgers' turn this year. The starters should bounce back and Goltz has the kind of stuff that usually wins in Dodger Stadium. The offensive nucleus is still solid with Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Ron Cey, Bill Russell, Reggie Smith and Dusty Baker experienced run producers. A healthy, happy Smith will be a key.
Astros: Put an asterisk here for Ryan's arm. Shelled in spring training, which is not unusual, the no-hitter king is showing some age and will be under heavy pressure to justify $1-million-a-year salary. One of these years, J.R. Richard will put it all together and win 25. The Astros must have another big year by bullpen ace Joe Sambito. An unspectacular lineup beats you with solid baseball.
Reds: I picked them fourth last year and they won the division. I hold to the theory that they can't keep losing super stars and win. But Ray Knight made them forget about Pete Rose. Will Junior Kennedy or rookie Ron Oester fill Joe Morgan's shoes at second with equal flair? The Reds still have George Foster, Dave Concepcion, Tom Seaver and a young staff that surprised the league last year.
Braves: It's time for some of Bobby Cox' young talent to fish or cut bait on one of Ted Turner's yachts. Chris Chambliss, Dale Murphy, Bob Horner and Gary Mathews have the potential to turn the Fulton County bandbox into a shooting gallery. It would help if Phil Niekro could work every other day.
Giants: They finished an abbreviated exhibition schedule with a 14-7 record and could move higher if all the pitchers who flopped last season, including Vida Blue, Ed Halicki, John Montefusco, Bob Knepper, Gary Lavelle and almost every pitcher you can name. The offense lacks power and speed.
Padres: Ray Kroc's Foreign Legion will have the best seat in the house to watch Dave Winfield try to carry that load a long way. There are new faces on the pitching staff and broadcaster Jerry Coleman in the dugout. Defense and overall team speed are still problems. The Chicken will not provide all the laughs.
Tug McGraw has a unique suggestion on how the players can keep interest in the game alive if there's a strike at midnight May 22. "Get all the super stars in their Rolls Royces, Mercedeses, Porsches and Sevilles and tour the ghettos," the Phillies reliever said. "They could raise money for rich kids. Nobody ever gives rich kids a break. They could start in Harlem and work their way down to North Philly, Cleveland, Chicago's South Side and wind up in Watts.... The Sporting News reader Mark Wigley passes on this suggestion for the Padres slogan: "Kroc's Pot, Let's Get Cooking."
"If I deal for a Bruce Sutter and they lower the free agency requirement to three years I might be in some trouble," an NL general manager said.... The Phillies have quietly returned to the bargaining table with center fielder Garry Maddox, who was on the block after an impasse developed in his contract negotiations. GM Paul Owens is trying to sell him a deal loaded with performance clauses.