Philadelphia Inquirer - April 20, 1980
Phils get 18 hits, bury Expos, 13-4
By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer
MONTREAL – For today's episode in baseball lore, we welcome you once again to the further adventures of the Reluctant Relief Pitcher.
Dickie ("I Like Starting Better") Noles paced onto the scene of a very chaotic baseball game in the sixth inning yesterday.
The Phillies had scrounged back out of a 3-0 hole and into a 5-4 lead against the Expos. They had already been through two balks, one wild pickoff, another wild throw, a rally-killing baserunning blunder and a pitcher who forgot to back up a base. And they had somehow survived it all.
But what they really needed about then was somebody to storm out of the bullpen and create a little order. And that's exactly what they got from Mr. Noles.
The Reluctant Reliever turned off the Expos like an electrician throwing a circuit-breaker. He burned through four innings of no-run, two-hit, six-strikeout baseball. And a tough, crazy afternoon suddenly turned into an easy 13-4 win.
It was Noles' third appearance out of the bullpen in a week. And, as impressive as the first two were, this one hit new heights.
He snapped off one mean slider after another and, in one swing through the batting order, fanned Tony Bernazard, Ron LeFlore, Andre Dawson, Ellis Valentine, Gary Carter and Tommy Hutton. None of those guys is exactly Gladys Knight and the Pips.
"I don't know if he can pitch like that every day," said Pete Rose. "But he's got to be awesome against right-handed hitters.... (Larry) Parrish told me that's the hardest he's ever seen him throw. And that bleeping slider he threw LeFlore, it just went, 'wooosh.' He was out there watching instead of in there hacking."
Noles would still rather have a spot in the rotation to call his own. But the more this bullpen routine looks like his fate in life, the more philosophical he gets.
"I never said I disliked it," Noles said. "Hey, everybody likes to pitch. I sure like it if he wants to pitch me.
"I can't lie. And in my heart, I'd be lying if I didn't say I liked starting better. But we've got four good starters. So whatever he wants me to do, like I said, I'll do."
In the box-score universe, Notes' first big-league save may not look like much. The Phillies did pound 18 hits, their second-highest total since the 23-22 game last May in Chicago. And they did hand Noles a nine-run lead to hang onto in the ninth, courtesy of a two-run eighth and six-run top of the ninth.
But when Noles entered the fray, this game had the look of a long, harrowing day. Larry Christenson started, and he was down three runs faster than you could translate "balk" into French.
The Expos got a first-inning run when Christenson walked Dawson, balked him to second and gave up an RBI single to Valentine. But the worst was yet to come.
Warren Cromartie led off the second by pumping a fastball over the wall in right-center. Then Christenson really got himself in trouble by walking the pitcher, Steve Rogers, on four pitches.
LeFlore forced Rogers at second. But Christenson balked LeFlore over, too (his third balk in two starts). Then, with the count 0-and-2 to Rodney Scott, he tried to pick LeFlore off, threw the ball behind Manny Trillo and it rolled all the way to the track in right-center as LeFlore scored.
Christenson battled back fine after that, especially in the third, when he gave up a leadoff double to Dawson, then got out of it scoreless. But he undid that in the fifth, after a pair of two-run singles by Bake McBride had given him a 4-3 lead.
Dawson inside-outed a decent low-and-in fastball to right-center for a triple. Christenson started to back up second, couldn't get to third in time and was unable to help when Garry Maddox' throw to third skipped into the dugout. So Dawson scored the run that tied it.
"I thought Larry had pretty good stuff, but his location was lousy," said Dallas Green. "I just didn't like the way he was going from the beginning.
"We have the tendency to give up some of the easiest runs I've ever seen in my life," Green said. "That first run was ridiculous. And then he doesn't back up third and gives up that run."
But Bob Boone put the Phillies ahead again, 5-4, in the sixth with an RBI single. And on came Noles. Carter crushed his fourth pitch to deep left, and even Noles thought for a moment the game was tied. But Luzinski made a fine catch leaning against the wall. And that was as close as the Expos ever came to touching him.
The knock on Noles as a reliever has always been his walk-filled history (to wit, his nine-walk game against the Giants last year). But he has come out throwing strikes this year. At one point yesterday, he got behind Scott, 3-and-0, fought back to 3-and-2 and finally got him to fly to center.
"Just because it's 3-and-0 doesn't mean you give up and go for the next guy," said Green, who unabashedly leads the Dickie Noles Fan Club. "Scott's been base-on-balling us to death. That's what we want to do – make him swing the bat."
Scott's flyball concluded the dramatic portion of the proceedings. Mike Schmidt keyed the put-it-away ninth with his second homer in two days, a two-run shot into the lower deck In left. The inning also featured RBI singles by Maddox and Larry Bowa and a two-run base hit by Noles.
"I think we've hit pretty well all year," said Green. "I'm not worried about our offense."
We all know what that leaves to worry about. But if the Reluctant Reliever keeps up this stuff, he at least reduces the pitching worries by one.
Would players share owners’ risk?
Allen Lewis on baseball
If there's anyone the owners dislike more than Marvin Miller, the executive director of the Players Association, it has to be Mike Marshall, the Twins relief pitcher who is the American league player representative.
Marshall's statements about negotiations on the new basic contract have been inflammatory. He talked about "punishing" the owners when the final week of exhibitions was canceled in spring training, and later said of the owners, "We are no longer willing to be their boys. We want to be partners."
Marshall, Miller and the other hard-liners all want the players to be partners, apparently. The one thing they seem to forget is that only the owners risk captital when they buy a ball club. When a team loses money, the players don't lose a cent of their salaries.
As long as' we have the capitalistic system, the man who takes the risks is entitled to a lion's share of the profits as well as the losses.
Miller has announced he will retire after this next basic agreement is signed. Historically, the best negotiators are the ones so adept at the art of compromise that the final confrontation is avoided. If there is an agreement by May 22, the strike deadline, Miller may go down as a man who did a great deal for baseball. If there is a long, disastrous strike, he'll be remembered about as fondly as the 1919 Black Sox.
I'm convinced there will be a strike – one that could last the rest of the season after May 22 – if the players refuse to accept some' sort of compromise on player compensation.
The most amusing line Miller and the players continually repeat is that money is not the bone of contention, freedom is. But anyone familiar with what's been happening in baseball in recent years know the two go together. The easier it is for players to go to another club, the higher the salaries they can command. And that's what the owners want to cut back, before too many of them run into serious financial problems.
NOTES: Although he's been told by his peers he's crazy, Cubs general manager Bob Kennedy apparently is determined to trade relief pitcher Bruce Sutter before the June 15 deadline.... When big league teams first began to fly, going by charter wasn't much more expensive than going by commercial flights. No longer. The Blue Jays saved $22,000 when the players boycotted the final week of exhibition games. Originally, they were slated to fly by charter to Seattle the night before their season opener at a cost of $31,000. Instead, they flew commercial one day earlier at a cost of $9,000.... If the Braves have as dismal an April as they have had under him the last two years, manager Bobby Cox will be fired. Atlanta had a 6-14 record in April of 1978 and a 7-13 mark last April. Only the possibility of a strike, and the necessity of paying two men for not managing, might deter impatient owner Ted Turner.
The answer to last week's Trivia Question: The 1976 Reds were the last team to have all three of its regular outfielders bat over .300 while playing in at least 140 games. Leftfielder George Foster hit .306, centerfielder Cesar Geronimo .307 and rightfielder Ken Griffey .336, and each played in more than 140 games. John Reilly of Stratford, N.J., was first with the correct answer.
This week's question: Which National League pitching staff (since 1901) has had the most seasons when it had at least one 20-game winner?
Yet another farmhand gone
By Frank Dolson, Sports Editor
NEW YORK - Look around the big leagues. Phillie farm products are everywhere. Dane Iorg, Roy Thomas, Jerry Martin, Willie Hernandez, John Stearns, Bill Nahorodny, Rick Bosetti, Barry Bonnell, Larry Hisle, Tommy Underwood, Alan Bannister, Jim Morrison, Andy Thornton, Jim Essian, Larry Cox. ...
And now, Danny Boitano
Opening day at Yankee Stadium. The Brewers lead by two runs in the eighth, but the Yankees have the bases loaded when the kid comes trotting in from the bullpen.
Danny Boitano had dreamed of this day through all those years in Auburn and Spartanburg and Rocky Mount and Reading and Oklahoma City. Now here he is, trying for his first big league save wth 47,000 fans screaming at him to fail.
The other day, he had thrown a third strike past Carl Yastrzemski with runners on first and third and one out. But on this day, in this park, something happens to him that had never happened before. He grips the baseball a little too tightly; he aims it a little too carefully . . . and he walks Oscar Gamble on four pitches.
‘Won't happen again'
"I don't care if it's Babe Ruth up there, I've got to throw him a strike," Danny Boitano said later, after another Milwaukee pitcher had nailed down a 3-2 victory. I got tight out there. I'll admit it to anybody. It won’t happen again.”
And if you know him, you believe him because this is one kid who never backed off from a challenge.
He fought a hard fight to get here. Mostly he fought himself. There was a time when Boitano would have lost his temper after walking Oscar Gamble, a time when he might have stood on the mound, with the manager coming to get him, and screamed at the top of his lungs, then gone in side and tried to rip the clubhouse apart with his bare hands.
There was that night in Denver when he was pitching for Jim Bunning's Oklahoma City team, breezing through the first few innings. Then up came Roger Freed. Kaboom!
"I just went crazy," Boitano said. "I couldn't believe he did that. I stomped on the mound. I threw my glove. I cursed. That s when Jim came out, and he aired me out. He said, 'Young man, you're going to die in this league if you don t grow up.’”
Well, he has grown up.
Day had to come
Danny Boitano has the ability, and the maturity, to become the relief pitcher the Brewers need to make a run at the pennant in the American League East. And he has the opportunity.
Already he feels a part of this team, something that never happened in Philadelphia.
"It (the atmosphere) is so much different here that you can't believe it " he said. "Here, the players treat first-year guys, even non-roster guys, like they'd been in the big leagues two, three years.... They’d do anything for you.”
And now he's trying to do some thing for them... give them the relief help they need to challenge the Orioles and the Yankees and the Red Sox.
"I'll tell you what," says his old buddy, Phillies utilityman John Vukovich, "if he throws the way he's capable of throwing, he can stay there a long time.
"It took a long time to get here," Boitano was saying, "but that way you enjoy it a helluva lot more when you do get here. You can appreciate where you came from.... I knew someday I would pitch in the big leagues – somehow, somewhere with someone.
Wants the ball
“But I'm still raw. i went in (against the Yankees) and I 'choked’ three balls. The fourth I threw. The first three I guided in there instead of saying, 'Here it is, Oscar. See what you can do with it.’
"I never thought I'd be put in the situation I was put in today. Bases loaded in Yankee Stadium with a 3-1 lead. And I never thought I'd get tight as bad as I got today. But it happened and I'm going to learn from it. If I throw four pitches again that are balls I'm going to do it be cause I’m missing, not because I’m choking. I just hope they give me that ball again.”
They will, because they like the kid. They like his competitiveness. They like his determination. They like his ability.
It took him eight years to get this far, eight years to reach the point where they hand him the ball with a two-run lead and the bases loaded on opening day at Yankee Stadium Don't let that walk to Oscar Gamble fool you. Danny Boitano is another ex-Phillies farmhand who's got what it takes to make good.