Allentown Morning Call - April 5, 1980

Players pulled a double play on the owners


By Jack McCallum, Call Sports Writer


If you're still a bit cloudy on the reasoning behind the Major League Players' Association recent strike decision, stand in line, As I left Clearwater, Fla. on Thursday afternoon I was firmly convinced that more than a few players were still in the dark about it, too. 


The thing about the decision was that it caught most people by surprise. Of all the alternatives discussed before the executive board met in Dallas on Tuesday, the strike-now-but-play-Opening-Day was not one of them. 


I can't be sure what happened during the meeting – and the players are loath to say who's idea the strategy actually was – but I'm betting it generated from the skull of a man whose initials are the same as the symbolic mouse who rules over Disney World. And, like most other stratagems in the life of Marvin Miller, it was a brilliant one. 


What did the players accomplish? 


Well, for one thing they did take some spring training revenue out of the pockets of the owners. Some say it's a pittance but that's not the case, particularly if times are as hard as some of the owners claim. For example, the Dodgers were originally due to break camp yesterday and play a three-game series with the Angels, two games at Anaheim and one at Dodger Stadium. The crowds could've exceeded 75,000. The Phillies will miss out on some palpable revenue, too; their game with the Cardinals would've sold out Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg today (spring training gates are split 50-50) and their scheduled game tomorrow against the Pirates would've filled Jack Russell Stadium in Clearwater.


Secondly, the strike-immediately position actually earned some teams a vote from the fans, something they've been sorely lacking throughout the negotiations. The owners' decision to cut off all living expenses during the Grapefruit League strike was the correct one. But most teams voted to stay in camp and work out together without pay, which gives at least the semblance of a sacrifice. 


(As for the two teams who broke camp, the Mets and the Blue Jays, they look like bush leaguers, which is exactly what they'll look like on the field this year, too.) 


Now, the real crux of the player strategy was the way it left the owners without an alternative. What if the owners were angry about having to cancel the remainder of the Grapefruit League season and said, "Well, just stay out then! But the players are not on strike so that move by the owners would constitute a lockout and the players would have to be paid. So, the owners had no recourse but to keep the camps open, keep practices supervised and hope the product they put out on the field Opening Day is still marketable. 


The way it looks now, I would not suggest buying any tickets for games after May 22, the scheduled walkout date for the players if talks at the negotiating table again fail. And at this point, it would be silly to be optimistic that there will be any change. It is hard to comprehend how far the two sides are apart. Most of the time has been spent arguing over the owners' proposals; we haven't even SEEN what the players will counter-propose. 


The average fan, who is struggling to make this month's car payment and still put something on the table besides frozen waffles, does not really WANT to know what the players want. It is too much and that's all there is to it. 


And I agree that it is-too much. But from a labor standpoint, let's take a look at it.


The owners are asking the Players' Association to surrender something they gained in 1976. When is the last time in ANY labor negotiation that ANY union gave up ANYTHING that it already has? Further, the owners are asking us to believe that free agency is wrecking the game, a point which is simply ludicrous. 


Now, Bob Lurie, the president of the San Francisco Giants, may have been hurt by free agency. He went out and paid $3 million over five years for Rennie Stennett, $1.4 million over five years for Milt May and $425,000 over three years for Jim Wohlford. He didn't have to but he did, and I can't see him getting his return back on those ludicrous investments.


Now, it is not quite true, as the players claim, that the strike has nothing to do with wages. Carpenter, who has tested the free agency waters only with Rose, Greg Gross and Richie Hebner, makes the valid point that he has to pay surrealistic salaries just to keep his better players from sailing over that free agency rainbow.


But that is a situation the owners got themselves into in the first place with their absurd free agency selections and by caving in on nearly every recent salary demand. 


In these frozen waffle times, you must understand that I do not in any way sympathize with the players; to be against capital punishment, for example, is not to be on the Free David Berkowitz Defense Committee. 


But the owners are asking the players to do what they have not been able to do themselves – make intelligent personnel decisions and not overpay inferior ballplayers. 


There is no doubt that the inmates are now in charge of the asylum. But the owners, who lost the asylum in the first place because of their own greed, cannot win it back by demanding a concession on a principle they long ago surrendered. They must allow free agency to remain as it is, then start to work on rounding up the inmates once again. 


No, they will never again be fully in charge, as they were in what the owners would undoubtedly call the good old days when they could cut players a couple thousand dollars for hitting .390. But they can start to work on establishing a good ground roots farm system. a good scouting system and a system that doesn't say "yes" to every Rennie Stennett who comes along.

Phillies clean their Easter basket by cutting four from team


CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) – The Philadelphia Phillies made it official yesterday, paring the squad to the 25-man opening day limit by dropping four veterans – pitchers Rawly Eastwick and Doug Bird, outfielder Mike Anderson and infielder Bud Harrelson. 


Club personnel director Paul Owens said Harrelson had been released outright, but that Eastwick, Bird and Anderson were in limbo. He explained that he was trying to make a deal for the three. 


In addition, reliever Warren Brusstar, suffering for the second straight year with a shoulder injury, was placed on the disabled list. Pitcher Nino Espinosa, also sidelined by a shoulder problem, was placed there Thursday. 


The moves made room on the roster for five rookies – catcher Keith Moreland, infielder Luis Aguayo, outfielders Lonnie Smith and George Vukovich and pitcher Scott Munninghoff. 


Munninghoff who pitched in Double A ball at Reading last season, made the staff with a spring ERA of 1.00 in four exhibition appearances. He could be used as a starter or reliever, depending on the health of manager Dallas Green's staff. 


“He (Munninghoff) has gotta be one of my guy said Green. "He just throws too well. It might seem like a big jump, but it's not as big as it once was… I wouldn't take him if I didn't feel he was ready." 


Vukovich also is jumping from Reading in the Eastern League, because he demonstrated an ability to hit to all fields and played competently in left and right fields before the Players Association strike ended the exhibition season. Aguayo played well at short, second and third this spring. 


Smith and Moreland had excellent springs hitting. Smith will mostly pinchhit, but could see some action in right field, and as one of the best young base stealers in baseball should be valuable as a pinchrunner. Moreland will be the backup catcher to All-Star Bob Boone. The young catcher has shown he can hit, and has been working all spring on his defense under the coaching of former major league receiver Mike Ryan. 


When the Phillies come home Thursday, the opening roster will look like this:


– Pitchers: Steve Carlton, Larry Christenson, Dick Ruthven, Randy Lerch, Tug McGraw, Ron Reed. Lerrin LaGrow, Dickie Noles, Kevin Saucier and Munninghoff. 


– Catchers: Boone and Moreland. 


– Infielders: Pete Rose, Manny Trillo, Larry Bowa, Mike Schmidt, Aguayo and John Vukovich.


– Outfielders: Greg Luzinski, Garry Maddox, Bake McBride, Greg Gross, Del Unser, Smith and G. Vukovich.