Philadelphia Daily News - August 19, 1980
When Will Bull Return?
By Bill Conlin
The Dodgers stunned their blase faithful last week with a 1-5 homestand. And you thought the Phillies 0-for-4 in Pittsburgh made waves.
The Dodgers losing four of five in Chavez Ravine is like the Red Army losing a winter battle in the shadow of the Kremlin. Tommy Lasorda was quite specific in identifying the underlying cause. "One of our major problems has been getting along without Reggie Smith in right field because of his injuries," the manager said.
The Phillies have been getting along without Greg Luzinski since the All-Star break. He is recovering from what was billed as minor arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, A small incision was made and an arthroscopy inserted to locate and remove various flotsam and jetsam.
"They took out a piece of cartilage." Luzinski said Sunday before working out in Shea Stadium. "It was small, but it was completely shot. They also removed a cyst Everything's been cleaned out that was causing the knee to fill with fluid but there's a lot of arthritis in there."
PRESUMABLY, THE condition is permanent. Bake McBride is playing on two arthritic knees and the right-fielder has designed footwear which help cushion the shock of running on the unyielding artificial surfaces around the National League. The rightfielder will also supervise construction of special shoes for The Bull.
"I wear two special knee braces right now because I've been playing on grass," McBride says. "On Astro-Turf the shoes have probably helped me more. Don Seger created the knee braces and I designed the shoes."
It is a clever design, indeed. McBride took a pair of jogging shoes with soft fabric uppers, padded infers and ridged soles. He removed the soles and substituted soles with short soccer cleats which he pared down to a height more suited to the type of sprinting a baseball player must do most of the time. For grass use, he substituted short metal cleats. It is a very professional-appearing shoe, dyed red to conform with the team's normal footwear.
"I'll wear the same kind of shoe," Luzinski said. "I haven't really cut loose running yet The test will come on AstroTurf."
Dallas Green is vague about the date of the slugger's return to the lineup. As close as the Phillies are now to the Sept 1 roster expansion date, the manager may be reluctant to send out a guy like George Vukovich who has been with the club since opening day. And the Phillies don't figure to make wholesale call-ups from the minors. Paul Owens probably would be more inclined to pick up an experienced veteran like Jose Cardenal, recently released by the Mets, for the stretch drive.
"A WEEK, MAYBE," Luzinski shrugs when asked to pinpoint when he feels he'll be ready to play.
Shagging flies, running straight-line sprints and swinging the bat are one thing. The sudden starts, stops, violent changes of direction and slides into unyielding bases of actual combat are another. Green will not bring Luzinski back limping or unsure of himself. If The Bull has only one week of near-100 percent play in him, that could be enough to nudge the Phillies over the top in this wacky race.
The good news is that except for Luzinski, the Phillies are in almost embarrassingly good health, better than at any time since opening day of the 1978 season. When Larry Christenson came off the disabled list to pitch brilliantly last Thursday, Green had 25 fully ambulatory players for one of the few times this season. Not even in spring training, when Warren Brusstar, Nino Espinosa and Christenson were down at the same time, were the Phillies in better health.
"I think we're ready to make our move," Owens says. "I think for the rest of the season you're going to see this team get better. I'm always an optimist, but I can honestly say I feel like we've turned the corner physically. I see 11 healthy pitchers out there and we haven't seen that in a while."
In sharp contrast to last season, when the daily casualty list was worthy of a small war (and it showed in indvidual performances) a lot of Phillies are having peak years.
STEVE CARLTON, the yardstick by which major league lefthanders are measured, is on his way to a third Cy Young Award. Manny Trillo and McBride are having the finest seasons of their careers. Mike Schmidt should finish in the 45 homer, 115-120 RBI range. Pete Rose is having a typical Pete Rose year. Lonnie Smith and Bob Walk are Rookie of the Year candidates. Dick Ruthven has made a solid comeback.
The numbers, of course, lie when matched with the realities of the season. Green went with a patchwork rotation much of the first half. Three key starters, Bob Boone, Larry Bowa and Garry Maddox, have been below par offensively. The bench lacks the firepower the Pirates can muster in the late innings. Randy Lerch's 4-13 record requires no further comment. But coming off the five-game sweep of the once-hopeful Mets, the Phillies are in position to thumb their noses at the past. The key in a tight division race is what you've done lately. Lerch won his last start Boone, Maddox and Bowa brought the bottom of the batting order alive.
Eight days ago, the Phillies were wheeled out of Pittsburgh on the critical list. Now they are home, one resurrected Bull away from being born again.
Schmidt Strikes Out
Mike Schmidt hit .472 last week, with 5 home runs, 13 RBI and 9 runs scored.
Mike Schmidt was named National League Player of the Week yesterday, right?
Tom Hume was. NL President Charles Feeney made the announcement, citing the Cincinnati Reds pitcher's one win and two saves in four appearances last week. Hume pitched 8⅓ innings in that time frame, yielding no runs and only four hits.
Sanity prevailed in the American League, however, with Kansas City's George Brett (.452, 12 RBI) easily winning Player of the Week honors.