Philadelphia Inquirer - August 29, 1980
Homestands could decide Phillies’ fate
By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer
How many victories is it going to take to win the National League East? Well, if it takes even as few as 93, the Phillies are going to have to have a torrid September.
To win 93, they would have to go 27-11 (.710) the rest of the way. Considering that they are only 43-40 since June 1, one would have to say that might be kind of tough.
On the other hand, that might be looking at it too analytically. The way the three Eastern contenders alternately soar and stagger, who's to say this division couldn't be taken with as few as 88 or 89 wins?
"There's really no logical way to figure it," Pete Rose said. "If what you're saying is, if we win 27 we've got a helluva shot, then I agree with that. But say if we win 27, the Pirates only have to win 23 to be even with us 'cause they're ahead in the win column.
"You really can't say it will take 27 or any other number. Another thing you've got to think about is head-to-head competition. We've got four games left with Pittsburgh. Suppose they beat us four out of four – I'm not saying they will. They do that, it's gonna take more than 27. But if we get some breaks and beat them four, it's gonna take less than 27."
Whew. Got all that? Anyhow, Rose says that one thing that has bothered him about the Phillies the last two years is that they don't seem to put anybody away at home anymore. They are 10 over .500 this year (38-28). They were five over .500 in '79. They were 4-5 last week on what should have been a big homestand.
"When I was in Cincinnati, it was always tough to come here," Rose said. "But the 1979-80 Phillies haven't proved to me it's an advantage lo play at home. We're not a good home team. And we really should be, simply because every night the doors open and it's like a great stream. There's a rear end in every seat."
Don't take that the wrong way, folks. Rose likes these fans, even if they do boo a little.
"They boo when you strike out. They boo when you make an error," Rose said. "What else are they supposed to do?"
NOTES: One big league scout says there is one thing he would do differently if he were Dallas Green. He would stop ripping his players in the press. Other than that, the scout said, Green is "a very solid baseball man, period."... Phillies beware: The Dodgers probably will activate Manny Mota on Sept. 1, if Mota can convince them that he can still hit at age 42. Tom Lasorda seems convinced. When Jay Johnstone missed a pitch in the batting cage the other day, Lasorda bellowed, "C'mon, Jay. Manny Mota could step in there and hit that pitch right now."
Phillies quest heads west
Still in the thick of the Eastern Division race, the Phillies head west for an 11-game California swing, beginning tonight.
Their goal: Mop up out there, before returning home Sept. 8 for a crucial (it is hoped) two-game series with Pittsburgh.
San Diego is the first "victim." The game begins at 10:05 p.m., Philadelphia time, and will be televised on Channel 17.
Reading Phillies vs. Wait Haven at Reading Municipal Stadium, Route 61 and Center Avenue, Reading, Pa., 7:30 p.m. .
PHILLIES at San Diego (TV-Ch. 17; Radio-KYW-1060, 10:05 p.m.)
Three top prospects see season of promise come to a quiet end
By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer
Sometimes, you might have noticed, things that don't happen in baseball are a lot more interesting than things that do.
An interesting example is what is going to happen next Monday. That is the day teams get to add huge bunches of players to their active rosters – anonymous people from the minors with names like Bob Dernier, coaches who decided they would rather make comebacks than hit fungoes, rookie broadcasters, 42-year-old relief pitchers from the Mexican League, almost anybody who ever played or ever might.
But for all the people who do get added that day, there are about 4½ billion more who don't. Now they're the ones who are fascinating.
Among the Phillies who won't be added that day are Ruben Amaro, Richie Ashburn, Andy Musser, Joe Lis and Jesus Hernaiz. But at least there are obvious reasons for that.
They are also not calling up three other familiar names. Remember Scott Munninghoff? The name Jim Wright ring a bell? And whatever happened to John Poff anyhow? There are reasons that these three won't be joining the. Phillies next week, too. But their stories are a bit more involved.
You hear about Scott Munninghoff now, and you worry.
This March he was going to be the next Warren Brusstar. Dallas Green made the bold decision to take him north out of spring training, even though he was only 21 and hadn't pitched higher than Double A. He had a great spring and a great arm. The only fear was that he might have to sit around a lot and that he was too young to do that.
What happened to him was almost inevitable. He pitched four times in five weeks. Rust settled on his spring-training groove. He wasn't helping the Phillies, and the Phillies weren't helping him.
So four days before the great May 23 nonstrike, he was sent back to Oklahoma City. It had been only five wasted weeks out of his career. But after three months, he still is trying to recover.
He was 3-6 in Oklahoma City as of Aug. 11. His earned-run average was 4.74. He had allowed 45 walks and 90 hits in 74 innings. He lost the mechanics he needed to throw his Brusstar-like sinker. Eventually, he lost the confidence he needed to throw it, too.
"Naturally, I'm concerned about what happened to Scotty," Phillies farm director Howie Bedell said. "I'm always concerned when a young player is placed in a position where his career is not moving forward. But if you think back on the set of circumstances when he made the club in spring training, I don't think you can say anything has been the fault of anyone here. He certainly deserved the opportunity he got.
"But now, how long it will take for him to more or less recover from that opportunity? No one in baseball can tell you those things."
Munninghoff will go home to Cincinnati when his season ends this weekend. Then he will journey to the Florida Instructional League later this fall. The hope is that he can find himself again.
"The encouraging thing," Bedell said, "is that there's nothing physically wrong with him. Because of that, I have to think the mental side will slowly come back."
It always has been the physical side of Jim Wright that has kept him from showing his certifiably big league stuff in Philadelphia. Arm injuries ended his season when he was 14-6 in August, 1977... and again after five games in 1978... and again before spring training was a month old in 1979.
This year at Okie City was his first full season of pitching since 1976, when he was 21. He had constant pain. He had a body full of aches. He was stiffer than a hard-cover dictionary. But he battled through that to have a fine year (9-6, 3.88, 41 strikeouts and 97 hits in 100 innings)
"He's still the same kind of pitcher he was before," Bedell said. "He hasn't showed any fear of throwing any kind of pitch. He's still very aggressive, still a power pitcher. It was just a matter of getting through the soreness."
He pitched a series of games late in the year "that made you pretty excited about what Jim Wright can do," Bedell said. "He had consistency within the strike zone. He showed a fastball that was very consistent with velocity. And he had the kind of movement you look for from Jim Wright."
They could have brought him to Philly this September. But there is no point in rushing him now. He, too, will; head for .the Instructional League. And if he keeps moving forward, Bedell said, "I really believe Jim Wright might be somebody you look to to make the club next spring."
It is hard to know what to think about John Poff. He will be 28 in October. He has played pro ball for seven seasons and has 19 major league at-bats. He has also spent 3½ seasons at Oklahoma City, and each season has been better than the one before.
This year he was hitting .295 with 13 homers and 86 RBIs through Aug. 11. Yet the list of September additions came out this week, and he wasn't on it.
"He was recommended. He was not taken," Bedell said tersely. "I really can't comment too much more than that."
A lefthanded-hitting outfielder-first baseman, Poff might be a guy destined to be a great minor league hitter and nothing more. Or he might be a big league talent who simply will have to go somewhere else to show it.
If the Phillies are down on him, lie has to take some of the blame himself. He was up last September arid went 2-for-19 (.105). He had a shot this spring and was 1-for-17 (.059).
On the other hand "he has done; everything he can do as a minor leaguer," Bedell said. "It's puzzled me why someone at the major league-level is not interested in John Poff."
Lately, however, a few teams have shown some interest, Bedell said. He thinks the Phillies owe it to Poff to trade him if they don't want him. He probably will get his wish.