Wilmington Morning News - August 29, 1980

Doesn’t anybody want to win in the frantic NL East?


By Ralph Bernstein, AP Sports Writer


PHILADELPHIA – Nobody is going to win the National League East. Two teams apparently are going to lose it.


If you've been following the adventures of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Montreal Expos and Philadelphia Phillies the last three weeks, they make a crossword puzzle look like a first-grade primer. Last night's standings had Pittsburgh in first place, half a game ahead of Montreal. Philadelphia is 2½ back in third place.


Just to give you an idea of what's going on, the Phillies came home from a road trip, won four, lost five and gained a full game on first place.


Here are some other paradoxes:


•  The New York Mets went to Pittsburgh and beat the Pirates two out of three. The Phillies visited Pittsburgh and were wiped out four straight. The Phillies then traveled to New York and blitzed the Mets five straight.


•  Pittsburgh hosted Montreal and beat the Expos analysis three of four, beat Cincinnati three straight in Cincinnati, then came home and got whipped three times by the Atlanta Braves.


Doesn't anybody want to win this thing?


Basically, the Pirates appear to have the team with the most depth. Pittsburgh also has a favorable home schedule for the rest of the season, 24 at home and 11 away. The Pirates usually are unbeatable in their Three Rivers Stadium.


Both the Expos and Phillies are away most of September. In head-to-head confrontations, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have four games left, two home and two away. Philadelphia has six games against Montreal, evenly split home and away. Montreal and Pittsburgh meet five times, three times in Canada and twice at Pittsburgh.


Injuries undoubtedly will play a big part in the final outcome. And you can't forget the other three teams in the division. All are capable of playing the part of spoilers, especially the Mets, who have shown signs of developing into a fine young team, and St Louis with its excellent hitting. The Cubs, despite their last-place position, can be rough, especially in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field.


Also, keep in mind that last year the Pirates didn't clinch the East until the last day of the season. History could very well repeat, unless one of the three teams has a hot streak.


Since pitching generally is considered the name of the game, the Pirates appear to have more depth, especially in the bullpen where Kent Tekulve, Grant Jackson and Enrique Romo hang their hats. Pirates' manager Chuck Tanner, however, has to nurse his starters. Don Robinson and John Candelaria have been inconsistent because of various ailments. Jim Bibby, 15-4, has held this staff together.


The Phillies have Steve Carlton, 20-7 and a top contender for the Cy Young Award, and Dick Ruthven, 12-8. The next best winner is rookie Bob Walk, who hasn't been able to get anybody out in his last five starts. The bullpen is erratic.


Montreal Manager Dick Williams has to go with youth for the most part in his starting rotation – Scott Sanderson, Bill Gullickson and Dave Palmer, who is ailing at the moment. His bullpen of Woodie Fryman, Stan Bahnsen and Elias Sosa appears to be the key.


All three teams have solid hitters. Philadelphia and Montreal might have an edge on defense. The Phillies could have a morale problem with Manager Dallas Green's system of rotating outfielders Greg Luzinski, Garry Maddox, Bake McBride and rookie Lonnie Smith.


Tanner is concerned with the condition of Willie Stargell, the heart and soul of the "We Are Family" Pirates. Stargell is on on the disabled list for the second time this season. He, probably more than any one player, is almost indispensable, not just for his clutch performances, but his inspirational leadership. To many people "Pops" Stargell is the Pirates.


Pick a winner?


The Pirates, but don't bet on it.

Phils seeing stars


Left-hander Mark Davis of the Reading Phillies, the Eastern League's Most Valuable Player, is among those selected to this season's all-star team.


Four other Reading players were selected for the team by managers and writers – second baseman Steve Curry, shortstop Ryne Sandberg, outfielder Bob Dernier and designated hitter Ozzie Virgil (in a tie with Buffalo's Al Torres).


Davis, a left-hander with an 19-6 record and more strikeouts than any pitcher in the minors, Dernier and Virgil will join the Phillies for the stretch drive once Reading finishes its playoff season.