Camden Courier-Post - August 6, 1980

Choose:  Bull’s return or speed to burn?


By Ray W. Kelly of the Courier-Post


PHILADELPHIA – As the monsoon that washed away last evening's game between the Phillies and Cardinals turned Veterans Stadium into a major league water slide for several hundred human torpedoes, Phils' Manager Dallas Green was elsewhere seeking shelter from hypothetical questions.


That's hypothetical as in: "What would you do about Lonnie Smith and Greg Luzinski if both showed up tomorrow, healthy and ready to play?"


Such a question is not exactly a trip to Fantasy Island for a manager who has enough real life problems to fill his waking hours, especially when it has all the trappings of the old, "When did you stop beating your wife?" routine.


"Oooh, I won't get into that!" said Dallas. "I can't look into the future. By the time that situation arises, I might have six other guys hurt."


A Cheshire smile crossed his face, however, before he continued by saying, "What would I do?... I know what I'd do. But, I'm not going to tell."


It doesn't take a mind reader to figure it out. Smith is on fire offensively and is rapidly emerging as a star of the future. The prophecy of the talent experts within the organization is finally coming true.


Yet, Smith's personal success may not be the major reason why, at this point in time, the Phillies would prefer that The Bull take his time in battling the flu virus that is complicating the rehabilitation of his right knee.


A change in attitude is overtaking the club. With Luzinski on the sidelines and Mike Schmidt the only consistent home run threat in the batting order, the team knows it's not going to long ball many opponents into submission.


It would be foolish to blame Luzinski if the offense has shown a tendency in the past to keep the "big inning" in the back of its mind. The fact that the club might do so just proves how much it thinks of the big guy's prowess at the plate. When his bat booms along with Schmidt's, the Phils are awesome.


Some people believe, however, that this reliance on the big bats in the heart of the lineup has encouraged a lay-back kind of approach that turns the offense flat when the home run lulls occur.


The presence of Smith in left field changes everything. It converts the attack into a one-run type of approach. And, as former Phillies' Manager Gene Mauch always insisted, "It's amazing how many times you go looking for one run and find half a dozen."


Speed rather than power has always been the team's most potent weapon. With Lonnie igniting the fires, there seems to be a growing interest among the other players in the running attack.


"When Smith gets on first base, he's already in scoring position," said one member of the club. "And, those one-run innings have a way of becoming a big lead."


In the long run, the old belief that the odds are against a team going all the way if it lacks a true home run duo anchoring the batting order may hold true. This is where pitching becomes most crucial.


If the Phils' hurlers can consistently keep games tight, the one-run attack can be most effective. And, there is a mounting feeling in the Phillies' clubhouse that the pitching staff may do just that coming down the stretch.


Early in the season, there was Steve Carlton and lots of hope. But, week by week the club's pitching situation has steadily improved. Dick Ruthven has posted 10 victories and has yet to reach top form. Bob Walk has eight wins and is still getting his feet wet.


Nino Espinosa keeps improving. And, righthander Larry Christenson threw on the sidelines yesterday and uncorked the kind of velocity that could beat people tomorrow. His still tender arm will be eased back into action as a reliever.


The bullpen, maligned early in the year, has gotten better and better. Warren Brusstar, once considered the second-toughest reliever in the league, rates himself at 80 percent and coming on strong.


Even before the season started, the players insisted that the pitching staff would be the key to a successful season. If the arms can come on strong during the game-cluttered weeks ahead, and the offense can keep from going back on its heels, the Pirates and Expos may get a surprise.


If you're a Phillies' fan, it's a hypothetical situation worth considering.

Boone on committee


NEW YORK – A baseball study committee charged with considering the matter of compensation for free agent signings holds its first meeting tomorrow.


The committee was created as part of the settlement of the basic agreement negotiations which nearly led to a strike of the players last May.


It consists of Frank Cashen, executive vice president and general manager of the New York Mets, and Harry Dalton, who has the same title with the Milwaukee Brewers, representing management, with Bob Boone of the Phillies and Sal Bando of the Milwaukee Brewers representing the players. Scott McGregor of the Baltimore Orioles and Elliott Maddox of the New York Mets are the alternates for the players.