Reading Eagle - August 6, 1980
Issue Is Speed Versus Power
Phillies’ first-year manager will have a big decision to make when Greg Luzinski returns.
PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Dallas Green describes it as a pleasant dilemma – what to do when Greg Luzinski’s injured knee mends.
The Phillies manager will have to decide whether to start his home run slugger in place of the speedy Lonnie Smith.
Green discussed the dilemma, which is still a couple of weeks away, before Tuesday night’s game between the Phillies and the St. Louis Cardinals was postponed because of a torrential downpour.
Green’s decision would be easy if it weren’t for Smith. The 24-year-old rookie outfielder has turned into the catalyst that has kept the Phillies in contention for the National League East title.
Smith has hit in eight of his last 10 games, 15-for-45, a .333 average with 13 runs scored. He’s stolen 10 straight bases and 17 of his last 18 attempts to lead the club in that department.
Only two catchers have thrown him out, Pittsburgh’s Steve Nicosia, July 12, and Chicago’s Tim Blackwell, May 21.
Smith has given the Phillies a whole new dimension. If he walks or gets a single, it’s vintage Maury Wills or Lou Brock. It’s like a double.
And with Pete Rose and Bake McBride following Smith in the batting order, it’s like a ready made run.
Smith is averaging .348 overall, with 45 runs scored in just 59 games. Rose is hitting .292 and has 42 RBI, a number of them due to Smith’s ability to get into scoring position.
McBride, who has hit in nine straight and 21 of 22, is batting .317 with a career best already of 62 RBI. When Smith doesn’t get himself across, McBride does.
“It’s too early to get into that,” Green said when asked what he would do if Luzinski returned. “I really haven’t thought about it.”
But obviously he has, if you consider his next words.
“When ‘Bull’ (Luzinski) gets back you have to think of the threat he is with the long ball. He puts power in the lineup,” Green said.
Then, Green looked at the other side of the coin.
“Lonnie (Smith) adds a new dimension, one I’ve preached, encouraged, fought for. I’d hate to see that destroyed or put in the background,” Green said.
“At the same time I can’t afford to forget what Luzinski has done in the past. It’s a pleasant problem. I’ll just have to have patience and deal with it two or three days before it happens,” Green said.
Green discussed Smith’s aggressiveness, and noted that Rose batting next has given the rookie a chance to steal.
“Pete takes two strikes. He’s not afraid to hit with two strikes. He gives Lonnie two shots to take a shot at the guy (the pitcher or catcher or both),” Green said.
Then Green got a little more philosophical.
“Baseball has a way of working out our problems. But I’ve never backed off making a decision… If nothing else is accomplished in 1980, it will be the thought on this team that this is a 25-man team. Whoever the manager puts out there, there is a good reason. It’s for the team’s sake. That guy is there because he can help us win.
“Everybody wants to play. I understand that as a baseball man. But production is the name of the game. If a kid or extra man produces there should be no question about the manager making a change. It’s been a very difficult thing to accomplish on this team,” Green said.
Maybe baseball will solve Green’s dilemma. The NL meets in Detroit Aug. 11-12 and one of the items on the agenda will be the designated-hitter rule. The American League has it, and the National League doesn’t.
But opposition to the DH appears to be rapidly disappearing in the National as teams consider what to do with oldsters such as Rose, Willie Stargell, and Johnny Bench and defensively weak players such as Dave Kingman and Jeff Burroughs.
It only takes seven votes from the 12-team league to approve the DH and those perennially against it are weakening – Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and Los Angeles.