Philadelphia Daily News - July 25, 1980

Green Isn’t Phils’ Problem


By Bill Conlin


Chances are slim and none that Dallas Green will be overthrown by his players in a Palace Revolt.


Managers are fired when their teams fail to win over a significant period of time. They are rarely fired because the players don't like the way they part their hair, fill out the lineup card or expose their frailties to the press.


Danny Ozark wasn't even one-third of the way through his rookie 1973 season when a junta led by several name players asked GM Paul Owens to sack his new manager and take over the field operation, a la 1972. Owens told them he sympathized with their disenchantment, but that the ballclub owed Ozark a longer look. The Pope came within inches of firing Danny that September. but decided during a two-week evaluation that the Phillies were sixth on merit, not due to managerial misfeasance, although The Wizard's performance left much to be desired.


OZARK SURVIVED THE attempted coup until last September, the winningest managing run of the club's modern era.


The athletes grew very comfortable with the Ozark style. He was like a well broken-in pair of bedroom slippers, not much to look at but just the thing for lounging by the fireplace. For the most part, he left them alone, took most of the raps for their deficiencies with stolid acceptance and asked in return only to be liked. They didn't all like him, but most of the athletes knew he beat hell out of the alternative. There were tears when Ozark was fired in Atlanta and a new, much louder and more personal voice came booming at them. The alternative turned out to be a guy who wasn't afraid to look you in the eye and tell you where you stood; or, as Rawly Eastwick, Doug Bird and Lerrin LaGrow have found out this season, to act swiftly on his evaluations.


Some ballclubs thrive in a laissez faire atmosphere. No club was ever more blandly led than the championship Cardinal teams under Red Schoendienst. But that was a talented outfit brimming with extroverted leader types, including Bob Gibson, Curt Flood, Tim McCarver and Mike Shannon. They winked at Red's managing blunders and laughed their way to pennants.


Clyde Beatty would have had trouble managing the Oakland A's dynasty of the early and mid 70s. But they performed as well for Alvin Dark, who they despised, as they did for Dick Williams, who they respected. The same holds true for the Damn Yankees, who won amid the turmoil created by Billy Martin, who won under the low profile tenure of Bob Lemon and who are on the way to winning again under the soft hands of Dick Howser.


TALENT WILL RUSH to the surface in baseball and almost anything else where the object is to compete and win.


There is a significant difference between the Schoendienst Cardinals, Fightin' A's, Damn Yankees and Dephiant Phillies, though. Three of four won pennants and world championships. The Phillies of this era have finished second three times. Division titles are nice, but every year two of the four winners pack the first week in October and go home. The 1977 Phillies, the best assembly of sheer talent in the long and often futile history of the franchise, coughed it up to the Dodgers on Black Friday, Game 3 of the playoffs. They peaked that somber afternoon, one out away from a victory which probably would have put them into a World Series and a lofty place in the town's athletic history. But they didn't get the out, the win or the chance to take one of their next two games at home. Everything that has followed that vivid, frozen-in-time moment has been a gradual decline, a slow, inevitable erosion as difficult to measure as a stream eating at a limestone bed.


The 1980 offense is not as productive, nor is the bench as deep and versatile as it was in 77. The pitching staff is not as experienced, balanced or blessed with healthy arms. It is an injury-prone team often forced to play at a limp, with 39-year-old Pete Rose the only certified Iron Man. The average age of the everyday nucleus – Mike Schmidt, Greg Luzinski, Larry Bowa, Manny Trillo, Garry Maddox, Bake McBride, Bob Boone and Rose – is on the upside of 30.. Unless somebody comes up with a way to stop time in its tracks, they will never be healthier or more skilled as a unit than they are today, even though several individuals may still have peak years ahead of them.


LONG-TERM CONTRACTS do not guarantee longevity, durability or dedication to a cause. What separates a house cat from the jungle predator is centuries of not having had the need to hunt. In a compressed time frame, ballclubs respond to the same primal urges.


Dallas Green took the job over his own objections. But once he weighed the pluses and minuses, he felt instinctively that the athletes would respond with elan and renewed dedication to the challenge he would thrust at them, that they would dare to be great in their last-chance pursuit of the championship they had three times come so close to grasping. "We Not I," became a slogan he hoped would symbolize a renewed commitment to team unity. It is a slogan some players are currently throwing in his face. They much preferred the Ozark style of taking the rap for them. Green's published criticism of individual and team play has wounded their delicate sensibilities. They would prefer to continue winning as a team and losing as a team, although group indictment does not appeal to them all that much, either. While they accept and expect lavish praise as something that comes with the territory, any form of fair criticism falls under the heading of "negative," as in, ''bleeping negative sports writers, negative fans, negative manager." Etc. The only constant thread which runs through all of this is the club's consistent failure to live up to the greatness predicted for it and expected of it by Ruly Carpenter, Paul Owens and Dallas Green. That constant demand, a bill which long ago came due, is known as "pressure."


"UNDUE PRESSURE" IS the presence of outside influences which amplify the normal difficulties of hitting big-league pitching and getting big-league hitters out. It includes a clubhouse as warm with media members who, in the players', eyes, circle like vultures over a wounded water buffalo, each guy out to write a story more critical and damning than his competitors. A Trenton Times story by a non-sports writer revealing an investigation of illegal prescriptions for amphetamines allegedly issued to several players by a Reading team physician only confirmed, "the bastards are out to get us."


Not even the most aware and sensitive members of Millionaire's Row bothered to consider that on the day the story broke, four of the beat regulars who cover the team were at the All-Star Game and a fifth was on vacation.


Nor did Greg Luzinski bother to point out in his, "Dallas. Shut Up!" manifesto that the manager spouts reams of praise when the team is winning and playing to its capabilities, that he frequently has criticized himself for strategy moves that backfired and for every brutally frank remark about Randy Lerch's grim season, Dallas has tried to balance it with a personal feeling of chagrin, "for being a pitching guy and not coming up with any answers to help the kid."


"All I've done is asked these guys to look in the mirror and see if they like what they see." Green reiterated after the club's sixth straight loss in Cincinnati. "If they can handle our performances lately without doing some soul-searching, then we're worse off than I think we are. I think there's been an improvement in this team's character, but being able to handle criticism is part of the whole deal."


"CHARACTER" IN A baseball sense is the ability to win more one-run games than you lose, the willingness of a big RBI man to slap a ground ball to the right side with nobody out and a runner on second, the way Ray Knight did for the Reds Wednesday night to set up an insurance run. "Character" in a baseball sense is Lonnie Smith saying, "1 blew it, cost us the game," after misjudging a first-inning fly ball ' in Atlanta. It is worrying about a teammate once in a while, instead of pointing a finger at him. It is placing a victory ahead of a personal 0-for-4.


And more than anything else, perhaps, it is taking a hard look at your beautiful ballpark, spacious clubhouse and at the wealthy, frustrated man upstairs who is paying you a salary beyond your wildest boyhood dreams. Then it is time to ask if you are stealing the money or giving a dollar for a dollar. And that is the mirror Dallas Green is talking about.

Scandals Can Have a Bright Side (excerpt)


By Tom Cushman


Returning to Philadelphia from baseball's' All-Star Game two weeks ago, I was astonished to discover my name over a story in this newspaper. It was in response to a story in a Trenton newspaper suggesting that four Phillies players would be questioned in a drugs investigation. Included in the Trenton story were several words which were not mentioned in my journalism ethics class, "unidentified source" being two which come immediately to mind.


SINCE MY contribution to the story had been a half-dozen quotes of denial from the two Phillies who were in Los Angeles for the All-Star Game, since I did not like the feel of the story when it was first relayed to me in its unconfirmed state, and since I am not acquainted with the Trenton author, the response to having my name associated with it was not that of a gentleman.


Now that two weeks have passed, and the state police do not exactly have the Phillies under siege, I am even less fond of that story than I was when it was first overplayed. Leaning on the hope that something positive can rise from any landfill, I sense that perhaps the area media are somewhat ashamed of themselves and will be less anxious to participate in this kind of knee-jerk, reaction journalism in the future.


This undoubtedly will come as a shock to many readers, but our profession has among those in its employ a quota of incompetents, pirates, cheats and all-around bad folks. Happily, as in most other professions, they are in the minority and very few are at work in the Delaware Valley. Those involved with putting my' name over a story I did not believe in are clean... they were simply under pressure to respond to the kind of report that readers, and thus the modern media service, seem to adore.


An obvious by-product of the incident is cooled relations between the Phillies and the media. Which is like saying cold water was poured over ice cubes. For some reason baseball, in its state of affluence, has taken the position that if one media representative is south of competent, then all must be lumped in the same category. Which is like saying that every shortstop in baseball is as bad as the worst one.


GRANTING OUR inadequacies, what is perplexing is that we seem to have fewer problems in dealing with the city's other professional teams. There are occasional disagreements between a media type and an athlete from the Eagles, the Flyers, the 76ers, for instance, but they usually are dealt with on a personal basis. The general atmosphere is cordial, that of two people going about their jobs.


I lay awake at night, wondering why it is different with the Phillies.