Philadelphia Inquirer - June 29, 1980

The Greening of the Phils

 

By Bill Lyon

 

Dallas Green's mission was clear: Shake the Phillies out of their peculiar lethargy. Turn an icicle into a volcano.

 

Three months into Green's first full season as manager, a week before the All-Star break, the Phillies are in second place. Surprising, maybe, when you consider their pitching problems. Disappointing, perhaps, if you have been disappointed before.

 

Dallas Green is just a little bit disappointed. The Phillies, he says, "still don't always make the best use of their God-given abilities. This team still has a tendency to lean on its raw talents instead of working hard all the time.

 

Does he still think he can change that?

 

"Maybe that's not possible after they've had so many years of doing things mostly their own way.... They were successful, to some degree, doing it their way. They won three division titles, but they never won it all, and unless they change, they never will"

 

And if they don't?

 

"If this club can't win together this year, then you have to clean it up," Green says.

 

Herewith, a report on Dallas Green's reclamation project.

 

Ya gotta have a gimmick. In Pittsburgh, it's blaring tape decks and players' wives dancing on the top of the dugout and the incessant throbbing of "We Are Fam-Ah-LEEEEE "

 

Come on, now. Does all that stuff about harmony and closeness help you grind out a run in the bottom of the 10th?

 

"It's bullchips. But it doesn't hurt, either," says Dallas Green.

 

In Los Angeles, the gimmick is Dodger blue and a roly-poly manager waddling around, playing host to celebs and raving about that big Dodger in the sky.

 

"Sure, that's bullchips, too. A gimmick."

 

"But," says Dallas Green, "if you, if the guys who are involved, believe in it, then it's no longer a gimmick."

 

The Phillies had a gimmick for a long time, too. An icicle. This was a team that was big on being cool. Long and tall and cool.

 

The only problem was that when the icicle got shoved into the blast furnace of the playoffs, it melted into a puddle.

 

So Dallas Green took over as manager and he came in, not with a whip and a chair, but armed with a blowtorch. The first thing he wanted to do was melt that ice. He plastered the walls with the slogan that would be his gimmick: "WE ... not I."

 

"Character, that's what I believe in," says Dallas Green. "And I do think this club does have a character."

 

But is it enough character to win a division, to win a playoff, to qualify for a World Series?

 

For several seasons now, we have been told that the Phillies have the best starting eight in the bigs, but the best starting eight, come October, become eight spectators at the Series.

 

How long do you wait? How long do you go with this starting eight before you say, that's enough, they've had their chance, it's time to reshape the team?

 

Presidents get four-year terms. The Phillies are into their fifth year of being expected to win it all.

 

"I still believe we can do it with this bunch," Dallas Green says.

 

When will he change his mind?

 

"Not until September, or whenever we're eliminated ... if we are," he says.

 

Let's say the Phils finish third, behind Montreal and Pittsburgh. "If this club can't win together this year, then you have to clean it up. I've already started playing some kids, and we've got some more in the minors who can help. So then we make a key trade or two," Green says.

 

Just like that. Dallas Green comes right over the top. No deception, no nibbling around the corners. He answers questions the way he wants his pitchers to work go right after the hitter.

 

"Believe me, we did a lot of soul-searching over the winter about the long-range future of this team," Green says. "You don't accomplish things overnight, but if, after there has been every opportunity to turn things around, and they still haven't, then there comes a time when you have to bite the bullet."

 

Break up the Phillies? A wholesale housecleaning? Or, as Green hints, one or two trades? How drastic an overhaul is needed? Not much, obviously, if this team continues to hang tough without the benefit of a starting pitching staff.

 

But how difficult would a major shake-up of personnel be? Aren't the Phils locked into all sorts of no-trade contracts? Didn't they tie themselves down with that rash of long-term, megabucks deals? Didn't they paint themselves into a negotiating corner?

 

Either no one knows for sure, or they don't want to say. But apparently there are varying definitions of what constitutes "no-trade."

 

Some contracts specify just that: A player cannot be traded, period. Others fall into the category of 10 years in the majors, five with the same team, which exempts them from being traded without their consent. And some Phillies reportedly have contracts that say they can be traded, but only to certain teams.

 

Then again, by this autumn maybe any talk of dismantling this team will be foolish. Maybe Dallas Green's reclamation project will be a success, and the Phils will find a way to win the National League East... and go beyond that.

 

Certainly, the manager himself deserves a bouquet or two. He has a team in contention, with the All-Star break nearly here, despite a pitching staff that is a shambles. Folks, it ain't easy finagling a starting roiation that begins and ends with Steve Carlton, and in between are sore arms, head cases and apprentices who are forced to make their learner's mistakes in the big time.

 

"Our pitching's such a mess, it's a wonder we are where we are," Green agrees. "It's amazing we've kept our heads above water."

 

But there aren't many life preservers to throw out, and there are times when Dallas Green musi feel like a drowning man clulching at a razor blade. But he is a scuffler, and that is what the Phillies need now, a hard case who can get his hackles up and isn't afraid to spit into the wind.

 

"I haven't panicked, and there has been cause to panic," he says, smiling.

 

All right, he had that 30-day, end-of-the-season inspection of the trenches last fall, and that long winter of soul-searching, and now he's about halfway through this season. Would he like to be a manager forever?

 

"No way."

 

Does he have any ulcers yet?

 

"I don't believe in ulcers."

 

How about some fresh sprouts of gray hair, then?

 

"My wife thinks so."

 

Well, when he took over, succeeding Danny Ozark, the game plan was that he would rattle some cages, blow away that icy air of nonchalance in the Phillies' clubhouse.

 

"I've enjoyed this job more than I thought I would," he says, "but I haven't accomplished a lot of what I hoped I could. There have been some disappointments.

 

"I'm pleased with the reception of their attitude towards work, squeeze bunts, hit-and-run, the making-things-happen atmosphere instead of sitting around and waiting to get bailed out by the home run. We're a better fundamental team now.

 

"But probably the single most disappointing thing is I get frustrated with them because they still don't always make the best use of their God-given abilities. This team still has a tendency to lean on its raw talents instead of working hard all the time.

 

"See, everybody else has caught up to us in terms of natural ability, especially Pittsburgh and Montreal, the teams we're gonna have to beat. So now we gotta grind it out. And we still have a tendency not to go for the jugular."

 

Dallas Green is a realist. He admits that what he is seeking is Utopia. If he were managing 24 other players who smoldered with the same raging fires as his first baseman, he wouldn't even have to come to the ball park. But Pete Rose is a throwback, and you can't give personality transfusions.

 

What Dallas Green wants from the Phillies is some old-fashioned wallowing down in the dirt, some screw-your-navel-to-the-ground combativeness. He wants that icicle to become a volcano.

 

"Maybe that's not possible after they've had so many years of doing things mostly their own way," he says. "It's not the sort of thing you can change overnight. They were successful, to some degree, doing it their way. They won three division titles, but they never won it all, and unless they change, they never will."

 

How does Green feel the team has reacted to him? "At first, skeptical. And then a little apprehensive. Spring training helped them understand me. I think I have helped turn their heads to a goal they say they want. I'm not a cop or a DI (drill instructor), but I refuse to let them slip back into old habits, take the easy way out. I ruffle some feathers. And when I say things bluntly, there's some, well, I don't know what the word is."

 

Pouting?

 

"That may be too strong. ... Ah, I guess pouting is as good a word as any for getting my point across."

 

Once upon a time, Dallas Green had a gifted arm. He was a pitcher of promise. He hurt the arm, and it went dead. But he refused to let the rest of him die, and for five more seasons he hung on in the big time through sheer perseverance and grit and trying, and what really burns him is to see gifted players satisfied with coasting, with playing far below their potential.

 

"I know that if you're willing to work, to sacrifice, you can stay in the major leagues even if you don't have the greatest talent," he says.

 

The inference is clear. There are some Phillies content with just getting by on natural skills. But whenever anyone came at them with a cattle prod, they crept off into a corner and sulked. The only thing that burned them up was when somebody tried to light a fire under them. Danny Ozark, the critics said, let them have their way. The reins were loose and slack. The administration was one of benign neglect.

 

The picture that was painted in the media was that the Phillies' clubhouse was a country club, inhabited by spoiled, pampered egomaniacs who nonchalanted their way to the pay window, who won because they were better than any other team in the NL East and didn't have to break a sweat. And then went belly up when it was time to put out.

 

Was that an accurate evaluation?

 

"I think it's probably too harsh," Dallas Green says.

 

"It's true that they were spoiled in that they had been allowed to do many things their own way, which wasn't always the right way. But you can't put all the blame on them.

 

"It starts with the manager and the coaching staff. Everyone says the toughest part of managing is running the pitching staff, but I think the hardest part is dealing with attitude, with handling 25 different personalities.

 

"It's natural that when you have pretty much had things your way, there will be some built-in resistance to change. But that doesn't mean things can't be changed. And they're going to be here. But it doesn't happen right away."

 

True. You can't reshape habits thot have accumulated over several seasons in a matter of months. An impatient person would say, don't bother. Just ship 'em all out and bring in brand new personalities that haven't had a chance to develop bad habits. Go with the young, hungry kids.

 

That, of course, is not realistic, not in this era of legal and financial entanglements.

 

Dallas Green, who is going to be the Phillies' general manager one of these days, knows that. He is a realist, too. So he will try to change and make over what he has. For this season, anyway.

 

It is not easy for him. He has had to rein himself in.

 

"Being a screamer and a yeller by nature, I've had to pick my spots a little more than I ordinarily would," he says. "Basically, I'm a spontaneous person and I say what's on my mind, right now."

 

His predecessor didn't. Danny Ozark was too easy-going. He gave his players enough rope, and, sure enough, it got him hanged. Dallas Green is still pulling in the rope, still tightening up the slack, trying to get things taut.

 

Like his young pitchers, he is learning by doing.

 

"I'm the kind of guy who will make two mistakes, but I'll outwork them," he says.

 

He is a large, physically imposing man, and his eyes have a glint to them. They throw off sparks.

 

Because his primary concern is changing the attitude, he has relied on his coaching staff for the mechanics of managing.

 

How would he rate himself as a tactician?

 

"Fair," he says, bluntly. "But learning all the time."

 

And how many games does a major-league manager actually win or lose by the strategy he employs, or fails to employ?

 

 

"Over a full season, I'd guess there are maybe 10 games where the blame or the credit rests squarely on the manager's shoulders. Mostly, it's making a decision and having the courage to stick with it."

Home run derby keys on No. 50

 

By Allen Lewis on baseball

 

In the 60 years that major league baseball has been played with the lively ball, hitting 50 home runs in a season has been accomplished just 17 times, and by only 10 different players. Jimmie Foxx, Ralph Kiner, Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays each did it twice. Babe Ruth, who started it all when he banged out 54 in 1920, did it four times.

 

Every year, when some slugger gets off to a fast start, comparisons are made to Ruth's record of 60 in a 154-game season or to Roger Maris' record of 61 in a 162-game campaign. Few of these early-foot hitters even reach 50. Since Maris hit 61 and teammate Mickey Mantle hit 54 in 1961, it has been done only twice – by Mays with 52 in 1965 and by George Foster of the Reds with 52 in 1977.

 

Mike Schmidt of the Phillies has a shot at 50 this season, as well as an outside chance to equal or break the National League record of 56, set by Hack Wilson of the Cubs in 1930.

 

A survey of how the 10 players were faring at the end of June in their 50-or-more home run seasons given an indication of Schmidt's chances to become the sixth NL player to reach that figure. Ruth holds the record for the highest total at the end of June with 30 in 1928, when he hit 54. He also hit 30 through June of 1930, but finished with only 49. Foxx hit 29 in 1932 en route to his 58; Ruth had 28 when he hit 59 in 1921, and both Maris and Mantle had 27 in 1961.

 

The fewest any 50-homer man had at the end of June was the 17 Kiner hit in 1947, three behind league leader Johnny Mize. Both finished with 51 that season. Kiner is the only 50-homer man to hit less than 20 after June. He had 54 homers in 1949, only 19 coming after June.

 

This is the fourth time Schmidt has hit 20 or more by the end of June. He hit 21 in 1976 and 1977 and 23 last season, when he set the club record of 45. The only other Phils to hit over 20 by June 30 are Cy Williams, who had 21 in 1923 en route to a total of 41, and Chuck Klein, who had 24 in 1932 en route to 38.

 

The Pirates' Willie Stargell set a National League record in 1971, hitting 28 homers by June 30, but then slumped to finish with 48. Last year, Dave Kingman of the Cubs hit his 27th on June 30 and also wound up with 48. In 1930, when he hit his record 56, Wilson had 22 at the end of June.

 

NOTES: If Bobby Cox is fired, A's coach Clete Boyer is said to be in line to succeed him as manager of the Braves.... Rangers outfielder Al Oliver, a chronic complainer about his lack of recognition, disappeared from a mid-June game in Toronto after grounding out, causing manager Pat Corrales to remark sarcastically, "I guess it got too hot (77 degrees) for him." All Oliver would say: "It was personal."… Dodgers outfielder Reggie Smith says he'll boycott the All-Star Game this year because two years ago, when the game was in San Diego, he was unable to buy extra tickets. "I'm just not interested in it (the game) because of the treatment I got," he said. "I think it stinks."... The Red Sox, much maligned as a team that can't win on the road, had a 20-14 road record through last Sunday and a 146-130 away log since the start of 1977.... If I were Mets general manager Frank Cashen, I'd sign manager Joe Torre to a long-term contract before some other club steals him.... In one stretch up to mid-June, 20 rival lefthanded pitchers started in 26 games against the White Sox.

 

 

The answer to last week's Trivia Question: Lloyd Waner of the Pirates got 223 hits in 1927 and batted in only 27 runs, the fewest RBIs by any major leaguer in this century in a season in which he got more than 200 hits. First with the correct answer was Joe Hayes Jr. of Norristown.

 

 

This week's question (submitted by Robert Friedman of Lansdale): What major leaguer in the past 40 years led his league in errors, strikeouts and in grounding into double plays in a season in which he was named Most Valuable Player?

Phillies lose two to Mets

 

Bullpen falters in second game

 

By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer

 

It ended with Keith Moreland looking at strike three, with 25 Mets hugging each other on the field, with Dallas Green steaming.

 

It ended with the Mets sweeping two from the Phillies, an inglorious occasion that surely marked the low point of what had been a pretty decent year until a few days ago.

 

It ended after seven torturous hours, with the Phillies dropping their eighth game in their last 10, with the Mets winning their seventh in their last eight. Don't look now, but the Mets (25-18 in the last six weeks) are just 2½ games behind the Phillies.

 

The scores were 2-1 in game one, 5-4 in game two. The Phillies wasted nine good innings from Dick Ruthven in the first game before Ron Reed (6-2) lost it in the 11th. They wasted 6-1/3 good innings from Dan Larson in the second before Reed gave up the tying runs in the eighth and Kevin Saucier (3-2) lost it in the ninth.

 

"We're struggling. We're raining inside," said Green, who refused to talk to the press after game one. "The offense has no idea what it's doing. Defensively, we fouled up. And the pitching is thin.

 

"We can't play baseball the way we should be when we're hurting physically. But worst of all, we're hurting mentally. I won't let this team get into the syndrome of feeling sorry for itself."

 

The story in the first game was hitting, or lack of it. Mike Schmidt and Larry Bowa didn't play with hamstring injuries, which hurt. Plus, they had the dreaded Ray Burris working against them.

 

But eventually, it came down to Reed dueling the latest National League bullpen monster, the Mets' Neil Allen. Reed gave up a Joel Youngblood single and a John Stearns RBI double in the 11th, and that was enough.

 

Garry Maddox (5-for-9 in the doubleheader) led off the bottom of the 11th with a double. But Bob Boone (6-for-44) didn't move him and took strike three. Then Allen finished off Greg Gross and George Vukovich. and it was on to game two.

 

Allen, who has allowed three run in his last 15 outings (25 innings, 1.04 ERA), picked up his fourth win in the first game, then saved the second for Tom Hausman (3-2). It was his 13th save, second only to Bruce Sutter.

 

The Phils had leads of 3-0 and 4-2 in game two. But the Mets tied it. Then Saucier walked Lee Mazzilli (6-for-8 in the doubleheader) with nobody out in the ninth. Frank Taveras tried to bunt him over. Saucier went to second. His throw hit Mazzilli, bounced into left-center and it was second and third.

 

Claudell Washington looked at strike three, and Youngblood was walked on purpose. But Steve Henderson lined an RBI single to right, and the Mets had their first sweep of the Phillies since June 1977.

 

Ruthven pitched out of nonstop trouble in game one. But he was unusually sharp (no walks) for a guy who had not pitched in 15 days. And Larson allowed just five hits and two runs in game two.

 

Game one should have been the ideal, time to end the Ray Burris curse. The line on Burris' last five starts was a thunderous 23 innings pitched, 33 hits, 21 runs, five homers. But they let him get away early and came out with only one third-inning run.

 

Newly appointed No. 2 hitter Manny Trillo singled with one out. And Greg Luzinski whistled one of the few inside fast balls he has seen lately to left for a two-out single.

 

Then Maddox sliced a double off Washington's glove along the line in short right, and it was 1-0. But Boone popped up, leaving Luzinski on third and Maddox on second.

 

Ruthven bounced through a few typically eventful innings until the Mets tied it in the fifth. But they needed a big balk to do it.

 

First Doug Flynn roped a one-out single. With Burris up next, Pete Rose was charging on the first pitch. But Ruthven took a long time to get around to making the pitch, and before he knew it Rose had barreled in to within 20 feet of the plate. Ruthven got confused, started a pickoff throw to first and then held onto the ball for a balk.

 

He got Burris for the second out. But Mazzilli lined a turned-over fastball to left for a base hit to tie it. And that was it until the 11th.

 

In the second game, it looked like more runless innings were on the way when the Phils left two on in the first and third against Mets starter Mark Bomback.

 

But Maddox and Keith Moreland led off the fourth with singles. Ramon Aviles made it 1-0 with a sacrifice fly. But the Mets got Moreland at the plate on Vukovich's squeeze attempt.

 

In the fifth, they got two more. Rose broke his skein at 0-for-11 with a leadoff double. Gross scored him with a one-out double. And after Bomback fanned Luzinski, Maddox lined one over Washington in right for a triple.

 

So Larson led, 3-0, and was pitching very well. But with Taveras on first (infield single) and one out, Youngblood lined one to left-center. Maddox wasn't sure if he had a shot at it, so he gave it a run. But it soared by for a triple, and it was 3-1. Steve Henderson got him home with a broken-bat three-hopper to Trillo.

 

 

After Alex Trevino reached second in the seventh on an Aviles error and a sacrifice, Green went to reliever Lerrin LaGrow. LaGrow ominously went to 3-and-0 on the first hitter Stearns. But he came back to strike him out. Then, after intentionally walking Mazzilli, he fanned Taveras.