Philadelphia Daily News - June 30, 1980
Carton a Pitching Paradox
Silent Steve By Stan Hochman
First of three parts
Nolan Ryan makes twice as much money as Steve Carlton.
Partly because Ryan throws the baseball four miles an hour faster than Carlton, partly because hes got four no-hitters, partly because he's from Alvin. which is right down the road a piece from Houston.
But mostly because he went through the free-agent re-entry draft.
Houston was hungering for its very first pennant and the Astros needed a million-dollar baby to go with their five-and-ten-cent offense.
So far this season. Carlton has 8 more victories and 53 more strikeouts and 19 fewer walks than Ryan, just 80 of the reasons why Carlton would like the Phillies to "readjust" his contract.
"I'm not looking for a million bucks." said Dave Landfield, who represents Carlton.
"I AM ASKING them to adjust the base salary up... to a decent figure. And if they don’t want to do that, give us back the extended years they added reluctantly and Steve will be through (here) in 1981."
The Phillies "readjusted" Carlton's contract last year, patterning it after Tom Seaver's Cincinnati deal.
Which means Carlton gets paid around $425,000 and has eminently reachable incentive clauses that bring him into the $500,000 neighborhood. The contract runs through 1982.
"The madness of my colleagues has created a lot of problems," said owner Ruly Carpenter with the weary tone of a man who does not enjoy having his arm twisted. "Steve Carlton is a victim of time and circumstances.
"There are guys making twice as much as he is, and one guy making almost three times as much. Steve's having a superhuman year and I cannot fault him for looking around.
"We went through the same thing with our shortstop in spring training (Larry Bowa's tantrum when Garry Temple-ton's figures emerged). You can pick out similar examples all over baseball.
"CARLTON JUST happens to be limelighted, plus he's a pitcher, and the greatest inequities are in pitching."
Craig Swan makes more money than Carlton. Bruce Sutter makes more money than Carlton. Don Stanhouse, Kent Tekulve and Dave Goltz (Dave Goltz?) make more money than Carlton.
"There are at least a dozen pitchers making more money than Steve," said Landfield, who has been with Carlton since that benchmark season of 1972. That's when Carlton won 27 games for a raggedy, fifth-place team.
"And when that was over," GM Paul Owens recalled, "we made him the highest-paid player in the country.
"He went from $68,000 to $165,000, which was a helluva raise in those days.
"I remember the meeting we had in November, or early December. He said he'd like to be the highest-paid pitcher in baseball.
"Seaver was making around $140,000 then. And Joe Torre, who'd had a helluva year, was up around S155.000.
"We felt Steve deserved it. He did so much for the club that year. That's the year I went down on the field (to manage).
"He was something like 16-4 for me. It was unbelievable with the ballclub we had. And the records bear it out, maybe the third-best pitching performance in the history of the game.
"THEY THOUGHT WE were gonna draw 1.1 million, but we drew over 1.3. The nights he'd pitch we'd draw 25.000. Other nights we'd draw 10.
"The next year, he had an off year, and he took a little cut."
"Steve went to them." is the way Landfield remembers it. "And he said, 'I'll accept a cut."
"The other day I asked Ruly how many players he's had who have agreed to take a cut. And he said, 'Nobody.'
"And I said. 'Now we're asking you to make an adjustment because of the importance of Steve Carlton to this ballclub.'
"He gets matched against Ryan, against Vida Blue. And all you hear about the other guy is that he's a million-dollar pitcher.
"It's getting to Steve. And if he gets a song and dance from the Phillies, that's really gonna upset him."
Landfield is a former actor, playing the role of irate agent to the scowling hilt.
Carlton, on the other hand, would sooner eat a newspaper than negotiate through one.
For months now, everyone has bragged about Carlton's total concentration. How can Landfield imply that when the lefthander is out there he's thinking about the next payday and not the next pitch?
But last Friday, after Lee Mazzilli's flare to right field turned into an inside-the-park home run. Carlton gave up two more shaggy runs before getting the side out.
THE METS WON, 3-2. That left Lefty at 13-3, his eight-game streak shattered, but in first place on the Phillies' all-time strikeout list with 1.873.
How did Carlton feel about Bake McBride's rambling, gambling attempt on Mazzilli's blooper? Did he say, ‘Good try... hang in there,’ or did he say. 'Check the scoreboard, sixth inning, scoreless game.’"
We'll never know unless McBride tells us. And Bake says only slightly more than Carlton, who says nothing to the media.
The whole scene is part of the paradox that is Carlton. He is 24-27 lifetime against the mostly woeful Mets. Compare that with a 23-8 record against the Cardinals and a 26-9 log against Houston.
Until he lost Friday, he had been the ultimate stopper, keeping this tattered team afloat.
"He's most effective," said Tim McCarver. "when he's peaceful and placid. And I've never seen him more at peace with himself."
McCarver was describing the Carlton he observed before Landfield met with Carpenter, before Ruly sang and danced his way through the sad music about crazy owners and insane contracts, guys half as good asking twice as much.
THE TIMING IS clumsy, with the battered Phillies staggering. The implication that Carlton will he distracted by the haggling is likely to send shivers down, his broad.back.
And the next time he talks to Landfield, he will probably tell him that.
So, whv then does he encourage Landfield to try and renegotiate in mid-season? Is it the principle of the thing... or the principal of the thing?
Once again,, the paradox that is Carlton.
If money means that much to him. why isn't he out doing commercials for hot dogs and house paint and automatic bank tellers ("Punch 'em out, punch 'em out")?
Why doesn't he speak to writers and television sportscasters and talk-show hosts and Kiwanis Clubs with large budgets?
No, no, 365 times no.
Carlton doesn't do those things because they represent distractions. He also feels that some of them are frivolous, some are anti-consumer, some are ecologically unsound, and all of them are a swift pain in the butt.
Getting paid what he feels he deserves as a pitcher is one thing... shilling for some hot dog stuffed with nitrites is a horse of another, artificial color.
ONCE YOU GET the handle on that, you can begin to understand the riddle that is Steve Carlton.
Take the French vineyard trip. Carlton did. Last autumn.
He began preparing for it early in the 79 season, carrying a recorder, earphones and Berlitz tapes on road trips.
He was going to Reims, Bcaune and Bordeaux, where the world's finest wines are produced. He wanted to speak French when he got to Chateau Lafite Rothschild.
It looked like a terrific story, ace lefthander learning new language so he wouldn't be lumped as one of those ugly, cork-sniffing Americans.
And then I discovered that my sister-in-law, who is a travel agent in Maryland, had organized the trip around Carlton's participation as host.
I told her Carlton was a grump. She told me I was full of pinot noir and that Lefty was a charmer.
Now it was borderline conflict of interest, but still too good a story to pass up. I approached Carlton for an interview that might have attracted customers and get a reception cold enough to chill a ‘77 chardonnay.
AS IT TURNED out, the trip did not fill and Carlton made the journey on his own, paying full price. His principles had cost him $2,500, but he never blinked.
There is a comic-opera postscript to the story.
Last July 4th, Carlton pitched a one-hitter against the Mets at the Vet. That was the day Dick Ruthven, Larry Christenson and Randy Lerch hit the disabled list.
Ninety minutes after the game, in an empty clubhouse, Carlton sat down to a one-on-one interview.
My guess is that he was troubled by the aftermath of his episode with Danny Ozark, getting fined for spiking the ball, and he wanted a forum for his apology.
The next day Jack Lang, a journeyman writer for the New York Daily News, swiped all of the Carlton quotes for a "second-day" story.
And then Lang editorialized, imploring the commissioner to investigate the pitcher on the grounds that "the only writer Carlton talks to has a sister who has business connections with Carlton."
I am still waiting for a sister to arrive and still waiting for an apology from Lang. And I'm still waiting for another interview with Carlton, who slammed an armory door in my face in Clearwater, to make sure I didn't get a glimpse of his martial arts workout.
"IT'S UNFORTUNATE," said Carpenter. "I think the guy is. such a great pitcher ticketed for the Hall of Fame, I feel the fans would love to hear some of the things he has to say."
"I believe it costs him money," said Landfield, "but that's not important to him. His principles are important to him.
"People ask me how can you work with a guy like that? I tell them it's easy. He's no problem. He's just a high-principled individual.
"We all know the history. He opened himself up after the ‘72 season and he got shot down the next year and that was the end of it."
That's close enough. Carlton did cooperate graciously through the brilliant ‘72 season. And he did do a fistful – two fistfuls – of commercials that winter.
He showed up at spring training with walking pneumonia and soon wearied of the endless parade of writers poking sharp sticks around in his subconscious.
His elbow hurt, his mind boggled, he lost 20 games in 1973. And caught 20 kinds of journalistic hell.
His "positive thinking" approach was mocked and he got tagged as everything from a lush to a loony.
He gradually withdrew, hiding in the off-limits areas, coming out occasionally for buttery answers to popcorn questions.
HIS LAST MASS interview took place during the 1978 playoffs, when publicist Larry Shenk took Carlton by the elbow and tugged him into a room crammed with media. Spellbound by the sighting of this strange bird, the media was dumbstruck.
And that's been it, except for that one-shot with me, and some scattered appearances .on post-game shows.
("He's turned me down a couple of times," said McCarver, catcher-turned-broadcaster.)
"I'd like nothing more than for him to be open," said Landfield. "Selfishly, it would mean a great deal of money to him.
"He is now, has been, and will be, the athlete of this city. He is 'The Man."
"But that's not his bag. It's not where he's at. We never talk about the money he's missing out on.
"But I don't think he's short-changing the fans. Every fourth or fifth day he goes out there and gives them everything he has. And more."
And the other days, he won't even give them 1/200th of a second at f/11.
"He hid in a closet on Camera Day, and I raised hell," admitted promotions wizard Bill Giles.
"I WENT TO Ruly about it. Got him involved. But, now, we just forget it. On Camera Day, he'll be the only one not out there.
"The tiring is, when you can get him to do something, he is extremely good and polite. Years ago, we used to have a season ticketholders' party at the end of the year.
''He was the first to arrive and he'd stay a half-hour after the other guys left. And he signed every autograph."
He is still that way on the few appearances he makes, like the one he did recently at King of Prussia.
"He was pitching that night," recalled promoter Bill Pettit, "and people kept sneaking back into line even after we had cut it off.
"Steve said he'd stay until he'd signed all. And he was great with the kids. Warm and understanding.”
Maybe the kids have better manners? Maybe the kids don't poke around between his ears with sharp sticks?
"We're in Los Angeles," said a sympathetic teammate. "And Andy Musser is sitting with the owners of the Los Angeles Times.
"They wanna meet Lefty and Andy asks him if he wouldn't just come over and say hello. So, Lefty does.
"And the first thing the guy says is not hello or hi or how-ya-doing, bui. 'I hear you're a head case'
"Lefty blinks, says something like, 'We're all head cases,' and backs away."
(Tomorrow: Carlton the pitcher)
Green Angers Mets
By Thom Greer
Dallas Green pointed no fingers, took no names and kicked no butts. He talked. Sternly. Bluntly. Emphatically.
This was Saturday night after the Phillies were swept in a doubleheader by the New York Mets... after they lost their fourth straight game... after they'd dropped their eighth game in 10 starts.
"It wasn’t a stirring meeting." Green was saying last night after his words of wisdom 22 hours earlier apparently struck the Phillies like one of his size 11s to the seat of their pants and sparked them to a 5-2 win over the Mets at Veterans Stadium. "It was more like a stern reminder of what was happening to them.
"I talked about playing our game. And I tried to impress upon them that we were not playing the way we are capable of playing. We were not thinking baseball. Situations like that can beat us if we let it. I told them I'm not willing to let it."
IMMEDIATELY AFTER last night's win, as 41,113 drenched fans sat through a flash thunderstorm waiting for the promised fireworks spectacular that was canceled because of the rain and lightning. Dallas Green had a few more well-chosen words.
"We finally played like the Phillies and they finally played like the Mets," gloated Green, who is frequently no more graceful in victory than Darth Vader.
Mets Manager Joe Torre, however, was not amused. Indeed, Torre was ready to kick somebody's butt... namely. Dallas Green's.
"If that's what he said," exclaimed an angry but controlled Torre, when told of Green's jab at his team, "Dallas has a tendency to let his ass overload his mouth. Maybe it because every time he pitched he got hit so hard. I don't have a lot of patience with a guy who attacks my club. I'm proud of this club. We have nothing to be ashamed of."
To be sure, few of the Mets were dancing in the visiting locker room when told of Green's boot in their groin.
"Aren't they the same ones who lost three out of four to us," said third baseman Elliott Maddox with a chuckle. "They weren't raising any hell out there tonight. Maybe it was their best game, though."
The fiery John Stearns insisted, "Dallas Green is talking just like what I've always said he is. A rookie manager."
"Yeah," chimed in second baseman Doug Flynn, "a minor-league manager."
PERHAPS IT WAS Maddox whose comment seemed most fitting. The Phils did win the game, but they weren't raising any hell doing it.
Winning pitcher Bob Walk (3-0) was their salvation, turning in a sterling performance over 7⅔ innings. He allowed two runs while scattering eight hits and striking out seven. But the big guns that provide the explosive offense were little more than fond memories, as the club chinked and blooped its way through a four-run sixth inning to put the contest out of reach.
Appropriately, Walk opened the inning with a bloop single to center. With Pete Rose at the plate. Walk was moving on a hit-and-run play and easily made it to third on Rose's single to right. Manny Trillo followed with another joke of a single to right that scored Walk and moved Rose to third. Bake McBride's half-swing produced a chip shot that dropped along the right-field line beyond the outstretched glove of Flynn to score Rose.
After Greg Luzinski was called out on strikes and Garry Maddox got on with a fielder's choice that forced McBride at second, catcher Keith Moreland dribbled a single to the right of the mound that Pat Zachry fumbled, permitting Trillo to cross the plate.
It was hardly the kind of slugging exhibition that will be hammered into the hallowed stone tablets at Cooperstown. Fact is, the hardest hit at the Vet all night was the thunderstorm that pounded the unsuspecting faithful as the game ended.
BUT THAT WAS exactly the point Dallas Green was trying to get across in his mini-meeting Saturday night.
"That sixth inning was pretty damn good for us because we did the things we are capable of doing," Gresn explained. "We hit-and-run, shortened up on our stroke to make contact with the ball and generally played heads-up baseball. Hell, that's all you can ask. And that's what it takes to win. That's what I'm talking about when I say we have to play grind-it-out baseball.
"One game won't decide that (if the offense has turned things around), certainly," the manager continued. "But it was a start because we really haven't had many breaks.
"The one thing this game of baseball teaches you is patience. You have to play within yourself and we did that tonight. We hit-and-run and didn’t miss any signs for a change."
The missed-sign shot, of course, was a reference to the 10th inning in Game 1 Saturday when McBride missed a hit-and-run sign, with the score tied at one, that sent Trillo scampering for second base on a suicide mission. The Mets went on to win the game, 2-1, by scoring in the 11th.
The Mets, who came back from 3-0 in game two Saturday to win, 5-4. seemed poised to pull it off again last night. Walk, obviously tiring, gave up a walk and two hits before Green replaced him with Lerrin LaGrow. And LaGrow, whose first seven pitches were balls, walked two men to load the bases before Elliott Maddox's sharp grounder to third killed the rally.
THE OFT-AMAZING Mets also loaded the bases in the seventh when Walk gave up three straight singles to Stearns, Steve Henderson and Maddox. Then, as in the eighth, the Mets seemed headed for their first four-game sweep of the Phils since May 1972. Only a tremendous back-handed stab by John Vukovich of Maddox' screaming shot down the third-base line saved at least one run. But Stearns beat Vukovich to the bag to prevent the force. Walk, however, managed to survive by striking out the next batter, Flynn.
"Walk's been very impressive his last two outings," explained Green of his rookie who has given up but three runs in his last 15 innings while striking out 10. "I'm very pleased with that. Keith handled him very well and kept him within himself. He is finally settling down and realizing he can pitch in the majors. Bobby Walk had a lot of lessons to learn at the Triple-A level (which he skipped in coming to the Phils)."
"For a kid who pitched in Double-A to be put into the pressure cooker," explained Vukovich, "he's done very well."
Doug Flynn won't argue that point. But the Mets' second baseman is positive Dallas Green and his mouth are still in the minors.
PHILUPS: The Phillies boarded a night flight to Montreal, where they open a three-game series tonight. Dickie Noles (0-3) will return from his three-day suspension to open the series against Bill Gullickson in the nationally televised game against the Expos... Larry Bowa, who was sidelined by a strained hamstring Thursday, said he plans to return to the lineup tonight... Mike Schmidt, out with a hamstring injury since Friday, also says he will be in the lineup against the Expos... Coach Bobby Wine, the batting-practice pitcher, will undergo surgery Wednesday for removal of bone spurs in his right elbow.
Walk at Peace with Majors
By Tom Cushman
As one who has participated in several of baseball's more persistent confrontations with. the elements, my original reason for driving down to the Vet last night was to observe Bill Giles' technique should the ultimate challenge present itself. Like many others in the audience, it was my first opportunity to attend a baseball game during a tornado watch.
Later, as the sky mellowed and it seemed obvious that the stadium would remain attached to its moorings, Bob Walk became the fascination.
There are similes involved here, too. Bob Walk's fastball arrives like it is riding a high wind. Batters attempting to locate it frequently create more wind. In his early starts for the Phillies, Bob Walk could have used a guiding wind.
Seldom had a young man's fortunes seemed so pinioned to his surname. Even the most indifferent of headline writers were stirred by the redundancy.
A WEEK AGO, they were suggesting in large print that Bob Walk was about to walk himself back to Oklahoma City.
"The first couple of starts I was trying to strike everyone out," Walk was saying late last night, after the Phillies, grinding all the way, had finally snatched a game from the awesome Mets.
"The hardest thing for a pitcher to deal with mentally when you get to the big leagues is making yourself realize that you're on the same level with these guys. The tendency is to assume that they're better, and to try and pitch 'up' to them.
"I was afraid to let them hit the ball... in the back of my mind, every other hit was gonna be a home run. So I tried to make each pitch an exceptional one. When you do that the chances are you're either gonna strike the guy out or walk him.
"What helped me tonight is that I was relaxed and able to get into a good rhythm the first couple of innings. If you're having to battle for your life from jump street, that wears you down fast."
In a summer when the Phillies starting rotation looks like a tornado passed through, the greening of Bob Walk is a shipment of plasma. Like he admits, the early starts were messy, and an added burden to a bullpen that is beginning to fray as the pressures intensify.
LERRIN LaGROW addressed himself to this subject after completing the Hnal 1⅓ innings of last evening's precipitous adventure with the Mets, who provided adequate excuse for the city's post-weekend hangover. Three-out-of-four to the Mets ain't good, no matter how closely you examine the circumstances.
Bob Walk had given the Phillies six splendid innings before trouble started in the seventh and forced his removal with two out, two runs home, and a runner aboard in the eighth. LaGrow promptly walked John Stearns on four pitches and Steve Henderson on five to load the bases, as the crowd booed with enthusiam.
"I'm getting sick and tired of people jumping on the bullpen for not being effective once in awhile," said LaGrow, after squeezing out of that jam and another in the ninth. "I didn't warm up much before I came in... I'm tired, I needed to save the pitches. I was the last guy."
Kevin Saucier did eventually begin loosening. "But he needs a night off, too," LaGrow pointed out. "This bullpen has had a lot of work. We're doing the best we can under some difficult circumstances."
What the bullpen would appreciate is what Bob Walk seems to be approaching – the complete game. The Phillies are only 9-for-1980 in that department, six of them coming from Steve Carlton.
"YOU ALWAYS want to go the distance, and I was disappointed tonight because I know the bullpen needs the break," Walk was to say in the clubhouse. "I made some stupid pitch selections, especially after I started to lose control of my breaking ball. I got out of my rhythm, and out of the game before I could regain it. I still felt good."
In the early innings, there had been cause for rejoicing. The late-afternoon thunderstorms passed, the clouds parted, no funnels were spotted, and Bob Walk retired the first 11 Mets he faced. With two out in the seventh he had allowed but three hits, three runners, and when the Mets eventually loaded the bases in that inning, he wound it down by throwing fast balls past pinch-hitter Ron Hodges.
"I figured he would be cold coming off the bench and I could get the ball by him." said Bob Walk, whose only walk last night came or a 3-2 pitch to pinch-hitter Jose Cardinal to lead off the eighth.
For most of the evening he was a pitcher ol both skill and authority, and coming as a back up to eight superb innings against Montreal earlier in the week the performance gave hope that the rotation now has added sinew.
"NOBODY'S POSITION is cemented at this level, especially mine," he was saying, as the Phillies prepared for a late-night flight to Montreal. "I'm still on the bottom ol the totem pole here... if I got sent back to Oklahoma City tomorrow, I wouldn't feel that bad. Anyhow, those things are out of my control. All I can take care of is what's between the white lines. Someone else makes the decisions.
"Now that I've sat down and thought about where I am and what I'm doing from the physical aspect, I feel I'm beginning to get a grip onr my job. From the beginning the only thing Herm (pitching coach Herm Starrette) has asked me to do is speed up my work on the mound. Now that I'm doing that, I'm not getting behind 2-0, and 3-1 on every count. And because of that I'm not giving up five or six runs in tht first three innings. Which makes the game a lot easier for everyone.
"The first two or three starts, I'd get to 3-1 and I'd be thinking, 'God, I hope I throw a strike.' So I'd take a little off ihe ball. Now I’m trying to throw that strike with my best pitch. When you're able to do that a few times and it works, it does a great deal for your confidence."
It was mentioned to Bob Walk, who singled to lead off the Phillies' three-run sixth, that he seemed more enthused about that part of his performance than the pitching. "If my batting stroke looked better," he said, "that would be because they were throwing me all fastballs. A curve, and it's all over... back to the dugout.
"ACTUALLY, I enjoy running bases. That's a fun part of the game. And I don't want baseball to be a dreary job. Everybody has his way of dealing with it. Some guys are quiet, some jump up and down. I'm probably somewhere in between, but I insist that it be fun."
If he rolled away the fearsome Mets before 41,000 during a tornado watch, you have to figure that Robert Walk finally is at peace with the major leagues.
"When the Phillies called me up," he admitted, "the enormity of that took a long time lo sink in. It was hard to sleep. No matter what I was doing during the day, I couldn't think of an thing but what I would do when I got here. Nowv when I'm away from the ballpark, I can think of other things.
"If remembering to ask your wife 'What's for dinner?' is part of being relaxed," said Bob Walk, "then, maybe I've made it."