Reading Eagle - May 18, 1980

Christenson Keys Phils

 

HOUSTON (AP) – Pitcher Larry Christenson hit a three-run homer and yielded seven hits before leaving after five innings with a sore elbow and the Philadelphia Phillies went on to a 4-2 victory over the slumping Houston Astros Saturday night.

 

The Astros lost for the fourth straight time and for the eighth time in 10 games.

 

Christenson, 3-0, clubbed his 10th career homer to key Philadelphia’s four-run second inning.  Greg Luzinski led off the inning with a single and later scored the first run on a fielder’s choice grounder by Larry Bowa.

 

Manny Trillo then singled before Christenson blasted one over the left field fence.

 

The Astros ended a string of 24-2/3 scoreless innings in the third.  Terry Puhl singled, Jose Cruz walked with two out and Cesar Cedeno drove them home with a single up the middle.

 

Big Lift

 

The Phillies got a big lift from lefty Kevin Saucier, who pitched three shutout innings in relief of Larry Christenson, who left with a tender elbow.

 

Saucier has pitched only 8-1/3 innings before Saturday, this being his longest stint.

 

“There’s nothing I can do about it,” he said.  “Tug (McGraw) and Dickie (Noles) having been real good.  I guess he (Manager Dallas Green) is going to use me as the middle man against lefties.

 

“I felt good, really strong, but a couple of times I was overthrowing the ball, and when I overthrow the ball it stays up.  Boonie (catcher Bob Boone) was telling me to relax and keep it down.

 

Needs the Work

 

“I get to throw every other night in the bullpen, but it’s not the same unless you got a hitter up there.:

 

 

The Phillies had a hitter up there – Larry Christenson.

Compensation Delay Sought

 

On Thursday, the players said they would be willing to forgo a strike if agreement could be reached on secondary issues and if the owners would agree to a two-year delay on changing the compensation rule.

 

On Friday, the owners turned that down, saying instead they would be willing to see all terms of the basic agreement now in effect continued through 1980.

 

 

The players turned that down, but did say they’d settle for a one-year delay on the compensation rule.  So at least there are attempts toward avoiding the strike.  Delaying action on the compensation seems necessary to prevent one.

Owners Get Support…

 

By John W. Smith, Asst. Sports Editor

 

The major leaguers don’t have a great deal of support from Berks old-timers in their current struggle with the owners over the new baseball contract.

 

A poll of a half-dozen Berks residents who played in the bigs in the 1940s revealed only one willing to take the players’ side in the dispute, which could result in a strike on Friday.

 

“I’ll go along with the players this time,” said Jesse Levan of Linstead, who played with the Phillies and Senators.  “I think the players are getting a bad image.  The owners are trying to get the players to protect them from themselves.  If they’re that worried about all the money they’re spending, let them do away with contracts of more than a year.”

 

Taking somewhat a neutral stand was Hal Bamberger, who played briefly with the Giants and lives near Morgantown.  “They’d better get together for the good of baseball,” he said.  “They should compromise.”

 

Much more critical of the players were Randy Gumpert of Monocacy, Whitey Kurowshi of Shilington, and Charley Wagner and George Eyrich of Reading.  “I’ll go along with the owners,” said Eyrich, who pitched briefly with the Phillies.  “They’ve been giving them everything they want, and you can only go so far.”

 

Compensation Seen Vital

 

Wagner, Gumpert and Kurowski agree the owners should get some compensation for the free agents they lose, other than the draft pick as at present.  It is this issue with is the main stumbling block of the current negotiations.

 

The players feel that if compensation is granted in the form of a player from the roster of the team doing the signing, there will be far fewer signings.  It has been the threat of free agency which has caused salaries to skyrocket.

 

“where is it going to stop if they don’t get compensation?” asked Kurowski, who starred at third base for the Cardinals.  “It’s got to stop somewhere.  The players are making all that loot, and they’re still not satisfied.”

 

“I don’t see why owners can’t get compensation,” said Gumpert, who pitched in 261 American League games for five teams.  “When you invest $50,000 to bring a player to the bigs, you should get some return on your investment.  It’s different in football and basketball, where you get the players right from college.”

 

“Compensation is a necessity,” asserted Wagner, former Red Sox pitcher and coach.  “The players have to give in to that.  And I don’t think it would hurt them.”

 

Situation Reversed

 

“At one time the players were exploited,” said Gumpert.  “But in the last 14 years, labor has clobbered management.  The owners have given in to every demand, and some haven’t been for the good of the game.

 

“There has to be a happy medium, and things have gone too far the other way.  The owners have to make a stand.”  Gumpert also had some harsh words for the players’ executive director, Marvin Miller.

 

“I think the players are in a happy state now,” said Wagner.  “How much happier can they get?”

 

Gumpert and Wagner, of course, might not be objective witnesses since they are employed as scouts by the Yankees and Red Sox.

 

Agreeing with them was another American Leaguer who visited Reading Thursday, former Yankee second baseman Bobby Richardson.

 

“I lean toward the owners,” said Richardson, “especially since the players are thinking of striking.  That’s not the answer, and it will turn the fans off.”

 

Salaries Not Issue

 

Salaries are not at issue currently – except for the minimum salary.  (The players originally asked for a hike from $21,000 to $40,000, then reduced the demand to $37,500 in March.  The owners offered $25,000.)

 

The compensation issue is thorny because the players had apparently won unlimited free agency in court before the last contract was signed in 1976.  At that time, they agreed to limit free agency to players who had six years in the majors (with a second chance after 11 years).  The only compensation for a team’s losing a star player has been a first-round pick in the subsequent June draft of scholastic and collegiate players.

 

This year the owners originally demanded that a team be compensated by being allowed to choose any player owned by the team signing the free agent, after that team protected 15.  (Exposed would be minor leaguers, not just those on the 40-man roster.)

 

Most observers agreed that this was too great a price to pay.  This past week the owners modified the demand by a proposal which would divide free agents into four groups, depending on how many teams pick them and whether they appear on a “ranking” list.

 

For those in the top two categories, the team signing would protect 15 or 18 players.  The draft pick would hold for those in the third category (selected by four to seven teams).  There would be no compensation for those selected by three or less.

 

The players have been adamant against any lessening of the compensation rule.

 

Other Points

 

The players originally asked that the time in the bigs before one can be a free agent be cut from six years to four, and that the time before one can repeat be cut from five to three.  In March they modified the former to five and agreed the latter could stay at five.

 

The owners originally were asking that maximum salaries be set for a player’s first six years in the majors, but then withdrew that plan.  The players feel that was just a ploy – that the owners never had any intention of pushing it.

 

However, the owners do want to make length of service the top factor in an arbitrator’s decision on a salary, when players go to arbitration.  Currently, it is only one factor.

 

A minor point of contention is whether the players can get trade-veto rights sooner.  They want to get them after eight years in the majors, three with the same club.  It’s 10-and-5 at present.

 

The players dropped original requests for a bigger share of the World Series pool and for compensation for the All-Star game.

 

The pension funding is another point, but that appeared to be taken care of this week when the owners offered a hike from $8.3 million to $14.4 million in the annual contribution to the pension and insurance plan.

 

Presumably there is not time for a full agreement to be reached by the midnight Thursday deadline.  The only hope of averting a strike seems to be if the players feel enough progress has been made that they can agree to a postponement.

 

If the strike does begin Friday, the Phillies would be the team perhaps hurt most at the gate in the first week.  Starting Friday, the Phillies are scheduled to play Houston at home three times and the Pirates at home four times in a seven-day period.

 

 

The Reading Phillies have offered to transfer some of their home games to the Vet in their next home stand in case of a strike, if the Philadelphia management is willing.

… But Not From Rocky

 

By John W. Smith, Asst. Sports Editor

 

The baseball players have at least one staunch local advocate in Rocky Colavito,  the former Cleveland Indian great who lives in Temple.

 

“At one time the players were grossly underpaid,” said Colavito, who retired as a player in 1968.  “If the owners had been more fair then, we wouldn’t be in this predicament.  They can’t discipline themselves, so they want somebody else to do it.

 

“I think the players were very fair when this issue came up four years ago.  Because of that that judge had ruled, the players didn’t have to agree to all the restrictions on free agency, like waiting six years.  The players were very reasonable then.

 

“Now, the owners want to wipe out what the players have already gained.

 

“Sure, some salaries are out of line for fringe players.  But this isn’t really about salaries.  The players aren’t out of line with what they’re asking in this contract.”

 

Colavito, who coached and broadcast for the Indians for a time, cited a study which showed that player salaries account for only 27 percent of the owners’ budgets.  He also pointed to rising attendance and TV revenue.

 

Rocky skewered the owners for their seeming unwillingness to listen to the player demands in the early negotiations.  “They never even showed up for some of the meetings,” he asserted.

 

Colavito feels the current draft pick is sufficient compensation for a team’s losing a free agent.  “I know it’s not a whole lot, but if they can’t get together, that’s tough.  They want a recipient of the same caliber, but who’ll decide that?

 

 

“It’s a complex situation,” Colavito summed up.  “I just hope they can find a happy medium.  I certainly hope there’s no strike.  That would be very bad for everybody, especially the fans.”

Phils Often Flunk on Reading Grads

 

By John W. Smith, Asst. Sports Editor

 

If you were managing a baseball team, which of the following lineups would you rather put on the field?

 

Luis Aguayo, 2B

Larry Bowa, SS

Mike Schmidt, 3B

Greg Luzinski, LF

Bob Boone, 1B

Keith Moreland, C

George Vukovich, CF

John Vukovich, RF

Randy Lerch, P

 

The other choice would be:

 

Rick Bosetti, CF

Toby Harrah, 2B

Jerry Martin, RF

Andy Thornton, 1B

John Stearns, C

Dane Iorg, LF

Jim Essian, 3B

Todd Cruz, SS

Tom Underwood, P

 

The first team has three clearly better players in Schmidt, Luzinski and Bowa, but the second team would have the edge at four or five other positions.  (Some are out of position on both teams, but all have played in the majors at the spots listed except J. Vukovich.)

 

The first team consists of former members of the Reading Phillies now playing for Philadelphia – the first time the Phils could place a full ex-Reading team on the field without putting a pitcher in right field.

 

The second team consists of former members of the Reading Phillies who now play for other major-league teams.

 

Fans will notice that the Philadelphia management has not always acted wisely in deciding which Reading grads to keep and which to trade.

 

To be fair, of course, a team should be created consisting of the major leaguers the Phillies obtained in trades for the Reading grads.  If that team would be as strong as No. 2, there could be no criticism.

 

Unfortunately, there can’t be a team.  The lineup would consist of Bake McBride, RF; Manny Trillo, 2B; Johnny Oates, C, and Tug McGraw, C.

 

The Worst Trade

 

The worst deal the Philadelphia management ever made with a Reading grad was the one with Atlanta for Thornton.  For Andy, who has hit 89 home runs in the last three years for Cleveland (he’s currently disabled), the Phillies obtained pitchers Jim Nash and Gary Neibauer, a pair of household names who between them never won a game for the Phillies.  (They even had to give Joe Hoerner in addition to Thornton for the two turkeys.)

 

Perhaps the Phillies can’t be blamed too much for the wrong guess on Thornton.  The Braves gave him to the Cubs for Joe Pepitone and the Expos gave him to the Indians for Jackie Brown.  (The Cubs got Steve Renko and Larry Biittner from the Expos for him.)

 

Bosetti, a regular at Toronto the last two years; Iorg, who hit .291 as a Cardinal part-timer last year; and Underwood, now a member of the Yankee rotation, all went to the Cardinals in 1977 for McBride (and pitcher Steve Waterbury, who never made it.)

 

The Phillies culd certainly use Underwood this year.  McBride’s hitting only .269 and .280 the last two years, after never having been under .300 at St. Louis, makes this trade look less good than in ’77.

 

The Cards got only pitcher Tom Bruno, now out of the bigs, from Toronto for Bosetti.  But they got Pete Vukovich, now their ace pitcher, from Toronto for Underwood.

 

Stearns for McGraw

 

Stearns, who’s averaged 65 RBIs for the Mets the last three years, went there (along with Del Unser) in the deal which brought McGraw to the Phillies in 1974.

 

In the last five years McGraw has won 35 games and saved 59 for the Phillies, so that one can’t be faulted.

 

Essian, the A’s regular catcher the last two years, after one year as the White Sox regular, went to Atlanta in ’75 in the lamented deal for Dick Allen.

 

Essian has hit only .223 and .240 for the A’s the last two years, though, and the Phils did get a bonus in the deal in Oates, not backup catcher for the Yankees.  (Oates eventually went to the Dodgers in the Ted Sizemore deal.)

 

Martin went to the Cubs last year for Manny Trillo.  Because of injuries to Trillo and Martin’s discontent in Chicago, the jury is still out on this deal.  Last year Jerry did hit .273 with 19 homers for the Cubs.  (The Phils also picked up Greg Gross in that multiple swap.)

 

Cruz, now backup shortstop at California, went to Kansas City last year for Doug Bird, who certainly didn’t pay off for the Philleis and is now in AAA.

 

Harrah on Roster

 

Harrah is the name some Reading followers will question.  True, he never played for the R-Phils.  But he was on their roster when he was drafted by the Senators in 1967.  The organization didn’t think enough of him to buy him back when it had that chance in the spring of ’68.

 

He’s been a regular in the American League since 1972, now at Cleveland, though only twice hitting above .263.  He’s hit 20 or more homers four times.

 

The lineups above by no means exhaust the list of ex-Readingites in the bigs’ on either the Phillies or other teams.

 

The Phillies have three other pitchers from Reading (relievers Dickie Noles, Kevin Saucier and Scott Munninghoff), plus disabled reliever Warren Brusstar.  (Aguayo is also disabled at present.)

 

There are seven other Reading grads elsewhere in the majors:  Cub reliever Willie Hernandez and backup catcher Time Blackwell; Cardinal reserve pitcher Roy Thomas (whose in-laws live in Berks); Braves backup catcher Bill Nahorodny; Brewers reliever Dan Boitano; Yankee reserve outfielder Bobby Brown; and Mariner regular catcher Larry Cox.

 

Hernandez Best

 

Hernandez has done the best of that lot, with 20 wins in the last three years.  Cox, a fine defensive catcher, hit only .215 last year and is less than that this year.  Thomas was 3-4, 2.92 in a half-year with the Cards last year.

 

Blackwell has a career average in the bigs just over .200.  Brown hit .218 in 34 games in the A.L. last year, but tore up the American Association.  Boitano is a rookie.  Nahorodny hit .236 and .257 for the White Sox the last two years before moving to Atlanta.

 

As a group, they may not be much, but the Phillies have nothing to show for them except a little cash.

 

Hernandez was drafted in 1976, the year the Phillies exposed him and protected such prominent pitchers as Cy Acosta, Quency Hill and Larry Kiser.

 

Cox for Ferrer

 

Cox originally went to the Twins for Sergio Ferrer, Thomas to the White Sox in the Kaat deal, Brown to the Yankees in the Eastwick deal.  Nahorodny was waived to the White Sox after displeasing management.  Blackwell (originally bought from Boston) was dealt to the Expos with Wayne Twitchell for Barry Foote and Dan Warthen.  Boitano went to the Brewers for Gary Beare, who did well at Oklahoma City last year, in a deal of pitchers whose options were up.

 

The management has made costlier mistakes with players from the Philly farm system who never visited Reading, but that’s another story.

 

However, mention should be made of the one ex-Reading Phil who went on to play in a World Series.  That was Denny Doyle, now retired, who hit .310 in 89 games as Boston’s second baseman in 1975.

 

 

For Denny, the Phillies got from the Angels Billy Grabarkewitz, who lasted less than a year, and Aurelio Monteagudo and Chris Coletta, who never made it.  But again, the Phillies can share the mistake.  The Angels got only a pitcher who never made it for Denny from Boston.