Camden Courier-Post - May 21, 1980
Phils find bright spots in loss
By Rusty Pray of the Courier-Post
PHILADELPHIA – There probably is no such thing as a good time for a strike. It wouldn't really matter when major league players set their strike deadline. All that would matter would be the walkout itself.
But tomorrow's midnight strike deadline seems to be coming at a particularly inopportune time for the Phillies, who've been showing the signs of a serious contender since the beginning of the month.
"I don't think it (the possibility of a strike) has affected us," said the Phillies' Greg Luzinski. "We just started getting it together and over the last 15 games we've been playing pretty good baseball."
INDEED, the Phils have been looking more and more like the team that won three straight National League East Division championships than the club that fell into fourth place a season ago. Despite last night's regrettable 7-6 loss to the Cincinnati Reds in Veterans Stadium, the club continued to show positive signs.
There was, for instance, the job done by the bullpen. After starter Dick Ruthven managed to get through six innings without his best stuff and keep the Phils close, Dickie Noles and Tug McGraw put together 2⅔ perfect innings (Kevin Saucier pitched to one batter in the seventh, allowing a hit).
"We've played pretty good offensive baseball lately," said Manager Dallas Green. "There's a good blend of offense and pitching right now that we can count on to win games."
THE PHILS, who have won five of their last eight and 10 of their last 16, got a great deal of offense last night against Reds starter Charlie Leibrandt. Mike Schmidt and Luzinski wiped out a 2-0 Reds lead with back-to-back. home runs in the first. It was the third time this year the two sluggers have homered consecutively.
Bake McBride also ripped a homer off Leibrandt to give the Phils a 5-4 lead in the third, while center fielder Garry Maddox had two doubles and a triple against two different pitchers. By far, the most encouraging aspect of all that hitting was Luzinski, who smashed his second homer of the game off reliever Mario Soto in the eighth. The homer, Luzinski's third hit, emphatically ended a slump and put the Bull in a tie with Schmidt for the major league lead.
"I've been working on my approach," said Luzinski, who homered in his final at bat on Monday after going 2-for-26. "I wasn't picking the ball up. I was overstriding.
"I WORKED on it between innings " and the third time I came up yesterday (Monday), it felt better. I got out in front of the ball and I popped it up to the first baseman, but that's where things fell into place for me mentally."
Perhaps the biggest problem last night was the back strain that forced shortstop Larry Bowa out of the game in the sixth. Bowa said he hurt his back during the final game of the recent road trip Sunday in Houston. And, he might have aggravated it while diving for a ground ball in the first inning.
"It's just been bothering me," he whispered. "I don't know what it is. There's no sense playing through it.”
Uncharacteristically, the key to the game was a two-base throwing error by Schmidt in the sixth that opened the doors for two unearned runs. Ruthven got the first two outs of the inning before Johnny Bench grounded a ball that Schmidt did well to catch behind third base.
BUT SCHMIDT'S throw got past Pete Rose and Bench took second. Two walks – one intentional, one quite unintentional – later, Dave Collins stroked an 0-2 pitch into center field for a two-run single that gave the Reds a 6-5 lead.
If, by some twist of labor fate, the Phils do play the Houston Astros on Friday, Randy Lerch will not be their starter. The struggling lefthander, whose confidence has been shot by six straight losses, has been taken out of the rotation by Green, who plans to use Steve Carlton if a strike is somehow averted.
"I'll work with him (Lerch) daily and maybe sneak him into a game and see what he does," said Green. "I want him out (of the rotation) right now to see if I can't get him thinking clearer than he is.
"You look for reasons for winning. How do you get confidence? Vou get confidence by pitching good and winning. How do you win? You win by pitching with confidence... It's a vicious cycle."
PHIL UPS – The Reds' Junior Kennedy had four hits, including a double in the seventh that gave George Foster the opportunity to drive in what proved to be the deciding run... Luzinski's 10th home run did not come until July 24 last season.
Even threat of strike has affected Phillies
By Rusty Pray of the Courier-Post
PHILADELPHIA – Unless a miracle occurs within the next 36 hours or so, major league baseball players will go on strike for the second time in the history of the game. No one is looking for a miracle.
Federal mediator Ken Moffett called representatives of the owners and play- ers to New York today for an 11th-hour attempt to hammer out a new Basic Agreement before tomorrow night's midnight strike deadline. No one is counting on the meeting to produce anything except some parting rhetoric by both sides.
Marvin Miller, the executive director of the Major League Players Association, spent much of Monday and yesterday discussing strike logistics with the players. Ray Grebey, the owners' chief negotiator, kept his constituency informed. Neither side seems to be in a conciliatory mood.
Much has been written and said about the potentially-disastrous effects a lengthy strike will have on the game. As groups, players and owners stand to lose something much more valuable than salary or gate receipts. A strike, this strike, will damage baseball's credibility with the fan. No one wants a strike. But there is every reason to believe there will be a strike.
"People say that a strike will hurt baseball. It has already hurt baseball," said Bill Giles, the Phillies' executive vice president, last night. "It's a sad situation. The players don't want a strike. The owners don't want a strike. But there's going to be a strike. That's what's hard to comprehend."
The fact is, the mere threat of a strike has already hurt the Phillies. Attendance is off sharply from last season, and, while a number of factors can be cited as reasons for the decline, there's little doubt the approaching strike is a primary cause.
Last night a crowd of 25,202 fans weathered a wet, drizzly night to watch the Phillies drop a 7-6 decision to the Cincinnati Reds in Veterans Stadium. It gave the club a total paid attendance of 448,871 for 16 home dates. The Phils last season drew 555,343 in the same time span, which means the club is 106,472 off its 1979 pace.
Our (ticket) sales have been poor, said Giles. "They were good until April 1 (when strike plans were announced), then very poor. This week we have Houston in for a big series. The Pirates are coming in next week and we haven't sold a ticket. This week has been unbelievable. I couldn't believe this week. The club's been playing good ball, we have two attractive teams coming in, and we've sold very few tickets.
"The nucleus of people – the ones that sit in the box seats and the season-ticket holders, the died-in-the-wool fan – is still coming. But the fringe fan, the people who sit in the cheaper seats, aren't coming. We should have had over 30,000 tonight."
Giles, the promotional wizard who is responsible for Kiteman, the Phillie Phanatic and garish home run displays, is understandably upset by the turn attendance has taken. The organization sold more than three million tickets, drew 2,775,011 and averaged 36,039 at home a year ago. This year the Phils have averaged 28,000 and their only crowds over 35,000 were opening day against Montreal (48,460) and a May 3 Saturday afternoon game against Los Angeles (35,011).
"I don't know if it's all because of the strike talk or not," said Giles. "We haven't had real good weather. The Flyers and the Sixers being in the playoffs infringed on interest. And, the economy in general is down.
"But we've gone against the Flyers and Sixers before. I can think of a number of reasons why it (attendance) is down, but I can't put my finger on anything specific. It's probably a combination of things."
Giles is already making plans to lay off many parttime workers and, if the strike should last the season, some full-time front office people could temporarily loose their jobs. "If the strike only lasts a short period of time, nobody will be laid off because of the ticket mess," said Giles. "We'll probably have to add people to handle ticket returns and refunds."
But the situation has all the earmarks of a long, bitter labor dispute and no one, least of all Giles, expects the Phillies to be hiring anytime soon.
The strike that couldn't happen, the strike that no one wants, has already affected the Phillies.
Called strike two nearing for baseball
NEW YORK (AP) - With the strike countdown reduced to hours instead of weeks or days, federal mediator Kenneth Moffett hoped negotiators in the continuing baseball contract dispute would return to the bargaining table today prepared to hammer out an agreement.
"What is needed is a change in philosophies, by one side or the other," Moffett said Sunday when he ordered a two-day recess in the talks. He said the climate of the negotiations had become highly charged and it was his feeling that the two sides needed some time away from each other.
Marvin Miller, executive director of the players association, and Ray Grebey, chief negotiator for management, spent Monday and yesterday in almost constant communication with their constituencies. Miller discussed strike logistics with the players while Grebey conferred with owners, updating them on the situation.
Still on the table were proposals covering a broad range of topics in the basic agreement such as pensions, minimum salaries, salary arbitration, scheduling, expenses, etc. Agreement seemed attain able on most of those subjects last week, but the talks broke down with two sides remaining far apart on the major issue of compensation for free agents.
The compensation question involves the demand of owners that replacement players be made available from the rosters of teams signing "premium" free agents. The players feel that such a system would restrict their movement and eventually eliminate the free agent system entirely.
While the collective bargaining agreement does not include player salaries, which are negotiated by the players individually, Miller and his union feel that the compensation clause sought by management is basically a money issue.
"The compensation question has been blown up in the wrong direction," Miller said. "What the owners are trying to do is drive down salaries. It's like three-card monte, your eye follows the wrong card."
Miller offered this example.
"They don't have to worry about players coming along, saying, 'I'm as good as Rod Carew. I want as much as he makes.' What they worry about is the large group of players who are not the top-paid superstars. These players are more numerous. The savings there would be far more substantial. That's why in their last compensation proposal, their definition of 'premium players' included 50 percent of all players.
"I'm not saying there is no relationship between the top and the middle, but the " middle is where the real money is, and that's what they're after."
The owners have insisted all along that the season need not be interrupted and that negotiations could continue with no concern for the strike deadline of midnight tomorrow.
But the players association feels that open-ended negotiations would not serve the union's best interests and has refused to stop the clock.
In Philadelphia, Pete Rose is counting on "time and pressure" on the both the owners and players to avert a strike.
"If you want a strike, you don't belong in baseball," said the Phils first baseman.
Rose blamed the 1972 strike for costing him a 200-hit season and, at 39, he could lose valuable time in his assault on Ty Cobb's 4,191 career hits.
Rose said he doesn't want a strike nor does he want the players to lose their free-agent rights to sign with other clubs after six years service. The owners want compensation for loss of a player.
"I'm worried for the game of baseball. If it's a long layoff, it might take a decade to get the fans back. It took us until the 1975 World Series to get them back," after the 1972 strike, Rose said.
He thinks one reason the fans will come down hard on baseball in general and the players in particular is the image the players have at the moment. '
"When a ballplayer goes into a restaurant, the average person thinks, 'Oh, he's a millionaire.' But," said Rose pointing toward the field, "98 percent of those guys out there aren't millionaires. When we won the World Series in '75, we had 10 guys on our team (Reds) who didn't make $30,000," a year.
Rose blames the media in part for the fans displeasure.
Rose refused to confirm or deny that his $800,000-a-year contract has a clause that requires the Phillies to pay him anyway if there is a stoppage.