Philadelphia Daily News - May 30, 1980
Buc ‘Family’ Has 12 for Starters
By Tom Cushman
Lee Lacy admits that he is without doubt the most accomplished part-time player in baseball today, although Lee does have trouble uttering the words "part-time" without suffering a split lip. Following a pinch-hit single in yesterday's low-voltage fadeout to an electric series at the Vet; which followed two home runs in Wednesday's game, Lacy was left with a.427 batting average to carry home to Pittsburgh.
Larger men have been bowed by the weight of numbers such as these. Lee shoulders them gingerly, never breaking stride. "When it comes to hitting," he said in the Pirates clubhouse, "I consider myself in the same category as Keith Hernandez, (Dave) Parker, Pete Rose. The only difference is that over the years I haven't had a chance to play every day."
STILL, HIS IS not a one-appearance, see-you-next-series kind of.427. Lacy's part-time duties this spring have included nine starts, 75 at-bats, and his 32 hits rank him sixth on a team that does not exactly send its starters to the plate on crutches.
Lee also will point out that he had as many as 300 at-bats in only one of nine previous major league seasons (1975), and to celebrate that occasion posted his highest batting average,.314. Mathematically inclined, he sees a parallel here.
His offensive credentials thus established, the obvious tact is to identify deficiencies which keep him from appearing on the daily lineup card. Lee readily admits that he has none.
"I'm fast, hit with power as well as for average, am an outstanding base-runner, am a good team man, and I can play any position in the field," he says.
"When I was with the Dodgers, (Tommy) Lasorda said the reason I didn't start was because I wasn't great defensively. Now I'm with the Pirates, and they put me in for defensive purposes.
"ALL I CAN TELL you," Lee Lacy added, struggling heroically through an attack of modesty so that he could put the record straight, "is that the Pirates signed me for $1 million, which ain't too bad. I mean, I can do it all."
Chuck Tanner, the pollyanna of the Monongahela, agrees, but refuses to apologize for not having Lee Lacy do it all on a daily basis. "He can play third, second, shortstop, anywhere in the outfield, and he's leading the league in hitting," Tanner said yesterday. "The only thing that separates him from the guys who start is the ballclub he's on."
Ed Ott is the kind of fellow who can understand how Lee Lacy feels be-. cause Ed has a similar problem. Ott was 2-for-3 yesterday, drove in one run, scored the winner, put the tag on Bob Boone in a sixth-inning play at the plate, and later was described ' by his manager as perhaps the most underrated catcher in baseball.
"He has a fine arm, calls an outstanding game, can hit, is a gamer, a winner, and when it comes to blocking the plate, it is, 'Thou shall not pass,'" Chuck Tanner said.
Yet, Tanner platoons Ed Ott with Steve Nicosia, a habit which causes Ott to admit reactions uncommon, certainly, to 'The Family.'
"I'm very displeased with the setup." Ed Ott said. "I feel I can hit left-handed pitching. It's not easy when you only get the chance once a month, but I did very well under those circumstances last year. "It seems that nothing I say about it will change Chuck Tanner's mind, though. I dislike the situation, but 1 have to accept it."
TANNER PONDERS the questions raised by these men with the good humor of one who knows his system works and that most of the bitching will be done beyond earshot. He has a pitcher (Bert Blyleven) who would jump ship, but can't locate a dock, a third baseman (Bill Madlock) who took a swipe at an umpire, but still is playing despite a league-ordered suspension. Plus the Lee Lacys and Ed Otts, who feel they should be penciled into the lineup each evening.
"We have an unusual situation," says Chuck Tanner. "We had a strong bench when we won the World Series last year, but I feel we're even stronger in that area now."
To demonstrate, when discussing certain of the team's positions Tanner talks in plurals. For instance, he says, "We've gotten 34 RBI from our leftfielder," and what he means is the position has produced that total with Bill Robinson, John Milner, Mike Easier, and Lee Lacy exchanging the duty.
Robinson and Milner also have shared first base with Willie Stargell, a position which has accounted for 33 RBI. "I could be selfish and play Stargell every day," says Tanner, "but why do that when the season is long and we have so many people who can do the job? Some of the best games I've seen this year were between our two top squads in spring training."
Chuck Tanner always manages to offer us that Little League credo – this game is for fun, and we got to make certain everybody plays – but the fact is, the way he manages his team says something about how this season should end. Dallas Green rested both Garry Maddox and Bake McBride yesterday with results that were less than spectacular. The replacements went 1-for-6 and it suddenly seemed like the AstroTurf had grown much higher in the outfield.
Tanner sat Bill Robinson down and chose for his leftfielder Mike Easier, who was 2-for-3 before Lee Lacy pinch hit for him in the ninth, and singled. Never mind that Dale Berra subbed for Tim Foli at shortstop and played the position like he was digging for clams. "It was important for us to get Berra out there," Chuck Tanner later insisted. "There are ways in which he's very valuable to us, and we can afford to give him the chance.
"I FEEL YOU GET more out of your players when you maneuver them a little," Tanner added. Others undoubtedly would agree, wishing all the while they had his options. Involved here is a thought that is not pleasant... despite a 2-2 split in a series that was a theatrical success, over the long season the odds are with the Pirates. Off what we've seen thus far you could say that the Phillies have a slight edge in the starting eights, the problem being that Chuck Tanner starts 12.
"It's gonna be a long, tough race, though," the Pirates manager said, in summary. "This is the best division in baseball today, that I'll guarantee.
"The Phillies and Pirates are great teams. But Montreal has so much talent it's frightening, the Mets are improved, and the Cardinals are simply the best hitting team in Jhe game. They'll get their pitching straightened out, and once that happens they scare me. I don't care where they are at the moment.
"There will be no crucial series this year," Tanner added, "because every series from now on is crucial. We have to play each game like we've played the ones here.”
With the respect due a manager of world champions, it was pointed out that – despite the 5-4 score – yesterday's contest will not be crated and sent off to the Louvre.
Chuck Tanner smiled. "Do you go all year without writing a bad story?" he asked.
Does Lee Lacy go all year hitting.427?
Kingman Ready for Phils
CHICAGO (UPI) – The Phillies, to their pitchers' dismay, will find a familiar face waiting for them at Wrigley Field today.
Cubs slugger Dave Kingman, sidelined for the past two weeks with a shoulder injury, is expected to return to-the starting lineup for today's game with the Phillies.
Cubs Manager Preston Gomez, whose team has been in a hitting slump during Kingman's absence, said he hopes the defending major league home-run leader will be recovered enough to return to the lineup.
"It's still a day-to-day thing," Gomez said. "Dave took a shot at the hospital on Wednesday and if he responds, hell be back in the lineup."
Kingman appeared twice as a pinch-hitter in the Cubs' series with the Montreal Expos. He walked with the bases loaded in Tuesday's game and popped up to right field in Wednesday's game that was suspended due to darkness.
KINGMAN INJURED his shoulder after scoring against the San Diego Padres at Wrigley Field. He has been undergoing treatment ever since.
On the Cubs' recent West Coast road trip, a minor flap occurred when team trainers pronounced the leftfielder fit to play. But Kingman reportedly insisted his shoulder injury was so severe it hampered his throwing and Gomez kept him out of the lineup.
"What good would it do to put him in prematurely and have him hurt for a longer period of time?" Gomez asked. "I have said it before and I will say it again. 1 don't want to use Dave until he is 100 percent healthy."
While Kingman has been on the pines, the Cubs' offense has sputtered. They have not scored as many as five runs in a game since they whipped San Francisco, 15-9, May 10. The Cubs' team batting average once was .285 but has dipped to .269. Ironically, it has been their pitching, once considered their Achilles' heel, that has kept them in the National League's Eastern Division race.
"I don't know what it would have been had our pitching not been as sharp as it's been the past couple of weeks," Gomez said.
The Cubs skipper said he expects Kingman's return to be a motivating factor for the rest of the team.
"YES, IT MAKES a big difference with Kingman out of there. It means the other team can pitch around," Gomez said. "With Kingman in there, you know that one swing of the bat can mean the game."
Kingman's importance to the Cubs' offense is illustrated in the team's current statistics. Despite missing 10 games, Kingman is still the leader in homers, with eight and. RBI with 25. The nearest Cub in the RBI category is Jerry Martin, the regular centerfielder, with 20.
Kingman, who still refuses to talk to reporters, has been plagued by injuries throughout his career. Last season was not only Kingman's most productive in terms of home runs (48) and RBI (115) but it also represented the most games he had played in during any one of his nine major league seasons (145)
Phils Pitching Ruffled
By Bill Conlin
Dick Ruthven's medical history, which includes two elbow operations to remove the shrapnel of his trade, would seem to indicate that pitching with four days rest would be the prudent thing for the righthander to do.
But prudence has never been Ruthven's long suit He's the kid in World War II movies who volunteers for every suicide mission.
When Dallas Green was sifting through his threadbare rotation last Sunday, trying to come up with three warm bodies for the Pirates series, he wanted to buy an extra day for Dick. Which is why the manager handed the ball to Bob Walk, fresh from Okie City's not-so-great staff, Monday night Big D learned last Saturday that the cantaloupe growing inside Larry Christenson's right arm would have to be surgically harvested. Ruthven came up stiff after his victory over Houston last week, but it was from running the bases, not pitching. Like the young man in the war movie, he protested to his platoon leader. "Give me the ball, sir," he said, "I can run it through the enemy lines."
RUTHVEN VOLUNTEERED to face the dreaded Pirates on three days rest. It might not be as heroic as it sounds. Facing the Pirates at the Vet might be preferable to the alternative, which, in this case, was facing the Cubs this afternoon in Wrigley Field. When the wind and the Chicago bats are in concert, the dimensions of major league baseball's oldest active park can shrink considerably. It is like fighting a pistol duel in a phone booth. Nevertheless, we'll take Ruthven at his word.
"I'd rather beat the Pirates than the Cubs," Ruthven said after the Pirates beat him, 5-4, in a Business-persons Special which had about as much life as the Dow-Jones averages have had lately. "If I can pitch with three days rest I've got to tell him I can. I felt good. I've pitched a lot of games with less stuff than that and won. I've also pitched with better stuff and lost. I can't remember giving up 11 hits in five innings feeling that good, though."
The Pirates have a way of humbling pitchers who go out there feeling good. On a day when both managers rested key troops, the Pirates showed the most significant difference between the Eastern Division antagonists. Leftfielder Mike Easier and shortstop Dale Berra were on base six times with five singles between them. Green rested Bake McBride and Garry Maddox. Their replacements, Greg Gross and George Vukovich, managed one hit. G. Vukovich struck out twice and bounced into a rally-killing double play. Between them, the Phillies reserves stranded eight runners.
BUT THIS IS about starting pitching, a millstone which hangs heavy around the Phillies' necks. The necks haven't snapped so far because the lineup is so solid and the club leads the league in runs scored and homers. But Mike Schmidt and Greg Luzinski aren’t going to produce 60 homers and 150 RBI apiece. There are a lot of 0-for-4s out there someplace and those are the games where you need either a low-run ballgame or inspired hitting by the rest of the lineup.
Green says it's early and he's right. It is never too early to worry. Steve Carlton has been magnificent and the bullpen has put together two solid weeks of excellence. But the rotation behind Carlton is patchwork. And that label was applied not by despairing writers, but by the manager himself.
"The rotation is patchwork and we've got to get away from that patchwork if we're going to stay in this thing." Dallas Green said.
The writers are always quick to offer alternative solutions, one of the advantages of managing from the 400 leveL Make Dickie Noles a starter? Send Nino Espinosa and Warren Brusstar to Lourdes?
"I prefer to keep Dickie right where he is," Green said. "I think he can be a real valuable property down there. Nino and Bru? There's no encouraging hope that I can see. We're at the stage where we've got to evaluate what we're doing with them medically. We're down to one last shot at it for this season. Apparently, we're not doing what we should right now. Either they've got to learn to pitch with pain or we've got to think of something else."
IF SITTING OUT two outfielders who have minor hurts seems to contradict the concept of pitchers learning to pitch with pain, then you're getting the idea that baseball is a game of constant contradictions.
"Bake's got a troubled knee and day after night is not a good situation for him. Garry still has some lingering ailments now and this was a good time to rest him."
The Pirates jumped on Ruthven for three first inning runs, stringing together consecutive one-out singles by Phil Garner, Dave Parker. Willie Stargell and Easier. The third run scored when Ruthven walked Berra. who played short like a man wearing boxing gloves, to force home the third run. They scored two more in the fifth when Bill Madlock singled, Ed Ott doubled him home and scored on Berra's single to right Ott runs well for a catcher, but the play at the plate would have been closer if G. Vukovich had thrown the ball without taking an extra step.
The Phillies came back with three runs of their own in the first. It looked they would finally catch up to the dreaded Eddie Solomon. But G. Vukovich hit into a double play in the fifth, McBride pinch-hit into one in the sixth, when the Phils got their last hit. Enrique Romo gave them nothing in the eighth and ninth.
Green and his patchwork staff are in Chicago, where it would be nice if the wind was not blowing out hard enough to ruffle the patchwork.
PHILUPS: Like his predecessor, Dallas Green does not take kindly to losing to Eddie Solomon, who used to be Buddy Jay. "I really thought we'd beat that guy," Green said... Bob Boone had a good day, two RBI and a pair of doubles. But Mike Schmidt was. held to a sacrifice fly and had a 10-game hitting streak stopped. Greg Luzinski was on base three times two singles and a hit by pitch... Phil Garner held his ground at second with Larry Bowa running in the sixth with Boone on third and nobody out. Manny Trillo hit the ball to the second baseman, who refused to concede a run with the Bucs leading, 5-3. He went to the plate and Boone was out. Bake McBride ended the Phils' best threat by bouncing into a double play... Pitching for the Cubs: Dan Larson vs. Rick Reuschel today, Steve Carlton vs. Lynn McGlothen tomorrow and Bob Walk vs. Dennis Lamp Sunday.
4 Win Tickets
There were four winners yesterday in the Daily News Home Run Payoff Contest. During the fourth inning of the Phillies-Pirates game, Betty J. Haines of Atlantic City, Jim Rooney of Philadelphia, Jim Dilworth of Ardmore, and Anna Kurer of Gloucester, each won four tickets to a Phillies game.
So far the Daily News has paid out $4,855.
Today's entry coupon appears on Page 67.