Frederick Post - October 10, 1980

Astros Glad To Be Back Home


By the Associated Press


HOUSTON (AP) - The National League Championship Series switched artificial surfaces Thursday, moving from Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium to the Houston Astrodome, a house of horrors for visiting clubs this season.


"It's a pleasure to be going home," said Houston Manager Bill Virdon, whose Astros split the first two games in the best-of-five pennant playoff at Philadelphia.


It should be a pleasure. The Astros were awesome at home season, compiling a 55-26 record under the dome, compared to 38-44 on the road.


That doesn't scare the Phillies, though. They won 21 of their last 28 games on the road to finish 42-39 away from home, their best record since 1976.


"We've played down there before, you know," snapped Philadelphia Manager Dallas Green. "It's not as if we're doing something completely new. We're 9-3 for the year against the Astros. We must have won some games down there."


In fact, the Phillies have won four of six under the dome in each of the past two season.

More important than playing indoors is the state of mind the Phillies will bring with them for Game Three of this series Friday. They lost a game they should have won Wednesday night, leaving 14 runners on base, 10 of them in the last four innings. They had the bases loaded with one out in the seventh and did not score and the bases loaded with one out in the ninth and did not score.


The 7-4, 10-inning loss in Game Two can stay with a team, but the Phillies insist it will not stay with them.


"We gotta forget about this and just play like nothing happened," said shortstop Larry Bowa.


"We just didn't do it," said slugger Mike Schmidt, who was the tying run at the plate when he flied to right ending the game. "We can't worry about opportunities getting away. We just did not get the job done, that's all."


Schmidt said Wednesday's failures will be forgotten by Friday.


"I don't believe in a lot of talk about pressure and momentum," he said. "It's no factor once you walk out on the field. What's past is past, that's all."


Pitcher Tug McGraw and first baseman Pete Rose, full of pleasantries in the often grim Phillies' dressing room which has been described by some visitors as a demilitarized zone, tried to lighten the load of the painful loss.


"We just don't want our fans to get overconfident, that's all," offered McGraw. "If we had won (Wednesday), the third game would have been an anti-climax. We wanted to build the suspense, you see."


Rose said, "The commissioner (of baseball, Bowie Kuhn) wanted it this way. If the series had ended in three, look at all the money he would have lost at the gate.


The Astros, known in some quarters as 25 players to be named later, had to be happy with the split.


"It's always important to try to get at least one game when you open on the road," said second baseman Joe Morgan, one of the more recognizable players on this team. "Then you try to win two out of three at home. I know I came (to Philadelphia) to win both games, but since we lost (the first), we have to be satisfied with the split."


The second game was a tight, tense, pulsating contest that remained pressure-packed through late innings as the Astros fought off repeated Phillies' rallies. In the ninth, Bake McBride got a late start from second and had to stop at third on a hit by Lonnie Smith which might have won the game for Philadelphia. In the 10th, after Houston had assaulted the Phillies' relievers for four runs, Philadelphia rallied again and, with two out, Schmidt, the major league home run champion came to the plate representing the tying run.


What were Virdon's thoughts in that final tense moment?


"I wasn't thinking," the Houston manager said. "I was praying."

More Teams Needed In Playoffs


Touching All The Bases by Stan Goldberg


ONLY ONE TEAM won more games in baseball this year than the Baltimore Orioles, yet the Orioles did not make the playoffs.


The race in the American League West was virtually decided by mid-August. Tbe Kansas City Royals were so far ahead no one was going to catch them. The other five teams in the division could only play out the schedule and fight for second or third place money.


These are two reasons why changes need to be made in baseball's postseason setup. Baseball is the only sport where only the winners in each division advance to
the playoffs. Football allows two wild card teams: hockey and pro basketball advance about half the team to the playoffs. But in baseball only four out of the 26 teams advance to postseason competition.


Baseball should follow the example of other pro sports. It does not have to have as many playoff teams as the NBA or NHL, but it certainly should allow more than four. At least the top two teams in each division should earn playoffs berths.


By doing this, baseball would create more interest in the sport, especially in the latter part of the season. For instance, the Kansas City Royals clinched the AL West Sept 11. There were almost three weeks left in the season. But there were three teams — Oakland, which was 16½ out at the time. Texas, which was 19½ out and Minnesota which was 24½ out — that could have spent the final weeks battling for second place in the division. Far more fans in those three cities would have come out to the park if their teams could make the playoffs.


Going into the final week of the regular season the Cincinnati Reds were 4½ games behind first-place Houston in the NL West. The Reds' chances of catching the Astros were next to nothing. But Cincinnati was only 2½ games out of second and still had a good chance to overtake the second-place Dodgers.


In the American League East the Orioles had to be disgusted as late September came. The Birds were winning more games than anyone else in baseball except the New York Yankees. But the Orioles knew that, despite their record, they were not going to the playoffs. They were just unfortunate to be in the strongest division In baseball.


• • • •


IF THE BASEBALL owners did decide to expand the playoffs, they would also have to make some other changes. First, the regular season should end earlier. It is too long as it is. Who wants to go out to the ball park and see last-place Toronto play last-place Seattle when the temperatures are ia the 50s m mid or late September.


The regular season should end about the middle of September and then there should be a best two-out-of-three game mini-playoff. It would match the second-place team in the East against the first-place team in the West, in each league. The winners would then play in the best three-of-five championship series and the winners of that series would go to the World Series.


There are some people who might say this system would dilute the caliber of play in postseason action. But that certainly would not be the case this year. The second-place teams in each division this year were strong teams: the second-place Los Angeles Dodgers, Montreal Expos, Baltimore Orioles and Oakland A's.


In the American League it has already been proposed that teams be split into three divisions and that the winner from each division and a wild card team advance to the playoffs.


These ideas would be radical ones for baseball, a sport where most of the owners would probably vote for Ronald Reagan. But the owners have tried radical methods before, such as expansion and the use of the designated hitters. These ideas have helped baseball, as proven by the increased attendance the last few years. An expanded baseball playoffs could only help baseball even more.