Philadelphia Inquirer - December 7, 1980

Lerch looks to a new future

 

By Frank Dolson, Inquirer Sports Editor

 

He's bitten his lip. He's counted to 10. He’s tried, with remarkable success, not to pop off at a time when popping off would have been a very easy thing to do. And now the end of the ordeal is in sight. Any day now, any hour, Randy Lerch expects to become an ex-Phillie.

 

He is working harder now than he ever worked. He shows up in the Phillies clubhouse at the Vet each weekday morning to prepare for a new year, a hew start. But even though this clubhouse has been home to Lerch for more than four seasons, he talks like a man who is just passing through.

 

Occasionally, he catches himself in mid-sentence and smiles. I m talking as though I've already been traded," he'll say. "It's not for sure I'm going to be traded. I haven't left yet... but we re talking 99 percent.”

 

In Lerch's mind, in the mind of most who remember his 4-14 season and what the Phillies did to him at the end of it – dropping the left-hander from the postseason roster, then criticizing him publicly for not traveling with the club, as a spectator, for the playoffs and the World Series – there can.be little doubt that his baseball future is elsewhere.

 

Sat it out

 

"l never ripped anybody about what happened," Lerch said, "and what does Dallas (Phillies manager Dallas Green) do? He turns around during the World Series and calls me a little baby, a little kid. He said that Nino Espinosa (who was also scratched from the postseason roster, but traveled with the club, anyway) earned his World Series ring and his money and I didn’t.”

 

Lerch had gone through consider able soul-searching before making his decision not to travel with the Phillies to Houston and Kansas City in October. "They asked me to go," he said. "They asked me to go along and sit on the bench and wear my uniform like a batboy. Well, anybody with any pride, in my opinion, wouldn’t.

 

"But I made sure I came to every game (which he viewed from a seat in the stands). I came down to the clubhouse about the seventh inning and I saw the guys the night they won it and congratulated them. And I watched the parade (on TV). That was the toughest thing for me to do.

 

"I made myself watch it. I wanted to make sure I had so much feeling – such a burning feeling, as it were – that something like this would never happen to me again.

 

Never hungrier

 

"Wherever baseball takes me, I'm going to make sure that mentally I'm totally prepared. I don't think I was as prepared as I could have been last year. I don't think I worked as hard as I should have in the winter. This year – well, you can see. I was in here two weeks after the World Series. I've never been hungrier for anything in my life.”

 

If that's the case, and it surely ap pears to be, Lerch may benefit in the long run from his October ordeal. But that doesn't make what happened any easier to stomach, nor does it make him any less eager for the trade he thinks will be completed soon, perhaps at the winter meetings this week in Dallas.

 

"You're not going to treat someone the way they treated me, then turn around and keep him, Lerch said. "Let's face it. That kind of stuff is hard to forget. I'm going to remem ber and the people are going to remember. Imagine what kind of hill that would be to climb. It was tough for me just to come back here to work out."

 

But he did it, and with all that he's been through in the last few months he still has a special feeling for this city, this franchise and, especially, for Phillies owner Ruly Carpenter – "one of the finest men I know."

 

Fresh start

 

But it's the thought of leaving, of getting a fresh start with another club that excites him now. "Sparky Lyle told me, ‘It’s like a rebirth,’” Lerch said.

 

Often, a player's first trade is a traumatic experience. Lerch has been a Phillie since the day he signed, as an 18-year-old kid. But for him, the trauma has already come and gone.

 

"I guess what I went through with the World Series was like what a play er goes through when he's traded," he said, "sort of a feeling of not being wanted. That was my period of getting disassociated with the team."

 

 

Next comes a period of getting associated with a new team. For Randy Lerch, at this point in his career, leaving the only organization he has ever known – an organization he still considers the very best in baseball – is the only sensible move. After what the Phillies did to him in 1980, the least they can do is let him pitch for somebody else in 1981.