Peterson's '80 Pro Baseball
Petersen's '80 Pro Baseball Magazine agreed with the CHB regarding the Phillies. They were picked to finish third behind the Expos, who were picked to win the Eastern Division, and the reigning World Champion Pirates. Petersen's did have one-half of the playoff teams correct, picking the Houston Astros and Kansas City Royals from the two western divisions.
National League Preview
“May We Have The Envelope, Please!”
by Murray Chass
Once upon a time, in 1962, to be exact, two new National League teams were born: the Colt 45’s in Houston and the Metropolitans in New York. The Colt 45’s grew up to be the Astros but never quite matured into the orbiting space-age kind of team their name suggested. The Metropolitans, known to their best buddies as the Mets, never really grew up at all, but for many years they were the most intriguing and exciting band of youngsters on the block.
Within the past year, both groups passed into the possession of new proprietors. “We’re not making any money in this business,” Bowie Kuhn, the commissioner of all baseball proprietors, old and new, remarked this past winter, but two groups of men, both headed by New York millionaires, thought there must be something worthwhile in the National League because they paid a lot of money for the right not to make any money in a new business.
Interestingly, the same day the commissioner was making that remark, Nelson Doubleday, Fred Wilpon and friends were paying a record $21.1 million for the Mets, who in their past had won two pennants and one World Series but hadn’t even won a booby prize since.
Some day, if Doubleday, Wilpon and friends are as astute in the baseball business as they are in their other businesses, maybe the Mets once again will become the most exciting band of youngsters on the block.
For now, though, attention will focus on the Astros and their sudden status as a contender for their first title of any kind.
John McMullen is the new owner of the Astros and he has poured a lot of new money into them, including enough to make Nolan Ryan the first player in team sports history to earn $1 million a year. The shipping industry magnate, who learned his baseball ownership at the knee of another ship magnate, George Steinbrenner, also set aside significant dollars for J.R. Richard, Jose Cruz and Joe Morgan.
The Astros, who missed first place by only a game and a half last year, have moved into a position from which they could break up the Western Division monopoly that has been shared by the Cincinnati Reds and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
In 11 years of division play, the Reds have won six times and the Dodgers three (Atlanta and San Francisco won the other two times, for all you trivia buffs). No one else has won the title in the last eight years.
Last year the division was considered the weakest of baseball’s four, but its teams have taken steps to change that image. Western teams, for example, were the busiest as a group in this past winter’s free-agent market, signing 11 of the first 23 free agents who chose new teams. And those players did not come cheaply.
The Astros committed themselves to a minimum of $3.7 million for Ryan and Morgan and a maximum of $5.25 million. The Dodgers spent $5.4 million on Dave Goltz, Don Stanhouse and Jay Johnstone. San Francisco found $4,825,000 and gave it to Rennie Stennett, Milt May and Jim Wohlford. San Diego gave $3,750,000 to Rick Wise and John Curtis, and Al Hrabosky received $2.2 million from Atlanta.
The Reds, to whom free agents are vermin, are the only western team that didn’t sign any free agents, but they should not be left for dead. Despite the slow erosion of the team that won two consecutive World Series in 1975 and ‘76, the Reds still could defend successfully their latest division championship.
The Dodgers would like to recapture the title they held in 1977 and ‘78 and they are capable of achieving their ambition, but they suffered an ill omen last February when their garrulous manager, Tom Lasorda, emerged second best from an encounter with Jim Lefebvre, who used to coach under him.
It wasn’t simply that Lasorda lost the fight that serves as a bad sign for the Dodgers, but the blood pouring from Lasorda’s nose was red and all this time he had people believing the Dodgers had blue blood. The image is shattered and with it perhaps goes the division title.
The other three teams in the division do not seem ready to challenge for the title, despite their expensive attempts at improving themselves. However, Ted Turner’s Atlanta Braves could be ready to vacate last place. If so, Ray Kroc’s San Diego Padres could be ready to replace them.
No matter who wins the west crown, that team must contend with the eastern winner that last year was Pittsburgh, which then won the World Series and is the defending champion of all of baseball.
The Pirates certainly are capable of winning the division again because any team with Dave Parker, Willie Stargell, Omar Moreno, Bill Madlock and Kent Tekulve has a chance of winning anything, even a game of tic-tac-toe.
But the Eastern team that should be watched closely this season is the Montreal Expos, who like the Astros were an expansion team but an expansion team of an even later generation.
Like the Astros, the Expos just missed winning the division crown last year and could be ready to grab it this time around. Perhaps this will be the season in which the never-wases who turned into just-misses will become winners.
A Montreal-Houston playoff would be far different from the usual playoff pairing. While Cincinnati and Los Angeles have dominated the west, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia have done the same in the east. The Pirates have won six times and the Phillies three. The Metropolitans won the other two times.
The Phillies’ three titles came in succession and they would like to begin another succession this year. That would make it at least a three-team race.
The St. Louis Cardinals, however, have plans to make it four teams because they feel they’re ready to challenge the usual winners. The Cardinals’ chances depend on how far their pitching staff will take them.
Chicago and New York don’t have much of a chance. Jerry Martin, the Cubs’ center fielder, has said the Cubs are still in the dark ages. If that’s true, then the Mets probably have regressed to the day after Creation. Before Creation?
Wherever they stand, it’s not in an enviable position, which is where the new owners start from. Yet there must be a lot of people who envy the new owners because there were a lot of people bidding to have the privilege of being in that position.
Who will be in the top position when the season ends? A year ago, it was written here that the Pirates would be on top and indeed, that’s where they were when the season ended. They could be there again this year, but a Montreal-Houston playoff pairing is so inviting that this year’s hunch says the Pirates won’t be.
It will be the first time a post-season baseball game will be played indoors and it will be the first time a post-season game is played in another country. That having happened, will we have the first World Series game in another country? The feeling here is that the Astros will see to it that baseball gets a break by having its World Series night games indoors and not in rainy, snowy, 30-degree weather.
That, however, is as far as the Astros will go. The World Series championship will return to the American League, via Rich Kucner’s Baltimore Orioles.
Murray Chass’s 1980 Predictions- National League
1. Montreal Expos
2. Pittsburgh Pirates
3. Philadelphia Phillies
4. St. Louis Cardinals
5. Chicago Cubs
6. New York Mets
1. Houston Astros
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
3. Cincinnati Reds
4. San Francisco Giants
5. Atlanta Braves
6. San Diego Padres
National League Playoffs:
- Houston over Montreal
Rich Kucner’s 1980 Predictions- American League
1. Baltimore Orioles
2. New York Yankees
3. Milwaukee Brewers
4. Boston Red Sox
5. Detroit Tigers
6. Cleveland Indians
7. Toronto Blue Jays
1. Kansas City Royals
2. California Angels
3. Texas Rangers
4. Seattle Mariners
5. Chicago White Sox
6. Minnesota Twins
7. Oakland A's
American League Playoffs:
- Baltimore over Kansas City
- Baltimore (AL) over Houston (NL)
Philadelphia Phillies- N.L. East Preview
The Phillies won the division title three years in a row. Then they signed Pete Rose to a contract worth nearly $3 million. The addition of Rose surely would get them into the World Series, right?
Maybe this year but not last year, which is when the Phillies were counting on Rose to get them beyond the playoffs. Last year the Phillies didn’t even reach the playoffs, struggling in the last few weeks of the season even to finish with a better than .500 record.
That the Phillies faded to fourth place, a hefty 14 games from first, was not Rose’s fault. He did everything that was expected of him and maybe more. It was some of his new teammates who didn’t do what was expected of them.
Danny Ozark apparently didn’t do what was expected of him either. After managing the Phillies to those three division titles, he had the Phillies floundering in fifth place at the end of August so he was asked to leave his job and take his malapropisms elsewhere.
Dallas Green, known as G. Dallas Green in the Phillie hierarchy, relinquished his job as director of minor leagues and scouting for the Phillies and became the interim manager. Now he has become the full-time manager, which may or may not make the players happy.
Green, a former major league pitcher, immediately let everyone know that he would be a tougher manager than Ozark, especially where work was concerned and starting in spring training. To at least some players, that was not a bad idea.
“We didn’t work as hard as we should have last year,” shortstop Larry Bowa said. “We just went through the motions.”
That can happen sometimes to a team that wins for a few years in a row. The players reach the point where they think they are good enough to win just by walking out on the field. A 14-game deficit told the Phillies they couldn’t do that.
Worse, they had to live through the winter knowing that the team that supplanted them as division champions also was able to reach the goal the Phillies yearned for. Now they have to unseat the defending World Series champion if they want their shot.
Perhaps the worst thing that happened to the Phillies last year was the collapse of their pitching staff and the worst thing that happened to their pitching staff was Tug McGraw’s charity bicycle caravan.
Larry Christenson fell off his bike and suffered a broken collarbone. The result: he started only 17 games and won 5.
Warren Brusstar hurt his ankle playing basketball as part of the caravan (no, he wasn’t playing basketball on a bicycle), then injured his shoulder in spring training, apparently while favoring his ankle. The result: he went from a relief record of 58 games and a 2.33 earned run average in 1978 to 13 games and a 7.07 era in 1979.
The Phillies hope that Christenson can rediscover the talent that made him a 19-game winner in 1977. They also hope that Dick Ruthven (7-5) is recovered from elbow surgery so that he can come closer to the 13-5 record he amassed after he joined the Phillies in 1978.
Steve Carlton, of course, is the No. 1 pitcher, and his 18-11 record indicates he is not about to slow up in his 15th major league season. Nino Espinosa (14-12) also has a spot in the starting rotation.
If the Phillies had a problem with their starting pitchers last season, they had even more of one with their relievers, who compiled only 29 saves, one of the fewest totals in the league.
To correct that problem, the Phillies tried to acquire Sparky Lyle from Texas during the winter, but they encountered a problem with his contract. There wasn’t time to work it out before the first inter-league trading deadline, and the deal fell through.
That leaves 35-year-old Tug McGraw (16 saves but a 5.14 earned run average) as the chief of the bullpen with 37-year-old Ron Reed (13-8) the main man in the middle innings. A comeback by Brusstar would help immeasurably.
Bob Boone (.286) remains one of the most reliable catchers in the game. Even Carlton will have to rely upon him this year because Tim McCarver has retired. McCarver caught Carlton so much he used to say that when he died they would bury him 60 feet, 6 inches from Carlton.
To be sure, Pete Rose did more than his share and the Phillies can only hope that, at age 39, he will not lose his ability to hit and hit and hit. Even while adjusting to a new position, first base, Rose batted .331, giving him his 14th .300 or better average in the past 15 seasons; struck out only 32 times (his career low is 30, during the 1978 season) and played in all of the team’s 163 games. Even though the Phillies were out of the race, he capped his year with a .421 average in September.
Not so productive was Larry Bowa, the shortstop whose average plummeted 53 points to .241.
Mike Schmidt, on the other hand, recovered from an off-year in 1978 to hit 45 homers and drive in 114 runs, both totals falling just short of the league highs. The third baseman did lead the league in walks with 120.
Manny Trillo (.260) is the second baseman and completes one of the most solid infields in the league.
While Schmidt was rebounding from his off-year, Greg Luzinski, the bull who plays left field, was skidding into an off-year of his own. His batting average dropped from .289 to .252, his homer total crashed from 35 to 18 and his RBI total dipped from 101 to 81.
The Phillies apparently became so concerned about Luzinski that they offered him in trades during the winter. They mentioned him in talks with San Diego about Dave Winfield and they mentioned him in conversations with the Cubs about Bruce Sutter.
But Luzinski remains a Phillie and joins Garry Maddox (.281) and Bake McBride (.280) in the outfield. McBride actually came closer to being traded than Luzinski. The right fielder was supposed to go to Texas in the Lyle deal, then be sent on to Montreal. Lonnie Smith, a .330 minor league hitter, would not have minded that trade at all. It would have opened a spot for him in the outfield.