Philadelphia Inquirer - September 16, 1980
Looking for 2 in Steeltown
The National League East is fast shaping into an end-of-season showdown between the Phillies and the Montreal Expos. The Expos hold a one-game lead and have managed for the last couple of weeks to stay just out of the Phils' reach. The two teams will play six of their last eight games against each other.
The Pittsburgh Pirates, however – in third place at 4½ games back – shouldn't be written off just yet, particularly in view of the fact that they are notoriously strong finishers – not to mention defending world champions.
It is this scenario that confronts the Phillies as they stop off in Pittsburgh tonight and tomorrow night (both games at 7:35) for a two-game mini-series against the Pirates. A couple of Phillies wins would go a good way toward derailing the Pirates' title hopes, and do no worse than keep pace with Montreal.
PHILLIES at Pittsburgh (TV-Ch. 17; Radlo-KYW-1060, 7:35 p.m.)
Lyle doesn’t faze Tug McGraw, who just wants to win
By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer
Put Sparky Lyle and Tug McGraw in the same bullpen, and the place has a chance to never be the same.
That's like putting Groucho and Chico Marx in the same stateroom. Like putting Rodney Dangerfield and Henny Youngman on the same dais. Like putting Jerry Lewis and Steve Martin in the same golf cart.
After all, the newest Phillie, Lyle, is a guy with a reputation for not taking life quite as seriously as, say, Eric Sevareid.
Lyle is the guy who sits on cakes, the guy who once came to the ballpark with fake casts on his arm and leg, the guy who once threw his entire uniform into the stands.
But then his new bullpen compadre, Tug McGraw, is not the world's foremost straight man, either. McGraw is the guy who dyed his uniform green on St. Patrick's Day, the guy who shagged flies in a combat helmet and Army fatigues, the guy who catches pop-ups behind his back.
You put these two together, and the atmosphere around the bullpen is not likely to remind anybody of the Sistine Chapel.
They are two guys who have never been known to shy away from a good time. But they are not as alike as all that, either.
"I don't know him that well," said McGraw. "But from what I've read, I'm not the practical joker he tends to be. I get my reputation as a flake because I have so much nervous energy to burn that sometimes I do things during the game to ease the tension.
"Sometimes I'll fool around with fans, too. And yeah, I did dye my uniform green, but that was in spring training. That was just having a good time. I don't do that stuff during the season. To me, these things are just fun stories for people to read. I don't think I'm really as flaky as my reputation."
Well, what's important is not so much how Lyle affects McGraw's chances of becoming guest host of the Tonight Show, anyway. It is how he affects McGraw on the mound that counts.
McGraw is having perhaps the best second half of any reliever in baseball. Since the All-Star break, he has been in 13 games in which he had a chance to earn a save, and he has saved 10 of them.
He has an 0.77 earned-run average, has allowed only 21 hits in 35 innings and has four times as many strikeouts as unintentional walks (24-6).
The only worry has been that he was the only consistent guy out there. The worry has been that Dallas Green might be tempted to overuse him.
But now, if Lyle can throw anywhere close to the way he did as a Yankee, the worry is different. The worry could be that McGraw might not be used enough.
Both he and Lyle respond best to a lot of work. And it is tough to tell whether there will be enough out therefor both of them.
"To me, it's impossible to have a bullpen that's too strong," McGraw said. "Over the course of the year, you might be able to say you can have a bullpen that's too crowded. But you should be able to avoid that if you have a manager who knows how to handle a pitching staff. And Dallas has shown this year that he's capable of that."
McGraw may have responded to the pressure of being the top bullpen guy by having his best season as a Phillie. But being No. 1 has its drawbacks, too.
He has been in games in the seventh and eighth innings an awful lot. In one game in Pittsburgh, Green brought him in during the sixth inning and left him in to pitch to 20 hitters. Being No. 1 doesn't necessarily mean you have to do the work of the whole staff.
"It's good to have that extra arm," said McGraw, who turned 36 on Aug. 30, six weeks after Lyle did. "All I need is to be used consistently. There's no real formula.
"Working with somebody else is no problem. I've worked with other guys here. I did it in New York. If you're looking for problems, I just can't see any."
There is one potential problem. But McGraw doesn't feel like looking at that one right now. The problem is that his contract is up after this season.
He could become a free agent, probably rake in enough bucks to buy his own island in the Caribbean and go somewhere else. But deep down, McGraw doesn't want to go anywhere.
What happens, though, if Lyle comes along and has a sizzling September? It certainly reduces McGraw's bargaining leverage with the Phillies, at least a little. When Phils vice president Paul Owens announced the acquisition of Lyle on Saturday, he admitted McGraw's potential free-agent status was at least a minor factor.
"I have to look at everything," Owens said. "He could be a free agent. And if he does, that's his prerogative. But now I know I've got a good, experienced guy who's solid. And if I have them both, even better."
But McGraw said he is unconcerned by that aspect of the deal for now.
"I don't care what they're thinking," he said. "I just want to win the damn division. I'm not even worried about next year or the year after.
"My attitude is, I want to win the division, period. Then I want to win the playoffs. And then I want to win the World Series. I don't give a damn about contracts right now."
His attitude is: Make wins first, make jokes second, make money third. You've got to like his priorities.
NOTES: The Phillies start a series with the fading Pirates tonight. Dick Ruthven, the last Phils righthander to win in Pittsburgh (back in August, 1978), starts against Jim Bibby (16-5). Bibby is 1-3 with a no-decision in the last month. And he allowed five runs in the game he won.