Philadelphia Daily News - September 19, 1980
Green Makes Winning Pitch
By Bill Conlin
CHICAGO – This time last September, Dallas Green was a reluctant candidate.
He came down from the 400 level of Veterans Stadium at the urging of Paul Owens and Ruly Carpenter to take a hard look at a crumbling team, a deadass bunch of not-so-rugged Individualists.
The reluctant candidate whipped the Phillies through a September which restored the Phillies' considerable self-esteem to some degree, if not their accustomed perch atop the division standings.
He says he's a family guy, a future general manager, but above everything, he's a Phillies guy. And the reluctant candidate, Dallas Green, agreed to stay on the field for the 1980 season.
Few of his athletes will nominate him for the Captain Nice Award. He yells at them, for. crying out loud, points out their flaws in rich detail to the hated press. After his celebrated blowup in Pittsburgh, Carpenter had to tell his close friend to tone it down. The enfantes tenibles on the field were perilously close to nervous breakdowns from the manager's caustic brand of group therapy.
THERE ARE diplomatic . lies a manager must tell – "Kevin Saucier has tendinitis" – but that's part of the game and almost everybody understands. But most of the time, Dallas Green looks you in the eye and tells you what's on his mind. He's been burned by some sloppy reporting. So has his team. But, unlike his athletes, he handles the media on an individual basis.
"That was a horsebleep story," he will say and proceed to detail graphically what he doesn't like about it. But he doesn't let the wound fester. OK, I told you how I feel, his approach suggests, now let's get on with the season. Next question.
He's told everybody to look in the mirror, to grind it out. He stresses unity on a team which would have trouble agreeing on whether it was day or night. He tells his pitchers to stop mincing around out there like insulted popinjays when they give up a long ball, catch a nasty break or get a bad umpire's call. If you go after hitters with swiftness and dispatch, he'll like your demeanor out there. He injected a team that was starting to enjoy the longevity of the Union League membership list with a handful of rookies."
In sickness or health, for richer or poorer, nobody figured the Phillies to finish higher than third this season.
But Green has cajoled, insulted, whipped and pleaded the ballclub into a rousing pennant fight with the Expos.
IT HASNT BEEN easy. He's bruised more feelings than Don Rickles, with far fewer laughs along the way. But if the athletes are honest, they will admit that they couldn't have come as close as they are right now without a muleskinner. They had it too easy for too many years. Few of them are as good now as they were in 1977. They had too many apologists. Failure to play up to potential became a group shrug, a casual throwing up of hands.
So Green put the kind of pressure on them they could understand. Put up or shut up. This year or see you later. He proved he was not married to anybody on the team by releasing Rawly Eastwick and Doug Bird in spring training, giving a handshake and goodbye to Buddy Harrelson, yanking Randy Lerch out of the rotation.
How does Dallas Green like managing The Incredible Sulk so far? Win or lose, will he be back next year with a cat o’ nine tails and a voice loud enough to make the athletes prefer infield practice to bridge games and Willie Nelson?
"You know my feelings about managing anyway," Green said. "But next year isn't really on my mind and I've kept it away from my mind for the simple reason that I don't want it to affect how I handle the guys and how I manage the rest of the way. I said the same thing last year. I want to finish the job I started out to do. And if I win – if we win – there's really not much left to accomplish."
PAUL OWENS told Green at mid-season he'd like him to manage the club in 1981, win or lose this season. "It wasn't a deep conversation," Dallas modifies, "just a passing one. I know he feels comfortable with me down here and I feel comfortable with him up there. We're a good team and he knows it. We've got just one thought. We want to win."
Has he enjoyed the season on what has been so far a stormy center stage?
"I guess I've had peaks and valleys," Dallas said. "There have been so many times when I've just been utterly frustrated. I'd have to say overall I've enjoyed it. It's been one hell of an experience and I know it's going to be a helluva experience when I go where I have to go."
Owens wants to retire in a year or two. The Pope wants to go out a winner so intensely, he can taste it. He's done his own share of persuading. The Phillies have not lacked guest lecturers in the clubhouse this season.
Green probably will be the next Phillies' GM and he will have a rich background when he ascends the ivory tower – major league player, minor league manager, farm director, major league manager. If there's such a thing as a Ph.D. for front office executives. Green will have one cum loud when he takes over the total field operation.
"This is something you can't replace. You get a feel down here, a helluva insight on the way guys think and the type of player we have here," he said. "You can sit upstairs for years and years and not come up with that. Even if I'm not the head honcho when I go back up there, even if I go back up as Paul's assistant, I know I can help him and we can put together a ballclub."
WIN OR LOSE this season, putting together a significantly new ballclub will be a practical necessity for the Phillies in the near future. They have an enormous investment in their farm system and the crop is almost ready for harvest.
Green wouldn't be sitting 1½ games behind the Expos without the performance of what has been skimmed off the top of the system the last two seasons. Bob Walk alone has kept them in the hunt. Marty Bystrom has a brilliant future and Mark Davis, the 19-year-old Eastern League MVP, might be the best lefthander the Phillies have signed since Chris Short. The system is also rich in catchers and middle infielders, the scarcest commodities in baseball today.
What is needed is a skillful changing of the guard. Looking ahead to 1981, the Phillies have a chance to build a brilliant young pitching staff around Steve Carlton, a powerful bullpen around still capable veterans Tug McGraw and Sparky Lyle. For the first time in Phillies' memory, Owens will have a trading surplus at almost every position.
But the retooling will take delicate judgments in some areas and ruthless lack of sentiment in others. In 1981, some household names m Philadelphia baseball might have to go. The Phillies definitely need more power in the lineup. Mike Schmidt can't carry the long-ball load forever. A spot must be created in the outfield for Lonnie Smith, despite his defensive shortcomings. A leadoff man like Smith comes along once every two decades if a team is lucky.
FOR THE FIRST time, the Phillies' total organization compares favorably with the National League heavyweights, the Dodgers, Reds and Pirates. They no longer need a Danny Ozark to instill somebody else's organizational playing philosophy. Other ballclubs are starting to take notes on The Phillies Way.
"I think you can see we've got a pretty good-looking future," Green ' said.
"I think we're at a stage where a lot of guys in our organization can challenge for any job on this baseball team.
"BOB WALK WAS down on our totem pole last spring. Some of the kids we had above him were injured and he stepped into the gap. It's also a credit that we have the kind of kids who are capable of accepting that kind of pressure. Marty Bystrom beat New York and everybody said, OK, he beat the Mets, but then he goes out and beat the Cardinals, a helluva good-hitting baseball team. He had to pitch and he did."
Walk will pitch this afternoon, Bystrom tomorrow in two pressure games against the who-gives-a-damn Cubs.
Maybe they'll get rocked in Wrigley. Maybe they'll digest the gut-wrenching bouillabaise of Wrigley Field in daylight.
Whatever, a lot of the credit that they are out there at all in the heat of a pennant race belongs to The Shouting Shogun, Dallas Green.
Tube Sports (excerpt)
Compiled By Mike Kaine
The Phils are coming off the emotional high of a rare win in Pittsburgh. In Chicago, the highest the Cubs ever get is top step of the dugout.
The Phillies' fate in their race to overtake Montreal this weekend will be in the hands of two rookies. The pitching matchups – all righthanders – lean more to the right than the Republican platform.
Bob Walk (10-5), who gets hit more than a masochist but still wins, will go against the Cubbies' chubby Rick Reuschel (11-11) today. Fellow rookie Marty Bystrom (2-0) takes on Phillies nemesis Lynn McGlothen (10-12) tomorrow (2:15). And Dick Ruthven (15-10), shooting for a personal season-victory high, wraps up the series against Dennis Lamp ( 10-11) on Sunday (2: 15).