Philadelphia Daily News - September 29, 1980
Phillies Slump into 2d
By Bill Conlin
I'm sorry, the numbers you have dialed – 2-for-21 and 0-for-20 – have been temporarily disconnected.
Dallas Green tried to turn over the business of winning the Eastern Division title to the guys who have been there before. All he got was a recorded message. Oh, well, he can always let his fingers do the walking through the Yellow Pages.
Despite all the building oh-fers, the Phils were functional against the Mets, a team that would have trouble scoring three runs if you spotted them a runner on third with nobody out each inning. But the batting average slippage showed against the Expos, a team that can and will score runs, even with their backs pinned to the wall in a big game.
The Expos pounded the Phillies, 8-3, yesterday, getting two homers, a double and four RBI from Gary Carter, a certified MVP candidate and major league baseball's best all-around catcher. Dick Williams also got another big effort from righthander Steve Rogers, who is 4-1 this month, excellent numbers for a pitcher who wears a "choke" label around his neck.
THE PHILLIES, who were a half-game ahead when the Expos came to town, are a half-game behind in the standings, although they're even in the loss column. They never capitalized on the momentum and emotion which seemed to spring from Bake McBride's heroics Friday night. Steve Carlton lost, 4-3, Saturday and, yesterday, the Phils were a sloppy baseball team in almost every respect Offensively, all Green can detect in the engine-room boilers is the faint flicker of a pilot light. All engines are at full stop.
Bob Boone is 0-for-20. Greg Luzinski is 2-for-21. Pete Rose, Mr. September himself, is 4-for-35. Even Mike Schmidt, who slammed his 44th homer Saturday and drove in his 114th run yesterday with an eighth-inning sacrifice fly, is 2-for-16 on the homestand.
The last thing a manager wants to do with seven games left in an almost deadlocked pennant race is shake up his lineup. Hell, it's an admission that something is wrong, a not-so-subtle hint that certain guys aren't doing the job. You want to go into the final week with chests puffed out with the feeling your lineup is better than the other team's.
On the other hand, better to push the panic button now than lose it all and say later. "Well, at least we didn’t panic." Or, to quote the old World War II maxim, "There are no atheists in a foxhole." Green says he’ll shake up his lineup tonight, which means at least two changes. Unless the manager's thinking turned 180 degrees overnight, he'll play Lonnie Smith in left or center and catch Keith Moreland. Green is tempted to make at least one other change. He'd like to play Del Unser at first in place of the slumping Rose. But Dallas probably will resist that urge. There are some things a mere mortal doesn’t dare tamper with, and benching legends is not Green's style. A .230 hitter the manager can handle.
"WE'RE CONCERNED." Green said. There's not a helluva lot you can do when you get into one of these things (team batting slumps) except change faces, and that's what I intend to do tomorrow. I've given everybody all the opportunities in the world to break out, to prove they can hit or whatever they've gotta do to get the thing going. We're a half-game back out now, so we'll start looking at other people to try to get some offense."
Can't you hear the Greek Chorus from the other room?
"Bleep, changing the lineup ain't gonna help anybody now..."
"When you've got four of your top people hitting seven or eight for 80-something, you're in bad shape," Green said.
The game pivoted on a Schmidt double which cost the Phillies a run when it skipped over the fence in left-center with the Expos clinging to a 2-1 third-inning lead. It careened out of control when a line drive by Chris Speier in the sixth went into solar eclipse. Garry Maddox, now the center of another sunglasses controversy, flinched, ducked, and the out turned into a two-run triple and three-run inning.
Green was ejected when Eric Gregg blew an eighth-inning call at first on Manny Trillo's chopper to third with two outs and two runs home. "I told him he was a good umpire until he got too fat to move and too lazy to care," Green said.
BUT ALL THE potential excuses became, moot, points – the harsh outfield glare caused by the kind of prostituting ballclubs do with starting times when TV money is involved, the bad bounces, the poor .umpiring. Montreal went out in the same fading sunlight and hung eight runs on the scoreboard. "If anybody had an advantage it should have been us," Green said. "At least it's our park."
The matchups between now and next weekend's climax in Montreal would seem to favor the Phillies. They play four with the Cubs, a team with the second-worst record in the majors, a team with so many guys lined up to be shipped out it looks like the North Mole at Dunkirk. The Expos play three at home with the Cardinals, a team with two batting-title contenders and five regulars batting over .300.
"We were glad to get out of St. Louis," Green said. "They were smoking the ball."
Green has been saying since April that the season would go down to the final three games in Montreal. But with the showdown so close at hand, the manager would prefer not to ask his players to look into a mirror that is so fogged up by now they would need a Handi-Wipe so they can see themselves. He would prefer to leave a familiar sermon unspoken. But Dallas is a compulsive truth-teller and he could not walk away from the weekend without comment.
"I DON'T THINK anybody out in that locker room – if they can look in the mirror, or if they will – can really appreciate the way we played the last two days," Dallas said. "I don’t think that's Phillie baseball. I don’t think that's winning baseball, certainly... I think we've proven we can win (close ballgames) by staying within ourselves and doing things that we're capable of doing. But we need a constant reminder and I'm supposed to be that reminder. We get our feelings hurt when I remind ... I said we were prepared as well physically-and mentally as we have been to enter into this thing. I still believe that.
"But so many little things seem to affect this team that they don't play over or that they don’t go after, it gets me thinking again. It goes back to what I've said, character, wanting it. We've got to put aside every problem that we've got right now and concentrate on the one thing, which is win. We've got to do the things we've got to do to win, regardless of personal problems, personal frustrations. personal wants and disikes. So far we haven't done it.
"But, hey, the sun's gonna rise tomorrow; we're only a half-game out."
Stay tuned for tonight's chapter of "The Sun Also Rises."
PHILUPS: Larry Christenson will draw ace Cubs righthander Rick Reuschel tonight. That's as far ahead as Dallas Green has planned his pitching rotation for the final seven games. You are safe to assume, however, that Steve Carlton will pitch here Wednesday, so he is available for a possible final-day showdown in Montreal Sunday. Green says he has some options with Carlton. The prime option, it would seem, would be to get two more starts from his ace... Bob Walk was wild again, walking four and throwing more than 100 pitches in five innings... The Expos, broke it open with a three-run sixth off Dickie Noles, lowlighted by Chris Speier's flashbulb triple past Garry Maddox... Gary Carter's second homer, a two-run shot off Kevin Saucier in the seventh, put it away... Bake McBride and Mike Schmidt drove in eighth-inning runs, but Eric Gregg's controversial out call on Manny Trillo at first ended that modest threat... Andre Dawson finished the series with three doubles and three singles.
Maddox’ Shades of Losing
By Ray Didinger
At 4:44 p.m. yesterday, the autumn sun had settled almost directly behind home plate at Veterans Stadium, peeking between the light standards and the upper deck, turning the outfield into a patchwork of terror.
There was the sun, so bright, you would need welder's goggles, not Foster Grants, to neutralize it. Then there were the late-afternoon shadows which cut across the field like a drawn curtain, making balls disappear, then reappear in a split-second.
Then there was the glare, shimmering off the box seats and the metal railings along the lower deck. The combination of the three had the Phillies and Montreal outfielders squinting nervously, like motorists looking for tail lights on a foggy turnpike.
"It was terrible out there," Bake McBride said, shaking his head. "Balls hit to left field, center... I had no idea where they were. I was just hoping they didn't hit one to me early in the game!
"(Jerry) White hit one to me and I never saw it until the last second. I could tell he hit the ball in the air. bur I lost it. I thought Manny (Trillo) had it. I looked up and, all of a sudden, there it was on top of me.
"THROUGH THE MIDDLE innings, that was the toughest outfield I ever played," Montreal centerfielder Andre Dawson said. "You were looking straight into the sun. Left-center, right-center, you couldn't get away from it."
At 4:44 p.m., the Expos were putting together a sixth-inning threat against reliever Dickie Noles. They were leading this crucial National League East game, 2-1, and they had runners on first and second with one out. The batter was Chris Speier, who is hitting a torrid .491 since Sept. 11.
Speier lined a ball into straight-away center. Garry Maddox had shaded Speier to right but he had ample time to recover. He glided back on the ball, just as he had done a thousand times before. He raised his Gold Glove and, throughout Philadelphia, people began entering the "out" in their scorecards.
But at the last instant Garry Maddox froze. He turned his head and threw up his left arm in self-defense. The ball shot past him and skipped to the wall. Both runners scored, Speier wound up with a triple and the Phillies quietly toppled from first place, clutching their pin-striped chests.
"You can say our pitching wasn’t too good today... and it wasn't," Dallas Green said later, reflecting on the 8-3 loss. "But the play in center field was the turning point. If Garry catches that ball, it's a different game. We probably get out of the inning with no damage."
IF THE EXPOS WIN the division by one game, that play will take a prominent place in this city's already tormented baseball memory. It will be filed alongside the error Maddox committed in the final game of the 1978 National League playoffs, the sinking line drive he dropped in the Dodger Stadium smog.
There is no. way you can compare the two plays, however. Garry Maddox lost this ball in the most treacherous sky of the season. The 3 p.m. starting time, the low, late September sun and the trajectory of Speier's drive all intersected to leave Maddox groping through a brief, but costly, eclipse.
"I couldn't have picked the ball up and thrown it in a more perfect spot," said Speier, the Montreal shortstop. "As soon as I hit it, I knew it was trouble. There were no routine plays in that outfield today, not with that sun."
"That could have happened to me just as easily," a sympathetic Dawson admitted. "I was just fortunate I didn't get that kind of (tough) chance."
"I played Speier the way I always do... " Maddox explained later. "He (Speier) is the one guy I can afford to play in on. Even if he does hit it hard, I can go back on it.
"I got a great jump on the ball. I saw it all the way over. I didn't lose it until I got there (to where it came down). The way I was running, at an angle, the sun hit me right in the eyes (at the end). I couldn't see a thing."
SOMEONE ASKED MADDOX if he had flipped down his sunglasses. Maddox said he did not.
"I don't think it would have made that much difference," he shrugged. "Glasses don’t help you on balls like that, (line drives) hit right into the sun. They only help when a ball comes (down) out of the sun, then you can pick it up through the glare."
Wearing sunglasses is a matter of personal preference. Maddox prefers not to wear them; he says he does not feel "comfortable" in them. Dallas Green, however, does not feel comfortable with Maddox' disdain for the glasses.
On Aug. 31, Garry Lee dropped two balls in a Sunday afternoon game in San Diego. Maddox was wearing his sunglasses in his hip pocket at the time. Green was less than pleased and sat Maddox out for the next three games in San Francisco.
After yesterday's loss Green talked about how he wished Maddox would get in the habit of wearing – and using – his glassed.
"Garry was wearing the glasses today," Green said, "but I can't flip them down for him. I know he had to get back quickly on that ball but I don't see how (the act of) flipping down the glasses would have made the play any more difficult.
"YOU KNOW WHAT GOOD sunglasses do?" Green said. "He wouldn't get asked the question (whether he used the glasses or not). It would remove the doubt from everyone's mind. For that reason alone, he should have flipped them down."
"Do you have a rule about players wearing sunglasses in day games?" someone asked.
"I have a lot of rules," Green said, "but they (players) have options. That’s one of the things I've been trying to get rid of all year."
It makes little sense to argue whether Garry Maddox would have caught Chris Speier's ball if he had. flipped down his shades. Likewise, it makes little sense to criticize TV executives for pushing yesterday's starting time back. If the game had started at the usual time (1:35 p.m.), the sun still would have been a factor in the late innings.
"We can't control TV," Green said, "and, besides, the Expos played under the same conditions. If anything, we should have the advantage. We're more familiar with these surroundings."
No, the critical issue is how the Phillies will handle this most recent blow to their already heavily scarred psyches. Yesterday 's defeat, though damaging, was by no means fatal. The Phils are just a half-game behind Montreal and are even in the loss column.
THEY OPEN A FOUR-GAME series with the last-place Cubs tonight at the Vet, while the Expos return home to face St Louis. This weekend the Phils and Expos play three games in Olympic Stadium. The division title is within the Phils' grasp, assuming their hands have not taken on their customary October quiver.
In the wake of yesterday's bitter disappointment, no one characrterized the club's situation better than Garry Maddox himself.
"It's crying to throw any kind of excuse out there," Maddox said, handling a difficult post-game interview with patience and class. "I can't let this affect me mentally.
"Tomorrow is another day. Our situation could be a lot better but it could be a whole lot worse. We just have to deal with what we've got. We're a half-game back with seven to play... This late in the season, I can't see the guys going into a mental slump now."
Dallas Green expressed similar feelings.
"The sun will come up tomorrow," the manager pointed out. He immediately recognized the irony of his statement.
"The sun came up today, too," Green said, smiling weakly. "That was our problem."
Expos Know It’s Too Early to Gloat
By Jay Greenberg
One of the first guys into Dick Williams' office yesterday wanted to know if he thought the National League East race would go down to the last day of the season. "Could," said Williams boldly.
You expected champagne? What took place at the Vet over the last two days was mostly an exchange of service, with the Expos gaining advantage. All that has been assured with one week to go is that Gary Carter's second child has a chance of being born in first place. Because while he delivered yesterday, his wife still had not.
"She's not really overdue," said Gary after hitting two homers as the Expos moved a half-game ahead of the Phils with an 8-3 victory yesterday. "But before I left on this (13-game) trip she did wonder if I'd be able to come home if she went into labor. I said I didn't know if Dick Williams would think he could afford it.
"SHE KEPT HER legs crossed and held on. They said they might induce labor tomorrow so I could be part of it. I'm just glad we're going home. I was there for the first one and it was a beautiful experience."
As will be the first division title in Montreal's 12-year National League history, but that, like the sex of the Carter child, is still basically a 50-50 proposition. "We may have gained a little bit more than a half-game edge," said Carter. "We won two out of three here, beat Steve Carlton, and are now going home to finish the season. They have to come to Montreal next weekend and we've been really tough there."
The Pirates are officially out of it now because their bullpen failed and the Phillies are taking it to the wire because Tug McGraw has been brilliant. Who can explain that? The Expos saved themselves by beating Steve Carlton Saturday and Steve Rogers, who wasn’t supposed to win The Big One, has four Big Ones this month, including yesterday's.
How do you explain that ? If you're the Expos. you don’t. You just go home to play the Cardinals, hope the Cubs can beat the Phillies a few, and thank ABC for 3 p.m. starts and line drives lost in the shadows.
Still, while the Expos didn’t win anything this weekend, they could have lost a lot. Carlton's presence for a game which could have shoved them three games back in the loss column was formidable, but the Expos bounced back nicely.
"I THINK THAT shows the character of this team." said Rogers. "After Friday night, it was 'Here they go, the Expos are two back in the loss column." And now things have swung completely the other way. It's not an accident and it's not a fairy tale. This team has had this quality the last month.
"I felt that some of the writers locally were writing that the whole ball of wax was over with. I'm not popping off, I don't know about how their players think, but if they thought we were going to roll over and die, they were wrong. Like Larry Parrish said yesterday, this team has been given every opportunity to do that"
The Expos did not lose the title last year as much as they were simply outraced by the Pirates. That may, or may not, be of help to them the second time around, but their character was not as big a question heading into the last three weeks as was Ron LeFlore's health.
These September songs are often written on a scale of sore knees and tender elbows, and the ice packs strapped to Rogers' elbow and shoulder were certainly Big Ones, too. Asked if his performance this month lived down his reputation, Rogers paused.
"If you're going to write that," he said not unpleasantly, "then I wouldn't argue. I thought I had a good September in 1973, that first year we were in the race, and another one in 1977 when we weren't. But I think it's mostly a question of health.
"LAST YEAR AND the year before, from August 1st on, I wasn't physically sound. This year I'm not coming off arm surgery. And the guys behind me, well, you saw about six great plays behind me."
Rogers' most serious current problem is a case of turf toe, picked up running on the Olympic Stadium outfield. "I don't mean to glorify it, but it bothered me a little," he said. "It contributed to some of my struggles in the first three innings. The xylocaine they gave me before the game started to wear off and I was out there, rolling."
He finished with a five-hitter and his 16th victory of the year. Carter's two homers pushed his RBI count to 99 and the once-casual suggestion that he might be the National League's Most Valuable Player is deserving more serious consideration.
"I'm not objecting to it." laughed Carter. "It would be fantastic." With, an average under .270, his may not strike you as an MVP year, but an 86-70 record is not, in most years, a pennant winner, either.
"I thought 15 games over .500 would do it, even last year," said Rogers. "It's just the Phillies had all those injuries and that didn't drive down the number of victories of Pittsburgh or Montreal. It's so evenly balanced and we all had injuries. This is the way I thought it would come out."
There were six winners in the Daily News Home Run Payoff contest during the weekend.
In the sixth inning of yesterday's Phillies-Expos game, Joseph Mattioli of Clementon. NJ, and Philadelphians James Waring and Charles Kaufmann each won four tickets to a Phillies game next year.
In the fifth inning of Saturday's game, winners of four tickets each to a 1981 Phillies game were: Rita Blaich of Bensalem. Sis Ollinger of Clementon and Richard J. Russo of Trooper, Pa.
To date the Daily News has paid out $19,165. Today's entry coupon appears on Page 67.