Baseball Digest - September 1980
Phils’ Steve Carlton in Pursuit of His 3rd Cy Young Award
By John Kuenster
In some ways, Steve Carlton might be compared to a finely tuned thorobred. He responds under proper management. That, briefly, may be the chief reason why the Phillies’ big left-hander has been putting together numbers which will earn him his third Cy Young Award for pitching excellence by season’s end.
“There’s no question Carlton and Danny Ozark (former manager) had their differences,” says one Philly spokesman, “and I think it affected his performance. After Ozark left and Dallas Green came in as manager (an August 31, 1979), Carlton finished the year by winning five games and losing only one in September.
“This season, his concentration has been super, he has peace of mind, and his record shows it.”
What Carlton’s record showed through games of July 6 is that he rated as the best pitcher in all of baseball at that point of the 1980 season.
By that date, he has posted a 14-4 won-lost mark, an ERA of 2.15 and a total of 153 strikeouts in 155 innings. As Leo Durocher would put it, “That’s some kind of pitching!”
In fact at that juncture of the pennant race, Carlton was far ahead of the fantastic pace he set in 1972 when he won 27 games for the last place Phils and collected his first Cy Young Award. In 1972, Carlton didn’t win his 14th game until July 23, eventually finishing the campaign with a 27-10 log, 310 strikeouts and glittering ERA of 1.98, all high marks in the National League.
With a better ball club behind him, Carlton appears destined to match or improve those figures this year.
“He’s still got that good fastball, control and a slider that is absolutely murder on the batters,” adds the Philly spokesman.
“His slider is the nastiest I have ever seen,” says the Cardinals’ Ken Reitz. “It breaks down a foot.”
“It’s almost impossible to hit,” agrees former Phils’ catcher Tim McCarver. “It starts out in the strike zone and the bottom falls out. It’s almost like a slider-sinker.”
What adds to Carlton’s effectiveness with the slider is its deception. “It has a little less rotation that most sliders,” adds McCarver.
Pirate third baseman Bill Madlock, one of the best pure hitters in the National League, has a high regard for Carlton. “He is in a class by himself among left-handers,” he says. “If you don’t get to Steve by the fifth inning, you might as well put your bats away.”
So, at age 35, Carlton continues to be one of the big baseball stories of the year, although me maintains aloof from the news media. Perhaps he carries his policy of non-communication to extremes, but he figures silence may be his only weapon in evening the score with critics who wrote so many unkind things about him after he struggled through three rather mediocre seasons in 1973-74-75.
Carlton finally turned himself around in 1976 when he posted a 20-7 record and again in 1977 when he was 23-10, an effort that merited another Cy Young bauble.
Now he’s on the top side again, a vindication of sorts for the special training regimen (he doesn’t believe in running sprints) he follows to develop his strength, flexibility and concentration.
Physically, Carlton is one of the strongest pitchers in the majors and when you match the power pitching with concentration, you should have a winner. In fact, in order to ensure total concentration during a game, Carlton has on occasion stuffed cotton in his ears to block out noisy distractions.
A decade ago when he was with the St. Louis Cardinals, Carlton has the temerity to seek a $50,000 contract after winning 17 games in 1969. Cardinal owner Augie Busch bristled over the demand of his young pitcher and declared, “I don’t care if he ever throws another damned ball for us.”
Reason prevailed and Carlton was signed to a two-year contract, but at the end of the 1971 season, he again was embroiled in a salary dispute, and the Cardinals promptly dispatched him to the Phillies.
The deal was Carlton for Rick Wise.
Since 1972, Carlton has averaged 18.5 victories per season for the Phillies.
Don’t remind Augie Busch about that.
Added Notes: If Carlton does win his third Cy Young Award this year, he will become only the fourth pitcher to achieve the honor as many times. Jim Palmer, Tom Seaver and Sandy Koufax were also three-time winners of the award…. Pitcher Matt Keough was talking about what the presence of manager Billy Martin means to the Oakland A’s. “They say a manager only makes a difference in five or six games a year, and in terms of strategy, maybe that’s all. But in attitude, he can make a difference in 50 or 60 and that’s the way it is with Billy.
Recommended late vacation trip: the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York, especially if you have young boys in the family. Summer hours at the shrine are from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m…. Don Sutton of the Dodgers speaking frankly: “I try to find an edge, even if it means throwing a scuffed ball.” Ahem.
The dogma of baseball, says the Yankees’ Tommy John, is full of inaccuracies. Coaches have told pitchers, for years, they must drive off the rubber with the back leg when delivering a pitch. High-speed films, he claims, show that to be untrue. The back leg is used purely as a brace. “There’s that business of popping your wrist when you throw,” adds John. “That’s not true either. The pop actually comes after the ball has left the hand.”
Outfielder Terry Francona, 21, of Arizona University who was signed by the Expos in the annual June free agent draft, is the son of outfielder Tito Francona who spent 15 years in the majors, 1956-1970…. Cardinals’ first baseman Keith Hernandez, who should know what he’s talking about, had this to say about hitting: “The way a batter stands at the plate doesn’t mean a thing. The important part of hitting doesn’t begin until you start to come out of that stance.
“If you can develop a level swing, you’re going to get your share of base hits.”
Schmidt And Luzinski: The Phils’ Big 1-2 Punch
By Don Kausler Jr., The Milwaukee Sentinel
Their showing this season has reinforces opinion of some fans that they are the games’ best power duo.
With game time still one hour away, the cage surrounding home plate at Wrigley Field was alive with the sounds of batting practice, patter mixed with chatter.
The Philadelphia Phillies were warming up. First, the reserves took their turns. Nobody paid much attention as Keith Moreland, Greg Vukovich, Greg Gross, Del Unser and others sprayed line drives throughout Chicago’s “Friendly Confines.” Occasionally, a fly ball sailed into the bleachers.
After 20 minutes, the regulars took their turns. Lonnie Smith stepped up, followed by Pete Rose. More patter. More chatter.
Suddenly, the chatter stopped. Mike Schmidt and Greg (The Bull) Luzinski were ready to swing their lethal bats.
It was show time.
The crowd around the stage, er, cage paused to watch one of baseball’s most entertaining sights. The sprightly organ music stopped, and a hush fell over the grandstand. The bleacher fans were overcome with anticipation as the beer-guzzling, sun-worshippers took a break from their madness to ogle.
And the Schmidt-Luzinski combination, the most dangerous one-two punch in the game today, did not disappoint. The patter was over. The thunder began.
After laying down two bunts and smacking a few line drives, Schmidt deposited two consecutive pitched into the left-field bleachers. Later, he smashed two more balls over the wall.
Then Luzinski took his turn. It took a few foul balls before he found his rhythm, but when he finally connected… oh! And, oh! The bleacher bums roared their approval- first, a booming drive, then, a towering fly ball that kept carrying and carrying until it disappeared over the left field screen and onto Waveland Avenue.
The game began, but the show wasn’t over. It seldom has been this season.
“A lot of guys put on hitting exhibitions in batting practice,” said Rose, who knows a little about hitting himself. “But I’ve seen Greg and Schmitty pit on exhibitions in games. And can they put on an exhibition!”
On that particular day, Schmidt put on a solo exhibition in the Phillies’ 7-0 victory over the Cubs. With the wind blowing towards right field, he picked out an outside pitch in the third inning and casually stroked a drive over the right field wall for a two-run homer. Leading off the seventh, he pumped a low shot into the breeze and into the left field screen.
After hitting another round tripper the next day in a 5-4 loss to the Cubs, Schmidt led the major leagues in home runs (17) and runs batted in (42). Luzinski had 12 homers. The two Phillies were terrorizing National League pitchers early this season.
“They’re like having a contest between each other,” Rose said. “But neither one is jealous of the other. It’s not too bad to try to outdo somebody with a bat in your hand. I think it’s great to see two guys on the same team fighting it out for MVP.”
If there is some sort of friendly rivalry between the two power hitters, neither Schmidt or Luzinski acknowledges it.
“People try to make more out of a competitive thing than there really is between us,” Luzinski said. “We’re good friends, and we pull for each other, probably more than any two players around. Hey, if I’m going to be fighting anybody for the league lead in home runs, I’d like it to be Mike Schmidt.”
Ditto Schmidt. “We just play the game,” the 30-year-old said. “If our numbers happen to compete, there’s nothing you can do about it. If it’s league-leading numbers, that’s great.”
Schmidt has won the National League home run crown three times (1974-’75-’76), and he had his best season last year when he hit 45 homers. The Cubs’ Dave Kingman led the N.L. in homers last year with 48.
Luzinski, however, this year was coming off his worst season since 1974 because of a thigh injury that plagued him in 1979. A lifetime .285 batter who has hit as many as 39 homers in a season (1977), he hit only .252 with 18 home runs last year and was the target of the Philadelphia fans’ wrath.
After shedding 20 pounds during the off-season (from 237 to 217) and switching from contact lenses to glasses, Luzinski has emerged as the formidable hitter of old.
Schmidt and Luzinski have played together in the Phillies lineup since 1973.
As Dallas Green, the Phillies’ rookie manager points out, however, “They haven’t had years together like they’re capable of having.”
Only in 1977 did they have outstanding seasons simultaneously (Luzinski .309, 39 homers, Schmidt .274, 38 homers).
“People have been waiting for us to get hot at the same time,” Luzinski said.
The people can stop waiting. Schmidt and Luzinski in the early part of this season, hit back-to-back home runs four times- all in Philadelphia.
“We complement each other,” Luzinski said. “He’s been getting on base a lot, and he’s picked up a lot of RBIs, but if he’s made an out, I’ve been able to pick him up.”
Schmidt, the Phillies’ four-time Gold Glove third baseman, bats third, with Luzinski, the left fielder, fourth.
“He gets to see how the pitcher pitches me,” Schmidt said, “and I get to hit with him in the on-deck circle, so I get good pitches.”
Both hitters are known for their devastating “tape-measure” capabilities.
“I’ve seen times when one will put the ball in the upper deck,” Rose said, “and the next one will hit the next pitch against the concrete wall below it. And the thing that’s impressive is neither one of them has to swing up to hit the ball out of the ballpark.”
Luzinski draws his power from his bulk, his pure muscle.
“I’ve got big arms,” Rose said, “but he (Luzinski) makes me look like Olive Oil. He’s Popeye.”
Schmidt is known as a “wrist” hitter. He’s also known as a streak hitter.
“He gets in a streak and he’s awesome,” Rose said. “I don’t mean a two-day thing. I mean a month.”
Some of Schmidt’s streaks are notorious.
“You have to go a long way back to find another hitter who has gone into some of the tears like I have,” Schmidt said. “Once I was on base 26 times in 30 times at bat. I had eight home runs in five games…” He also hast hit four consecutive home runs twice- once in the same game (April 17, 1976, at Wrigley Field).
“Schmitty’s one of the few hitters I’ve ever seen who very seldom gets cheap hits,” Rose said. “All of his hits are line drives. Greg will get some jam hits; all strong guys do.”
Consequently, Luzinski hits more for average than Schmidt. But one of the Schmidt’s biggest assets is his knowledge of the strike zone. He walked 120 times last season to lead the N.L.
Cub pitcher Rick Reuschel said there’s no special way to pitch to either Schmidt or Luzinski.
“You make good pitches and they’ve still got a good chance to pop it out against you,” Reuschel said. “You just hope they come up in a situation where you try to make good pitches and don’t have to lay one in there. You just try to get them to hit a pitch they’re not looking for.”
Which Phillie slugger is better? Which would a National League pitcher least want to face late in a tight game?
Reuschel wouldn’t- or perhaps couldn’t- answer that.
But that shouldn’t be surprising. It’s like asking him if he’d rather get shot in the head or in the heart.