Philadelphia Inquirer - March 20, 1980

Boone’s knee is not the problem now


By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer


CLEARWATER, Fla. – Things went a lot better yesterday for Bob Boone, the noted catcher, than for Bob Boone, the famous labor-relations figure.


Boone caught his first three innings of the spring in the Phillies' 11-1 demolition of Montreal. Afterward, however, he seemed more optimistic about his ability to squat through 150 or so games than about baseball ironing out its labor problems.


"I can do everything I have to do to get the job done," said Bob Boone, the catcher.


"I'm worried," said Bob Boone, the National League player representative.


First the good stuff. Boone got through three innings of crouching without looking like a man coming off some medieval torture rack.


"I've been ready to go for a week, I think," he said, almost six months to the day after surgery repaired ligaments in his left knee. "I don't really have any qualms or worries about it any more. I feel if we had to go and open tomorrow, I'd be ready.


"I don't think I'm going to be that comfortable all year, really. But I'm not worried about being comfortable. I'm worried about it being functional."


There are various definitions of what constitutes comfort, of course. A month on the beach in Jamaica qualifies. Being forced to listen to 27 straight hours of "A Trillion and One Strings Play Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' Greatest Hits" does not.


It's harder, however, to describe the exact nature of Bob Boone's kind of discomfort. It isn't pain. And it isn't throbbing. You would almost have to have a knee operation yourself to understand what it feels iike. Since that seems like a lot of trouble to go through, here's what Boone says about it:


"I don't know. I can just feel it pulling. Say you warmed up a pitcher for 15 minutes or a half-hour. You sit there in a squatting position, and at the end of the time you know you've been in a squatting position. Well, my left knee feels that way most of the time. As soon as I get down there, it feels like I've been squatting on it for about 10 minutes."


Basically, that's how Boone expects to feel. It took him a full year after a far less serious operation on his right knee to "be able to go out and play racquetball without it bothering me," he said. "So I'm sure it's going to take at least a year for this."


It is still 22 days until Opening Day, if there is one. And quite a few of those 22 days will pass before Boone starts catching nine innings.


"As long as he's ready April 11, I don't have any timetable as such,"" said Dallas Green. "I do not want to rush him. I don't want to set him back from the progress he's made.


"We'll just play it one day at a time on him. I'm not anxious to start catching him every day. When we break down the squad and get into the last 15 days, then I'll be more interested in seeing more of Boonie. But we're not there yet."


We're also not any closer to avoiding that possible players' strike, Boone said, despite a development Tuesday that the owners considered monumental. The owners withdrew their proposal for a rigid salary scale. But their tougher demands remain on compensation for Tree agents, and that, Boone said, "is unacceptable."


"I'm sure Ray Grebey (the owners' chief negotiator) knows now exactly what it will take to get a settlement. We've been kind of expecting that (they would drop the salary scale). We've been wondering when that was going.... Then they take it away, and say that's progress. But it's not really progress by our estimation."


At dispute, of course, is the new basic agreement between owners and players, a kind of framework , within which the various clubs nego- ' tiate with their individual players. The old agreement expired Dec. 31.


Boone also was not elated by a noticeable change in the owners' negotiating philosophy. Once, the owners were threatening big fines against people who leaked their proposals; Tuesday they distributed them all to the media, point by point.


"I'm worried about the way they're going about this, releasing their negotiating position," Boone said. "They're starting to do some public-relations things now that I don't think will be real advantageous at the (bargaining) table. It indicates to me (that) this is a tough approach to turn the public on to the compensation idea." (The compensation idea involves a formula, similar to the one used in the NFL, that players fear would discourage teams from signing free agents.)


The public, though, is much more likely to get turned on by the prospect of a baseball season than by any of the lunges, however significant, in the labor tug o' war. To the public, the big news is that Bob Boone's knee is right on schedule.


NOTES: Boone's first swing of the year produced a line-drive, two-run double to left, courtesy of Expos left-fielder Bob Pate, who charged right by it.... Mike Schmidt has come out smoking. He muscled his second spring homer to right in the first, doubled in another run in the third and singled in one more in a six-run fifth against Ross Grimsley. So far, Schmidt is hitting.700, 7-for-10, 6 runs scored, 3 doubles, 5 RBIs. "I'd like to box his stroke, and sell it," Green said. "I'd make a fortune right now."... Greg Luzinski isn't swinging too shabbily, either. The Bull drilled two singles and a double, drove in two runs and is up to.429 ( 6-for-14), with seven RBIs in four games Rookie Luis Aguayo played four innings at third, doubled and made several fine defensive plays. Green sounds more enamored of keeping him all the time.... Randy Lerch (four shutout innings) was 1he most effective of four Phillies pitchers.... John Vukovich caught four innings and "felt more comfortable than I thought I might."... The first squad cut will be this weekend.... The Phils oppose Mark Fidrych and Detroit in Lakeland today.