Philadelphia Inquirer - March 27, 1980
It’s baseball’s double bind
By Frank Dolson, Inquirer Sports Editor
CLEARWATER, Fla. – The day Marvin was here," Greg Luzinski said, "that was the toughest day in camp."
The Phillies' leftfielder wasn't talking about some guy with a wicked slider who could put it at the knees on the outside corner. He was talking about Marvin Miller, the labor expert who has directed the Players Association to its present position of dominance in baseball.
The day Miller was here was tough for Luzinski because it was the day he had to forget, at least for a while, about playing the game and remember instead the possibility that big league players would be carrying picket signs instead of bats in the near future. Even though they have voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike, the men who play baseball for a living don't like to think about that. "It was very depressing hearing all the explanations that day," Luzinski said, "and thinking, 'I might be sitting for a month. I might be sweating down here and going through all this for literally nothing.' That's the bad part."
"Pete (Rose) looks at it another way," Larry Bowa said. "He comes up with a line a day. He says, 'They're doing everything to stop me from breaking Ty Cobb's (total hit) record.'"
No surprise. Some players figure out how much a strike will cost them in dollars per day. Rose figures out how much a strike will cost him in hits per day.
You won't find many players down here who want to strike, but they're prepared to do it, no matter what the owners think, and no matter how strongly public opinion is likely to run against them.
"God, I hope there's no strike" might be the most-repeated sentiment heard in clubhouses, in dugouts, around batting cages this spring. But don't be misled.
The same players who say that also recognize and appreciate the job Marvin Miller has done for them. Greg Luzinski may have found it difficult to sit in a clubhouse during spring training and pay attention to labor talk, but he's a Miller man, too. They almost all are.
"Marvin's done a helluva job," was how Luzinski put it. "He got us to a certain point, and then the owners went overboard – outbidding each other because they're greedy. They want winners. I think Pete (Rose) hit it right on the head. He said, 'I was going to Philadelphia in the first place (as a free agent), but then I saw these offers coming in (from other clubs) and it was blowing my mind.'"
OK, some say the players are greedy, others say the owners are greedy. But whether you side with the players or the owners – or neither – the situation is approaching the critical stage. Not critical, mind you, because the country can't stand a spring without baseball. It's critical because those of us who love baseball wonder whether the game can retain its position, its booming popularity in the event of even a short-lived strike.
We can only hope that the people who run the game, the people who own the clubs and the people who play for those clubs are equally concerned about that aspect of it, too.
Surely, some of them are.
Take Danny Ozark, who has spent nearly four decades in the game.
"I think a strike without question would be a turning point in baseball," Ozark, now a Dodger coach, said the other day.
"The thing what hurts, everybody is thinking about this year. They're not thinking about next year and the following year....
"I think there are players on that club (the Phillies) that are concerned about baseball. And there are players on this club (Dodgers). But those players may be getting a little old. They're going to be out of the game pretty soon ... I don't like what's going on."
He meant either way – on the players' side, on the owners' side. He doesn't like the attitudes of some of the players, and he doesn't like the long-term, no-trade, guaranteed contracts that helped mold those attitudes.
"You can't send a guy out, you can't trade him; things like that bother me " Ozark said. "But once the game starts, I enjoy it as much as I ever did."
We all do. The question is: When will the game start?
Schmidt puts on a home-run show
By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Mike Schmidt mashed a home run yesterday that traveled considerably farther than the Wright Brothers' first flight.
That was in the first inning of the Phillies' 9-8 exhibition victory over the Mets. An inning later, Schmidt jacked a change-up past the scoreboard in left for another homer.
Four innings after that, he knocked in his sixth run of the day with a sacrifice fly.
And two hours after that, he was stepping aboard the bus back to Clearwater with a spring batting average of.480, 11 RBIs in eight games, four homers, nine runs scored and all the makings of an official Mike Schmidt Offensive Reign of Terror.
It certainly has made for fun watching. But all that and $1.30 still gets Schmidt a gallon of unleaded. He still needs 60 homers this season to catch Babe Ruth. It has been a spring even Roger Freed would be proud to call great. But it still is just a spring, which means its import – to Mike Schmidt, anyhow – is zero.
"I've had the best spring in the world and had a bad year," Schmidt said, in what has become an annual March speech. "I've had mediocre springs and had a great year. I've had horse-manure springs and had my best year ever.
"Down here all I want to do is get mentally and physically ready. Statistics mean nothing, and I've said that in springs when I hit.050."
Somewhere in Metsland, a guy named Juan Berenguer wishes this were one of those springs when Schmidt hit.050. Berenguer was the unfortunate person who was the Mets' starting pitcher yesterday.
Berenguer, whose brother plays in the Phillies chain, is one of those classic burners, a guy whose fastball is legitimately 100 m.p.h. People say only Nolan Ryan throws faster.
Berenguer was the J. R. Richard of Triple-A last year (220 strikeouts in 166 innings). But he is more like the Werner von Braun of spring training. Nobody since von Braun has been the cause of this many rockets.
By the time Schmidt got through with Berenguer yesterday, the Mets pitcher's spring ERA was up to 27.00 (14 runs in 5 innings), his record was 0-3 and his locker in Tidewater, Va., was all but ready.
In the first, the Phils got a run without Schmidt's help, on a single by Lonnie Smith (3-for-3), a stolen base, a throwing error and a passed ball. Then, with Bake McBride on first, Berenguer cranked his first fastball of the day in Schmidt's direction.
Schmidt practically bombed it off the Bayfront Center Auditorium across the street. Schmidt called it "the hardest I've ever hit a ball in my life." About 450 feet would be a general estimate.
"Looking fastball? Heh-heh, you've got to look fastball when he's pitching," Schmidt said. "He got it down and a little in, which was probably a bad place to put a first pitch to me. Anyplace else I probably would have taken it."
Later, in the second, Berenguer tried to guess Schmidt still was looking fastball. So he lazed one up there off-speed. Schmidt just waited and powered it out for a three-run homer. It was the swing from the Mike Schmidt scrapbook, the keep-the-hands-back, keep-the-body-steady, smoother-than-smooth stroke.
"Look, the game's always fun when you're hitting the ball," said Schmidt, who has announced he is giving up his pretensions of hitting.300 for a living. "You know, it's fun whether it's spring, whether it's winter, or whether it's a softball game. It's fun to hit the ball, period. It would just be nice to it the ball all season like I am in the spring."
Too bad he couldn't do it. How'd you like to hear Howard Cosell roll out the adjectives for that?
NOTES: Dick Ruthven started and was not exactly in Opening-Day form (four innings, five runs, eight hits, two walks, a hit batsman). Ruthven was wild with a capital W, but Dallas Green, in his best it's-still-early tone, said, "I don't think it's anything to worry about." Green blamed the Al Lang Stadium mound for being "awful," which it is. But he also conceded that beyond that, Ruthven "just wasn't comfortable, period." The positive note on Ruthven was that he threw more breaking balls than he had at any point this spring and seemed to have a decent one, if you discount control. But control was something Ruthven couldn't discount. He did a lot of dirt-kicking and was clearly angry at himself. "He forgets he had an arm operation, and there's been rehabilitation, and it's been a long time since he's been able to throw. But all those factors add up," Green said.... Tug McGraw gave up his first two runs of the spring in the eighth. But it was a headfirst slide he made in the ninth, after singling and trying to go from first to third on a Luis Aguayo single, that had people talking. "What the hell," Green said, "You've got to play the game of baseball.... It's the guys who don't play all-out who get hurt." Oh, yeah. McGraw was thrown out.
Still no progress in baseball talks
By the Associated Press
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – No real progress was made yesterday at a negotiating session between major league baseball owners and players, according to Marvin Miller, director of the Players Association.
The session in search of a new basic agreement lasted slightly less than two hours. It was the first since March 18.
"We just had kind of a general discussion and agreed to meet again tomorrow," Miller said. Negotiators for club owners had no comment.
Players who met with Miller before the session indicated that a strike was likely.
"It's been pretty much decided we'll have to take some sort of strike action. The question is when," said Gary Lavelle, the player representative of the San Francisco Giants.
The Giants and the Cleveland Indians met with Miller yesterday morning, then voted unanimously to authorize a strike on or after April 1.
A meeting of player representatives is scheduled April 1 at Dallas to decide on a course of action if no agreement has been reached by then.
The chief negotiator for club owners, Ray Grebey, said he saw no reason that the season couldn't begin even without a new agreement.
"I don't care what... Grebey has said," said Wayne Garland, the Indians' player representative. "We're so far apart that everything is questionable."
The biggest gap between owners and players concerns compensation for a team that loses a player to free agentry, Lavelle said.
The owners want to allow a team that loses a highly sought free agent to select as compensation a player from the free agent's new team.
Under that proposal, the agent's new team would be allowed to protect 15 players on its roster. Players, however, argue that few teams would be willing to sacrifice their 16th best player in order to sign a free agent.
Also in question is the amount of time a player must serve before he can become a free agent. The owners prefer the current six years, but players prefer a four-year minimum. A compromise of five years remains under discussion.
Other major items yet to be resolved:
• Whether a player with four years of service or less should be restricted to a one-year contract.
• Whether an arbitrator should give extra weight to a player's time and service, rather than to performance, when ruling on a salary dispute.
• Whether players should receive a percentage of baseball's television revenues, estimated at about $180 million this year.
The two sides have met about 30 times in trying to reach a four-year agreement to replace the one they made in 1976. That pact expired at the end of last year.