Wilmington News Journal - March 30, 1980

Green’s spring been a dandy – just don’t talk pitching


By Hal Bodley, Sports Editor


CLEARWATER, Fla. – Spring training for the Phillies has gone better than Dallas Green ever dreamed it would.


He confided the other day he honestly thought there would be some rough spots, but virtually everyone on the team has accepted his get-tough approach. The only hint of negativism has been center fielder Garry Maddox' contract hassle.


So, you'd think the first-year manager is on top of the world, but that is wrong.


Green, you see, is worried about the Phils' pitching. If this sounds like a broken record, you're right. The situation, however, may be more crucial than most think.


"Right now it's scary," said Green after the Phillies dropped a a 3-1 Grapefruit League decision to the New York Yankees at Jack Russell Stadium yesterday. "It is going to take time. You cannot go out and buy pitchers, you cannot make pitchers. We have to bring them along slowly."


Dickie Notes, who had a strong outing three days ago, gave up three runs and five hits in the game that was televised back to the Philadelphia area.


"Honestly, everything else has fallen into place," said Green. "The pitching obviously hasn't. All the other pieces of the puzzle have fallen into place. The pitching may not for awhile because of the complexities of it and because of the physical problems they suffered last year. In my opinion, they're not over them yet mentally."


Green was quick to cite Larry Christenson as an example. The right-hander was struck by a line drive in an exhibition game and has been out of action ever since, suffering from a severely bruised leg. A year ago at this time, he was recovering from a fractured collarbone.


"He gets knocked down and what's the first thing that goes through his mind?" Green asked. "He says, 'Oh, hell, here we go again.' It's going to take us a lot of time to get him pumped up again. And Dick Ruthven. He's struggling like the dickens. He's pain free, but he's struggling. That's a mental block.


"And Nino Espinosa has a sore shoulder and probably will be on the disabled list when the season starts.


"All of these things are going to take time. If there is one thing I have, it is patience. That is why I get upset with some of the reporters who keep asking me questions about the pitching staff. These things will fall into place. I feel we have an outstanding team and I see the only way what we have accomplished this spring can collapse is if we are bothered by injuries again."


Old folks Luis Tiant allowed the Phils just one hit over five innings and Rich Gossage pitched two scoreless innings yesterday.


The Phils scored their only run when Bake McBride doubled and Mike Schmidt followed with a short single, scoring McBride. The rally ended when Lonnie Smith, running for Schmidt, was picked off first. Greg Luzinski doubled after Smith was picked off, but was stranded.


"I thought I had a better idea of what I was trying to do today than in my previous starts," said Noles. "It was just one of those days when I really didn't have good stuff and struggled because of it."


EXTRA POINTS – Bob Boone, the National League player representative, held a team meeting yesterday at 9 a.m., bringing the players up to date on the status of negotiations with owners... A vote will be taken Tuesday in Dallas by the players association executive board on whether or not to strike... Green reduced the squad to 32 by optioning pitchers Paul Thormodsgard and Burke Suter, catcher Don McCormack and infielder John Poff to the minor-league complex… Heavy rains at 11 a.m. held the crowd down to 4,093...Over 6,000 were expected... The Phils will be in Fort Lauderdale for the first game of their East Coast swing tomorrow night with the Yanks sending Ron Guidry against Steve Carlton... Today, the Phils make the grueling trek to Bradenton to take on the Pirates... Dick Ruthven will start against John Candelaria.

A baseball strike appears 99 percent certain


By Jerome Holtzman, Field News Service


For those who prefer percentages, it's 99 percent certain the major league baseball players will go on strike.


The only question seems to be when.


In 1972, the players struck on April 1, five days before the opening of the season. By coincidence, the 48-man Executive Board of the Major League Players Association meets again this year on April 1, also in Dallas, and also to determine whether the players should strike before the season opens April 9.


"A strike is a certainty," insisted one insider. "The only way it can be avoided is if the owners withdraw their proposal on compensation for free agents. And I don't see them doing that."


Instead, the club owners are trying a new approach. They have appealed for help from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, a maneuver they believe will calm the players and convince them to continue negotiating and open the season without a new Basic Agreement, the collective contract that binds them together.


“It is a dramatic reversal in owner-player history. Twice before it was the players who requested federal intervention. Both times the owners refused. Now, it's the owners turn. Such an appeal for federal intervention indicates they may be ready for compromise. Wouldn't Marvin Miller, players union executive director who is both patient and prudent, be impressed and appeased by the presence of federal mediators at the bargaining table?


"No,” a source close to Miller replied.


Why not?


“Because, years ago, Marvin was a federal mediator himself. He knows it's a lot of b.s.”


So the players seem certain to strike, just as they did eight years ago when they walked out over what, in retrospect, was a comparatively minor $250,000 pension dispute. The shutdown lasted 13 days and forced cancellation of 86 games.


Will the players win again?


Listen to one owner who asked not to be identified:


"Of course the players are going to win. But I don't believe there will even be a strike because the owners will cave in. Too many of us are stretched out. We need the income. We borrowed at 5 and 6 percent. Now we're paying 18 and 19 percent. We can't take a strike. It's as simple as that."


Despite this view, it seems that this time, the owners will win.


This time, it is the owners who are more likely to stand together. Two incidents that occurred about two weeks apart play a major role:


•  Bruce Sutter's $700,000 arbitration salary award.


•  Dave Winfield's request for a $20-million, 10-year contract that included the remarkable provision that the San Diego Padres could be not sold without his consent.


The Sutter award, to a player with less than four years of major league service, threw the owners into a frenzy. "They've just raised the roof again," said Dick Wagner, president of the Cincinnati Reds. "Sooner or later, we'll go broke."


Winfield's demand was made public in St. Petersburg, Fla., at the annual Governor's Dinner (for baseball executives, managers, scouts, et al.).


"Winfield's got to be kidding," said Boston Red Sox owner Haywood Sullivan. "It's some kind of joke."


Minnesota Twins owner Calvin Griffith was more realistic. "I believe it and that's why we're going to stand together. And this time, we'll do it, too."


The owners seem considerably more United than ever before. The best indication of this is that, during the three months of labor controversy, no owner or club executive has made his views public. To do so carries a $500,000 fine from Commissioner Bowie Kuhn.


The owners' spokesman and chief negotiator has been Ray Grebey. Only Grebey's voice has been heard. This is in sharp contrast to 1972 when there was a blizzard of diverse owner opinion, all aired publicly. It was then that August Busch, the autocratic owner of the St. Louis Cardinals, emerging red-faced from a negotiating session, shouted to reporters:


"We're not going to give the players another damn red cent."


Today, the owners and general managers are saying virtually the same thing. But not for publication.


A general manager confronted minutes after attending an owners' meeting, for example, had this to say:


"I'll tell you what happened. But you can't quote me. Mr. (the owner of his club) can't afford a $500,000 fine. I'll deny I said it, but we've been sitting in there for two hours and everyone said, "Let the' players strike. And let them strike now. The sooner the better. We don't want to get into the season, when things are heating up, and then have them say, 'Sorry, fellows, we're striking this weekend.'"


Both the owners and players have multimillion-dollar strike chests. The owners, in fact, have purchased strike insurance.


Outwardly, it seems that the players couldn't possibly be more united. Though the precise count won't be known until this afternoon, the players' vote to support "strike action" has been about 700-1. The lone dissenter is Jerry Terrell, a reserve infielder with the Kansas City Royals, who reportedly opposed "for religious reasons."


It is an overwhelming mandate for a strike. But the vote was predictable and has been somewhat of a grandstand play, especially since the indications are that a significant and influential minority of the players perhaps as many as 10-15 percent aren't likely to support a prolonged shutdown.


Why, then, did they vote as they did?


There is the macho factor. The players have no chance of winning anything without a strong display of unity. If a union leader can't get a big strike vote, neither he nor his union is likely to be very effective. Also, it was a hand vote. Not following the herd is difficult, even for baseball heroes.


Additionally, the players, despite the popular view, were not voting for a strike. They were voting to give the Players' Association Executive Board the authority to take appropriate measures on its "strike action" resolution when it meets Tuesday in Dallas.


Immediately after this resolution was announced, Miller conceded that it did not necessarily mean the players would not open the season without a contract. Hence, there was no commitment. But with the 700-1 vote, the commitment has grown. To turn back is now to admit defeat.


The last time, in 1972, the players voted 663-10 for a shutdown. But there is a significant difference. In '72, the players were united in a common cause – increased pension benefits. This time the basic dispute is over compensation for free agency, an issue that will have an appreciable effect only on the younger players and those in mid-career.


The owners want to restructure the procedure so that a club losing a player to free : agency will be recompensed with another player from the team that signs the free agent. Under the present rules, the only award to the losing club is a first-round choice in the amateur draft of free agents; that is, the California Angels will get an untested high school or college player for an established star such as Nolan Ryan.


Instead, the owners want to impose the following:


If more than eight clubs acquire the negotiation rights to a free agent, the free agent's former team, in addition to the meaningless draft choice mentioned above, should be allowed to pick a major or minor league player not on the signing team's 15-man protected list.


For example: If the Chicago Cubs had signed pitcher Dave Goltz, the Minnesota Twins, Goltz' former team, would have been able to select the 16th best player in the Cub organization. On most clubs this 16th player would have considerable value. A 15-player protected list would include the eight every-day regulars, four starting pitchers, one or two relief pitchers, plus the best minor league prospects.


The players rightly contend that the price of signing a free agent then would be so costly it would depress a player's value. There would be few such signings. The result would be a trade – Goltz for the Cubs' 16th best player. A free agent, in effect, would be free only if his new club were willing to yield a valuable player in exchange.


The owners counter that, in the four years of free agency, the negotiation rights to only 61 players (of 155 major leaguers who went through the re-entry process were acquired by eight or more clubs. This is a specious argument. Negotiation rights cost nothing. Because of this, the owners could draft every available player.


Some owners, willing to concede the validity of this claim, have suggested a $10,000 fee be levied for negotiation rights. The Cubs, then, would have had to put up $10,000 merely for the right to talk to Goltz and his agent. But who gets the $10,000?


"Nobody really knows," said one general manager. "It's been suggested that the $10,000 go to the player, or to charity."


Grebey admits the owners have discussed this possibility but indicated it has only scattered support. It will not, he said, be placed on the bargaining table.


Compensation for free agents is the principal issue of dispute. Players such as Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Rod Carew, Carl Yastrzemski, Larry Hisle, Sal Bando, Nolan Ryan and Rollie Fingers have reaped maximum benefits, directly or indirectly, because of the free-agent procedure.


Moreover, the entire free-agent process has had a domino effect. Sutter wouldn't have received his $700,000 award if relievers such as Al Hrabosky, Goose Gossage and Rollie Fingers hadn't been free agents. No statistics are available, but probably as many as 40 percent of the players already have benefitted. That 11 percent of the players (in 1979) had salaries in excess of $250,000 testifies to the value of free agency.


The big-money players are mostly established stars, the very players who have the loudest voices and most influence. If there is a strike, how long will they stay out? Forever, some of them insist. Nonetheless, they are not striking for themselves but for the younger players, to keep the free-agent system intact, so they, too, can benefit.


The bonds of brotherhood can be fierce, but they also erode. One need look no further than the pension plan for evidence.


During Miller's reign as the association's executive director, the players five times have negotiated and received increases in benefits. Each time Miller asked that the players look backward and share some of the new money with the generations of players who had gone before, the players who founded and strengthened their union. Only once did they agree.