Camden Courier-Post - March 31, 1980
Despite the mystery, Carlton among best
By Ray W. Kelly of the Courier-Post
BRADENTON, Fla. – Nobody really knows Steve Carlton. And, that's exactly the way the ace of the Phillies' pitching staff likes it.
But, for all the mystery and controversy that always seems to be yapping at the heels of the unflappable southpaw, one fact remains indisputable – he's one of the best.
"If we came to spring training and j Steve Carlton wasn't here, we'd be in deep trouble," said General Manager Paul Owens. "You just don't get people like him every day."
At 35 years of age, Carlton is at the point in his career where every spring should be a time of apprehension. Is this the year he loses it?
In Carlton's case, that kind of speculation is almost laughable. He is in better physical shape than he was eight years ago when he joined the club. And, he's a far better pitcher.
His slider is considered tops in the league with baseball experts conceding that, if statisticians kept track of how many times a pitcher strikes out a batter with a pitch that actually bounces in the dirt in front of the plate, Steve would win going away.
It's not very often that Carlton beats himself, an important item for a pitcher who is expected to win every time he takes the mound and who is well aware of the pressure on him that the Phils' injury problems have created.
"You can't imagine how much we needed Steve to be right this spring," said Phils pitching Coach Herm Starrette. "And, I guess I was the most worried of all.
"I'd hear that he likes to come down here and kind of ease into things. I don't mean physically. He's always in shape. I mean in being ready to start the season."
The fact that Lefty was 9-3 in the second half of 1979 would seem to back up the contention that Carlton isn't particularly inclined to "come out of the gate" at full steam.
"He got here early, which should ha ve told me something," recalled the coach. "But, I stopped him anyway and began talking about how he might be more inclined to get hurt and how it might take him longer to really get going."
Starrette laughed as he recalled the scene, with Carlton just nodding silently. Finally, when the coach was finished, Steve just smiled at him and said, "Herm, that's why I'm here."
More importantly, Carlton has been his willing to accept a change in the kind of spring program that enabled him to win 20, 23, 16 and 18 games over the past four seasons. Most athletes wouldn't dare mess with that kind of success.
Yet the feeling was that, instead of following the usual procedure of having the ace of the staff tune his throwing arm in the less competitive "B" games against less imposing hitters, it might be a good idea to ask Steve to take on the best in the "A" games right from the start.
It may prove to be the best decision the Phils and Carlton made down here because he's already looking like he's in mid-season form.
"We need all the pitchers to get off to a good start," said Starrette. "But, with all the problems we're having, a fast start by Steve could be just what the doctor ordered. It would take a lot of heat off the pitching staff."
Of course, Carlton's public image is not the best. But, the two-time Cy Young Award winner has more people in his corner than you might suspect.
Owens is one of them. And, he's not reluctant to point out that it's not just a case of Carlton being talented enough to be the starting pitcher in last year's All-Star Game.
"Because he's so quiet, a lot of good things don't come out about Steve," said Owens. "For instance, at a time when money is on everyone's mind, I can honestly say that in all the time he's been here, he never kicked up a fuss about money. I really believe it doesn't mean that much to him.
"All he's ever asked for was to be treated fairly. He's certainly not greedy. Heck, when he came here from St. Louis, he could have pushed for more money and didn't. And, two of the times when his contract was adjusted, it was my idea. He never said a word.
"Sure, I wish he was more open with the press. But, if that's his biggest problem, I can live with it."
So can everyone else. Because, without him the Phillies and their fans would be in deep trouble.
Phillies fall to Pirates
By Ray W. Kelly of the Courier-Post
BRADENTON, Fla. – The Phillies got an abbreviated look at their main competition in the National League's Eastern Division yesterday. Same old Pirates.
Paced by the hitting of Willie Stargell, Dave Parker and Bill Madlock, the world champs from Pittsburgh ran up a 4-1 score against the Phils before the day's rains forced a halt to the proceedings after 5½ innings.
It was not a day for playing baseball but, because of the large crowd and television commitments, Manager Dallas Green was obliged to send righthander Dick Ruthven to the mound to face the Bucs. He wishes he hadn't.
Ruthven was rapped for nine hits with Stargell, Parker and Madlock collecting two apiece to give lefthander John Candelaria more support than he really needed.
The towering southpaw with the cranky throwing arm protected the 2-0 lead. Stargell's single game him in the first inning with a vengeance. Candelaria gave the Phils just two hits in five innings of work. Then, he added insult to injury by singling home a run himself off Ruthven in the second inning.
"We never said it was going to be easy," said Green. "Pittsburgh proved it has the talent to win last season."
Ironically, the only real Philly offense on the day was provided by a player who was cut from the team last week.
Ramon Aviles, the scrappy native of Puerto Rico who won himself a lot of fans when he stepped in for the injured Manny Trillo last season, was asked to make this trip with the team. He responded with a fifth-inning solo home run over the fence in left-center field.
"All I ever asked was a chance to help the Phillies," said Aviles, whose chances of making the club have been dimmed by the emergence of infielder Luis Aguayo's sizzling bat this spring.
Having found themselves on the short end of the scoreboard in their last three outings, the Phillies will now shift their efforts tonight to Ft. Lauderdale.
Lefthander Steve Carlton will face Ron Guidry in the second meeting of the New York Yankees and the Phils. It'll be the first leg of a three-game road trip that includes tomorrow's stop in Pompano Beach against the Texas Rangers and Wednesday's game against the Houston Astros in Cocoa Beach.
Strike now question of when
PALM SPRINGS, Calif. (AP) – Strike two or play ball?
That question will almost certainly be answered in Dallas tomorrow, but a bet on at least the setting of a strike date by major league baseball players is as safe as a wager on Spectacular Bid.
Representatives of the Players Association and team owners met for more than nine hours yesterday with Ken Moffett, deputy director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. And, in the word of the union's executive director, Marvin Miller, "nothing happened."
THE Players Association's executive board will meet in Dallas tomorrow to determine when and if a strike will be called. The "if" no longer seems to apply.
"This was a complete waste of time," Miller said of yesterday's meeting with the owners. "There isn't the slightest basis for their calling the mediation service with no intention of negotiating or listening to our viewpoint.
"This entire day was spent on the owners' demands, nothing on the players' proposal."
Miller was asked if he anticipated a long strike.
"I certainly don't anticipate a short one, not if they have the strike insurance I keep hearing about," he said. "I think they (the owners) are doing everything possible to provoke a strike. It's as clear as can be. They're acting like four-year-olds."
MILLER SAID there was no doubt in his mind that the owners were trying to break the union. He said there could be no other reason that they would be willing to take such financial losses.
"I think they're successful in terms of provoking a strike," he said. "Willie Stargell would give them a star."
Moffett said there would be another meeting but he wasn't sure when.
"I'll be in touch with both sides after Tuesday," he said. "I would have to say the meeting today was basically one where we explored the compensation issue, which seems to be Ihe most important issue on both sides. It's the only issue we really went into.
"WE MADE NO progress as far as coming to an agreement on this issue is concerned. A lot of suggestions were made in both private caucuses and in joint meetings. Neither side made any concessions. It's going to take a while; there's about a hundred issues and we only talked about one."
The only other strike in major league history occurred in 1972. It lasted 13 days, including the first nine days of what became a shortened season. The current difficulties seem much more extreme.
Four dates have been mentioned as possible strike days – immediately; on April 9, the scheduled opening day of the 1980 season; Memorial Day weekend and July 10, immediately after the All-Star game.