In Texas they were calling it Rangergate, the latest in a series of blunders and cover-ups by the Ranger front office. It seems that General Manager Eddie Robinson and Owner Brad Corbett don't know all the rules. On Monday both clubs announced a trade that would send Yankee Centerfielder Mickey Rivers to Texas for three minor leaguers and a player to be named later. On Wednesday the deal became Rivers for the Rangers' top hitter, Oscar Gamble. What happened was this: Texas hadn't asked waivers on the minor leaguers before announcing their names as it should have under the rules. According to Robinson, the Rangers had accepted the Yankees' word that the release of the minor-leaguers' names was O.K. But it wasn't. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn stepped in and said no deal. Subsequently Robinson was compelled to give up Gamble. In so doing he alienated the incumbent centerfielder, Al Oliver, Ranger fans and the local press and left the team in a state of confusion. "This place is a shambles," concluded Pitcher Jim Kern. To make a bad situation worse, the Rangers (3-3) were beaten on Saturday by players the front office had also traded away. Ex-Ranger Toby Harrah hit a grand slam for Cleveland, scoring Mike Hargrove and Bobby Bonds.
Other alumni who did well were Rod Carew and Dan Ford, who got seven of 14 hits for California (3-3) in a 9-3 rout of Minnesota. The Angels continued to rely on hitting, with three starting pitchers ailing. The team got eight runs for Dave Frost in his five-hit victory over Seattle, and Frost combined with Mark Clear on a six-hitter to beat the Twins 7-1.
Oakland (4-2) got five complete games and allowed just 10 runs, but two of the complete games were losses, including a three-hit, one-run heartbreaker by hard-luck Matt Keough. Even though he suffered his 17th straight loss, Keough had an achievement of sorts; he became the first player to catch a fly ball hit off one of the speakers in the Seattle Kingdome. Floyd Bannister won that game for the Mariners (3-3), his sixth victory of the year. All were won at home; Bannister has lost 13 consecutive games on the road. The Mariners beat the Angels twice, Mike Parrott pitching a four-hit, 8-0 shutout and equaling his career high of nine strikeouts.
After defeating Toronto twice, Kansas City (4-3) feared it had lost George Brett because of a thumb injury. But though Brett couldn't grip the ball, he could grip the bat. As the DH, he got two doubles and a single and drove in two runs to help complete a sweep of the Jays.
For most of the season, Minnesota topped the league in team batting. And then suddenly—silence. Roy Smalley, who had been the league's leading hitter with a .373 average, went 0 for 19 and dropped to .321 before ending his slump with a home run. The Twins, who had been averaging 5.3 runs a game, scored just 20 in their last 11 and dropped to third place.
It started out as just a heart-to-heart talk over lunch. Manager Don Kessinger was concerned because his White Sox had lost seven straight and he wanted to discuss what could be done about the team's lethargy. Owner Bill Veeck suggested a shake-up and that is exactly what he got. Kessinger resigned and Veeck brought up Tony LaRussa, manager of the Sox Triple A Iowa Oaks, as his replacement.
CAL 62-48 TEX 57-50 MINN 56-50 KC 54-54 CHI 47-61 SEA 47-64 OAK 32-78
As the Yankees (3-3) mourned the death of Thurman Munson, the Orioles kept right on winning—six games against no defeats for the week, making it 15 of their last 17 (page 36).
Milwaukee (2-5) had shown signs of making a run at the Orioles. But after losing three straight to the Birds, Brewer General Manager Harry Dalton conceded that Baltimore was "Destiny's Darlings." Shaken from the sweep and minus two starting pitchers—Mike Caldwell, who had a pulled rib muscle, and Moose Haas, who had the flu—the Brewers lost two to Boston and dropped to a season-low 11 games back. Nevertheless, they still had the third-best record in the major leagues.
Boston (4-4) Manager Don Zimmer does not have much to smile about these days. His pitching is in a state of crisis. He receives threatening phone calls and telegrams. "I guess I'm supposed to go out and pick somebody off a tree," said Zimmer. Instead, he brought up relief specialist Wilhelmus Remmerswaal. The Dutchman could put his finger in the dike if he lives up to his nickname, "Win."
Cleveland (5-2) went over .500 because of a 10-game winning streak, its longest in 13 years. When Boston finally stopped the Indians 7-4, to give new Manager Dave Garcia his first defeat, Garcia said, "I really didn't expect to win them all."
Sparky Anderson knows his Tigers (4-3) can't catch the Orioles, "but I'd sure like to catch the Yankees." Detroit was 2½ back of New York after a week in which Captain Hook shuffled pitchers back and forth from the mound to the showers, from the bullpen to the rotation and from the minors to the majors. A surprise winner was Mike Chris, 7-8 with a 5.52 ERA in the minors, who held Kansas City hitless for 6 innings in his first start. Aurelio Lopez won one game and saved two others.
It was Italian Heritage Night at Exhibition Stadium in Toronto (1-5). The bases were loaded and who should come up but Rick Bosetti. He hit a single, knocking in two runs, and the Jays picked up their first win after five straight losses, to the delight of 15,130 fans. One paisan who did not go home happy was new White Sox Manager Tony LaRussa, who suffered his first defeat.
BALT 74-34 BOS 65-41 MIL 64-46 NY 58-50 DET 55-52 CLEV 54-54 TOR 33-76
It was the kind of decision that can make a manager look like a genius—or a.... The Astros (6-1) and the Dodgers were tied 3-3 in the bottom of the ninth, Houston batting, with the pitcher scheduled to hit. A pinch hitter comes in, right? Wrong. Manager Bill Virdon let J. R. Richard—he of the .123 average—bat for himself. After all, the Dodgers had not beaten J.R. in nine straight games going back to 1976, and he was cruising along with a five-hitter. Richard made Virdon look good when he hit a high chopper to second and beat it out. Cesar Cedeno followed with a triple to right, scoring Richard, who had never run so fast, to give him his ninth win of the year. He picked up the 10th against Atlanta Friday, equaling a career-high 15 strikeouts to bring his major league-leading total to 197.
In 1976, while he was with a Reds farm team, Ray Knight borrowed one of slugger George Foster's "Black Beauties," a 35-ounce, ebony-colored bat. He used it to hit nine homers in a month. Last week he borrowed the magic wand again. On Sunday he hit a homer and two doubles and drove in five runs for the Reds (4-2). On Monday he hit two homers and had three RBIs. And then he ordered a dozen Black Beauties of his own. For the week he batted .440, with 16 RBIs. to raise his average to .314.
San Francisco (2-4) started the week 8½ games behind Houston. Jack Clark got a two-run homer to help John Montefusco defeat the Padres for the first time since 1977. The following night Bob Knepper allowed just five hits in an 8-0 win over the Astros, who committed a team-record seven errors. But then, calamity. In four losses to Houston and L.A., the Giants used 16 pitchers. At week's end they were 12 games back.
Rollie Fingers of San Diego (2-4) was the league's leading reliever the last two years but this season is an altogether different story. Last week he gave up five runs on four hits, and his ERA soared to 4.26. Dave Winfield is convinced he is the best player in the league and he is doing his best to prove it. The right-fielder hit .423 to move into the league batting lead with a .338 average for the season. He had five hits in one game for the first time in his career. Three of those came off Phil Niekro of Atlanta (2-5). Phil's knuckleball refused to knuckle, and instead of gaining his 15th win he suffered his 13th defeat. He lost again, to Houston, tying Walter Johnson's 1914 record of four wild pitches in one inning, and finishing with six for the day.
Although they played .500 ball, the Dodgers (3-3) dropped 2½ games further back. Much of the blame for the decline of L.A. can be charged to the bullpen, which has saved just 16 games and has a horrendous 4.63 ERA. Three pitchers—Doug Rau, Andy Messersmith and Lerrin LaGrow—were on the disabled list and two others—Terry Forster and Bobby Welch—probably should be. With the score tied 3-3 in the bottom of the 11th and two men on, Manny Mota came in as a pinch hitter against San Francisco. He drilled the ball into left to score the winning run. That was his 143rd career pinch hit, one fewer than Smoky Burgess' major league record.
HOU 65-47 CIN 60-52 SF 52-58 SD 50-62 LA 47-62 ATL 45-66
The morning after his Expos (6-2) lost three straight to the Pirates to fall out of the lead for the first time in a month and a half, Manager Dick Williams canceled batting practice and called a meeting of his players. "I told them to concentrate on execution. That's what got us here," he said. After the manager and his coaches left, the players remained in the clubhouse for a rap session. "We just wanted to get our enthusiasm back, to come together as a team," said Outfielder Warren Cromartie. The Expos took the field and scored four runs in the first inning to beat the Pirates 5-3 and regain first place. The entire team seemed inspired. Ellis Valentine hit two home runs to beat St. Louis 5-1, Rudy May pitched a three-hit, eight-strikeout shutout in his first start of the season, Rodney Scott slugged a two-run homer in the 12th inning to win the first of two games from Chicago, and Andre Dawson drove in four runs on four hits to help beat New York 10-6. Ellis Valentine hit .375 during the week, drove in six runs, scored six, stole two bases and went from first to home on a stolen base and an error. "Our next meeting will be before the playoffs," said Cromartie.
The Pirates (5-3) didn't need a meeting. They were whooping it up in the clubhouse as usual and having fun playing baseball. They split two-game series with the Mets and the Cardinals and then took three from the Phillies. John Candelaria shut out the Phils on five hits despite suffering a back injury in an automobile accident early in the week, and Shortstop Tim Foli stroked his 1,000th base hit. "After I hit it, Pete Rose got the ball and gave it to me," said Foli. "I was almost embarrassed to take it from him." With good reason. Later in the game, Rose lashed his 2,426th career single, tying Honus Wagner's alltime National League record.
The Phillies (4-5) continued to be plagued with injuries. Garry Maddox bruised his ankle, Bob Boone bruised his hand, Randy Lerch hurt his thumb and Dickie Noles was hit on his left elbow by a batting-practice line drive off the bat of Greg Luzinski. "I've never seen so many ice bags in one clubhouse," said Luzinski. After losing a doubleheader to the Pirates, Manager Danny Ozark said, "The sky hasn't fallen on us yet. There are still 54 games left. We may win all 54." After losing again the next day, the Phillies were shooting for 53.
The Cardinals (3-5) don't travel well. Well into the most important road trip of the season, a 14-day journey in which they would play every other NL East team, they encountered engine trouble, rain delays, a customs delay and striking airline-service personnel. By the time the Redbirds had gone from Philadelphia to Montreal to Pittsburgh to Chicago—all in one week—they were exhausted and looking forward to getting back to their nest.
The Cubs (2-5) also had a disastrous road trip. They lost five straight—to New York, Philadelphia and Montreal—and were glad to go home to Wrigley Field, where Dave Kingman got his second home run of the week to bring his total to 37 and Bruce Sutter picked up his 24th and 25th saves.
Things were finally looking up for the Mets (4-4). Kevin Kobel and Ed Glynn combined for a two-hit shutout of the Cubs. Neil Allen protected two one-run leads in three days, first in a 2-1 victory over Philadelphia, then a 3-2 win over Montreal. The second save gave Craig Swan a career-high 10th win and enabled the Mets to beat the Expos for the first time this year.
MONT 60-44 PITT 61-46 CHI 56-48 PHIL 56-53 ST. L 52-52 NY 45-59
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
OMAR MORENO: The Pirate centerfielder stole five bases and batted .406 with 13 hits—two of them triples—and scored 10 runs. Moreno leads the National League in stolen bases with 48 and is second in triples with 11.