The morning had been hot and the workout hard, and now the Philadelphia Phillies were limping into their Clearwater, Fla. clubhouse in search of cool drinks and long showers. Sweat poured, muscles throbbed and tongues lolled. Then, from somewhere in the locker area, came a plaintive cry for relief: "Bring back Danny Ozark."
After seven springs of training under the easygoing Ozark, the Phillies are up against a rock, new-old manager Dallas Green. Green stands tall—6'5"—and talks loud—Whispers is his nickname—and on the field he's about as much fun as a drill sergeant.
This dramatic change in style became necessary—so the Philadelphia front office felt—when the Phils, having won the National League Eastern Division championship three years in a row, from 1976 to 1978, and having bought expensive insurance on the 1979 title in the form of free agent Pete Rose, swooned last season en route to finishing 14 games behind Pittsburgh. The reason for the collapse was deemed to be complacency; the remedy, shock treatment. Bye-bye, Danny; hello, Dallas.
Although Green managed the Phillies as an interim skipper for the last 30 games of 1979, the difference between his and Ozark's styles has never been in sharper focus than it was last week when the Phillies officially opened spring training at their Carpenter Field complex. Before sending his charges out for their first drills, Green, who was anointed as the fulltime manager in October, informed the players that "you were one of the poorest teams in the majors last year." With that warm sentiment ringing in their ears, the Phillies hustled out for a closely watched, well-ordered regimen of hitting, pitching, fielding, fundamentals and running, running, running. Unlike previous years, there was a long list of noes: no kids on the sidelines, no reporters near the batting cages, no sneaking into the clubhouse for a mid-morning respite and, most assuredly, no playing in the Pasadena Country Club's annual golf tournament.
March 17, 1980
If Philadelphia is to have any fun in 1980, Green wants it to be in October, not March. And most of the Phillies seem willing to wait. "We've got a tremendous amount of talent on this team," Relief Pitcher Tug McGraw says, "but a Rolls-Royce can't go anywhere without a driver. We haven't had good leadership."
Not so this spring. Notices pinned to bulletin boards spell out the day's marching orders. Signs in the clubhouse shout "We" not "I," and a team meeting is held before every workout. Ozark, who is on the east coast of Florida these days, coaching for the Dodgers, might not recognize his old team. Greg Luzinski reported to camp at 217 pounds, 22 less than a year ago, and even Steve Carlton, a noted abstainer in springs past, is doing some running.
"Danny let the players get away with murder," says Pitcher Dick Ruthven. "Last spring the players did only what they wanted and then took a hike."
McGraw makes the comparison this way: "Spring training should never be boring, and that's the way it's been in the past—nonchalant, slow-moving and borrriiiing."
Not every player agrees. After all, Ozark did manage Philadelphia to those three Eastern Division titles. "I don't need to be motivated," says Centerfielder Garry Maddox. "We had a manager who let us do things our way, and I'd have to say we were successful."
Shortstop Larry Bowa believes Ozark was unfairly blamed for the team's collapse last year. "Danny did a helluva job as manager, and I don't think a change was necessary," he says. "But I guess we did get into a rut, and Dallas won't let us get complacent because he'll be yelling."
But the man whose opinion really counts in this debate, General Manager Paul Owens, firmly believes that Green can do more with loud provocations than Ozark did with quiet acquiescence. "I think kids want authority," Owens says. "No matter how cool they act, they want rules." Owens acted on this belief last Aug. 31, firing Ozark when the Phillies were in fifth place, 12½ games out. He replaced Ozark with the 45-year-old Green, who had been a relief pitcher with the Phils in the '60s and, having served as Philadelphia's director of minor leagues since 1972, was the heir apparent to Owens' job. In his only other tours as a manager, Green finished fifth at Huron, S. Dak. in 1968 and first at Pulaski, Va. the following season. As the Phillies' interim skipper Green went 19-11 and moved the team from fifth to fourth, but many of the dugout decisions were either made or recommended by Coach Bobby Wine, who knew the Phillies and their opposition much better than Green did.
"Managing was never a big thing to me," Green said last week, after a workout in which he had done some running and thrown batting practice. "I was studying to be a general manager, but Paul became concerned about Danny's reluctance to maintain a steady hold on the team. It became evident we weren't drilled in fundamentals or physically prepared to overcome injuries. We were a lethargic, non-caring team, just going through the motions. The ball club was ripe for Dallas Green."
Green believes he can whip—almost literally—Philadelphia into better shape, sharpen its fundamental skills and make its players more tenacious, more unwilling to yield to the sort of physical and mental breakdowns that occurred last season. He wants the Phillies to be as aggressive as he: more stolen bases, more hit-and-run plays, more sacrifices. (In '79 Philadelphia was last in the league in sacrifice bunts.) When the season starts, the Phillies will hold infield practice before every game, no matter what on-the-field promotion the front office has planned, and no players will be sitting at a card table in the clubhouse during batting practice. Once the game starts, neither umpires nor players will be safe from Green's fury.
Green is already on record as saying that if Philadelphia doesn't win the division this year there will be "wholesale changes" in the fall. "I've screamed all along that we have a good team," Green says. "I expect a winner."
And the players know what to expect from him. "If we don't run out a ground ball, we'll hear about it," says Bowa. "In fact, the whole park will. And if Dallas and a player don't agree on something, they can go into a room and scream their lungs out."
So far, Green has managed to keep his yelling to a minimum. He believes the players have shown their determination to do things his way by reporting in good shape and working hard in practice. Luzinski, who hit only 18 home runs in 1979, came to Florida in such good condition that, as one Phillie coach said, "He looks like an athlete." Bowa, who is also trying to come back from an off year—his average last season was .241—has been taking extra batting practice before and after the regular workouts. Carlton still refuses to run sprints with the other pitchers, but he does jog laps and shags flies. "Steve has his own way of getting into shape and I'm satisfied that nobody works harder than he does," says Green. "I tried his method myself, and it almost killed me."
That the Phillies were literally and figuratively on their toes last week was an overdue change for the better. Win or lose, Green's place in the Philadelphia organization is secure even if the players' is not. They know they have no other choice but to do things his way. Maddox, who doesn't like to steal bases because he feels the wear and tear on his legs diminishes his speed on defense, says he will do whatever Green asks. Bowa, who prefers to bat second but has been told he will bat eighth, accepts the demotion with equanimity. Rightfielder Bake McBride and Second Baseman Manny Trillo have convinced Green that they will hustle enough to suit the new manager and not just themselves. If they don't, you can bet that everybody within shouting distance will hear about it.