Now that understated Pat Corrales has replaced acid-tongued Dallas Green as manager, an aura of brotherly love has returned to Philadelphia. So, in concert with the times, let's say some nice things about the Phillies.
Mike Schmidt is the best damn player in the game. Last year he hit for average (.316); led the league with 31 homers, 91 RBIs and 78 runs scored; stole 12 bases; and became the third National Leaguer to earn back-to-back Most Valuable Player awards and the first to win a sixth Gold Glove at third. Schmidt did himself a disservice by naming his autobiography Always on the Offense. The Phillies, however, earned that title. With players like Schmidt, Leftfielder Gary Matthews (.301) and First Baseman Pete Rose (.325 at age 40), they led the league in runs, RBIs, hits and average. Rose sat out much of the spring with back spasms, but swore he would be in the lineup Opening Day.
Steve Carlton is a pitcher without peer. Also without voice. At 37 he went 13-4 and ran his alltime career strikeout record for lefthanders to 3,118. In the past 10 years Carlton has won more games (185) than anyone in baseball.
The Phillies made smart off-season moves. By acquiring Cub Shortstop Ivan DeJesus for Larry Bowa, they exchanged a 29-year-old for a 36-year-old. DeJesus can run, throw and catch, and he's a much better hitter than he showed last year (.194); his career average for five seasons is .257. DeJesus is also a better fielder than Bowa. Reunited with his old Cub teammate, Second Baseman Manny Trillo, he'll suffer fewer lapses of concentration. Another ex-Cub, lefthander Mike Krukow, joins the rotation. A .237 lifetime hitter, Krukow has an excellent curve and averaged nine wins a year in five seasons with lowly Chicago; he should be good for 12 to 15 this year with the Phils. Ed Farmer, late of the White Sox, and former Indian Sid Monge strengthen a bullpen that otherwise would have been weakened by Tug McGraw's elbow surgery. "Even if I never pick up another baseball, we'll be in good shape," says McGraw, who isn't expected back until May.
The new catcher is former Indian Bo (the Cannon) Diaz, who gunned down runners with deadly accuracy last year while Phillie opponents were stealing 75% of the times they tested Bob Boone and Keith Moreland. Says Hugh Alexander, the Phillies' chief scout, "Diaz has either the best or second-best arm of any catcher in baseball."
Behind Carlton, Dick Ruthven won 12 games but had a 5.14 ERA, and Larry Christenson, ailing and railing at Green, finished a 4-7 season in the bullpen. Healthy and happy in '82, Christenson has no excuse for balking on pickoffs and daydreaming after the fifth inning. The Phillies' ERA of 4.05 was the worst in the league. Schmidt, who gets to the point, says bluntly, "If we're 3.50 or better, we'll win the division." Good pitching will beat good feelings any day.
In 1981 36-year-old Steve Carlton struck out 8.48 batters per nine innings, more than any other big league starter. In 1980 he struck out 8.47, finishing second to Houston's J.R. Richard (9.39). Many pitchers have averaged 8.5 Ks a game before—but not at Carlton's age. Carlton's career average of 7.1 is No. 10 on the alltime list. Nolan Ryan is first at 9.6.