The only thing that's certain," says Dodger outfielder Rick Monday, "is that they'll play the national anthem before every game."
Indeed, the game's eternal verities are few in number. The Giants will swoon in June. The Red Sox won't have enough pitching. The Cubs will break hearts all summer long. And good pitching will always beat good hitting. And vice versa.
Baseball's unpredictability is one of its greatest beauties and the reason that predictions about the game are so much fun. Scrutiny of the upcoming season reveals some things you can take to the bank.
The Orioles won't win the World Series. In the last five years no reigning world champ has even reached the Series. And Baltimore, including its earlier incarnation as the St. Louis Browns, has never won consecutive world titles.
The right stuff will be in rightfield, the new glamour position. Before this season, the stars there included Dwight Evans of the Red Sox, Harold Baines of the White Sox, Darryl Strawberry of the Mets and Jack Clark of the Giants. Prodigal sons who return there this year include Dave Winfield of the Yankees, Pedro Guerrero of the Dodgers and George Hendrick of the Cardinals. First-timers include Andre Dawson of the Expos, Fred Lynn of the Angels and Gary Ward of the Rangers. Awrright!
There won't be any suggestions that the Pittsburgh Pirates are still Fam-i-lee. Pitcher John Candelaria posted an obscene sign this spring that made his bad feelings about the team perfectly clear; coach Joe Lonnett ripped the abilities of five players in an off-season newspaper story; and Willie (Pops) Stargell took some of his best swings ever at Dave Parker in his recent autobiography.
Pete Rose will get his 4,000th hit by May. Rod Carew will get his 3,000th by September. And Reggie Jackson will get his 500th home run. By himself.
White Sox catcher Marc Hill won't hit his weight. Of course, Hill does weigh 230. But his average after 11 seasons in the majors is .227.
A pitcher will get blown off the mound at the All-Star Game in Candlestick Park, but this time it won't be Stu Miller. The former Giant pitcher was blown off the mound by near-gale-force winds in 1961, the last year the game was played in San Francisco. (Why is it so windy at Candlestick? Because of all the Giant fans.) Miller is not, however, the last Giant to be blown off the mound in an All-Star Game. In '83 Atlee Ham-maker gave up seven runs in two-thirds of an inning.
Dale Murphy won't be the National League MVP. No player in either league has ever won the award three years in a row, though six players have won it three times. And the third time seems to be the charm: All six are in the Hall of Fame—Stan Musial and Roy Campanella from the National League, Jimmie Foxx, Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra and Mickey Mantle from the American.
Steve Carlton will break the career strikeout record.
Nolan Ryan will break the career strikeout record.
Steve Carlton will break the career strikeout record.
Ryan and Carlton swapped the K mark 13 times last year. Carlton is the current holder with 3,709, 32 more than Ryan.
The best player in the minors last year won't win the Rookie of the Year award. Kevin McReynolds hit .377 with 32 homers, 46 doubles and 116 RBIs for the Las Vegas Stars of the Pacific Coast League and was named 1983 Minor League Player of the Year. He will start in centerfield for the San Diego Padres. The hitch is, McReynolds spent seven weeks with the Padres last season and had 140 at bats, or 10 more than the rookie limit. "You wonder why it wasn't watched closer," McReynolds says. "We figured he might help us win," says Padre general manager Jack McKeon. But win what? San Diego was 11 games out of first with three games to play when McReynolds went over the rookie limit.
Bruce Bochte and Jim Eisenreich will play. And that's very good news. Bochte, a .286 career hitter and onetime All-Star, took a year off from baseball because he was disenchanted with the game. He spent his sabbatical studying the world's food and energy problems, contemplating "the nation's future rather than its pastime," wrote Ross Newhan of the L.A. Times. Bochte will play first for the A's. Eisenreich, a talented young center-fielder for the Twins, has been shackled by a nervous condition the past two seasons. He spent last summer leading the St. Cloud Saints to the Minnesota state amateur championship. Hypnotist Harvey Misel has aided his comeback.
Yankee Dave Righetti won't throw another no-hitter. Righetti has been sent to the bullpen in the wake of the no-no he threw last Fourth of July. He should have known better. The last Yankee southpaw to throw a no-hitter was George Mogridge in 1917. The following season he was New York's relief ace, leading the Yankees with 26 relief appearances and the American League with six relief wins. He was also second in the league with five saves.
Peter Ueberroth, president of the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee, will be the fellow perusing the box scores during the hammer throw this summer. With 22 Olympic-medal sports to worry about, Ueberroth will have a non-medal one, baseball, on his mind also. He becomes commissioner Oct. 1.
The Montreal Expos won't choke. They've needed an emotional spark, and in Pete Rose, who has played for seven division champions, they got a virtual fire storm. The torch has been relit at Olympic Stadium.
Goose Gossage will fly in the National League. Don't let his 15.00 ERA in three All-Star appearances against the National League fool you. Gossage had a 1.62 ERA with the Pirates in 1977, his one previous season in the league, and threw 11 scoreless innings for the Yankees in six World Series games.
Jim Palmer won't pitch for the Hagerstown Suns.
Yankee owner George Steinbrenner will fire manager Yogi Berra on June 4, after the Yankees stumble home from a 12-game road trip. George will assign Billy Martin to manage the club and will put Berra back in the first-base coach's box. Martin will say that he and George definitely understand one another this time. But during the All-Star break, Martin will redesign the face of a macaroon salesman. Choking with emotion, George will announce that Bob Lemon will take over the team. But when the Yankees hit the skids during the dog days of August, Steinbrenner will squeeze Lemon out in favor of Stick Michael. Stick won't. On Sept. 17, after a three-game sweep by Boston in Yankee Stadium, George will announce that his first-base coach will run the club for the rest of the season. Berra knows it's never over till it's over. Yogi's back!
For the first time, Bowie Kuhn won't be embarrassed to wear an overcoat to the World Series.
Mike Squires will see lots of bunts on the occasions he plays third for the White Sox. When Squires took over at third in the eighth inning of a game against Kansas City last August, he became the first lefthander in 47 years to play third in the majors. He had no chances in his one-inning stint but is certain to get some there this year. Squires is only the 10th lefthander in major league history to play the hot corner.
The Detroit Tigers won't even though Sparky Anderson keeps saying they will.
National League East champion Philadelphia will drop to the second division. The Wheeze Kids are gone; the woes, kids, are here.
The Angels won't die of old age. Sure, they may cash a few Social Security checks along the way, but California will probably carry at least four rookies on Opening Day and perhaps as many as six. Dick Schofield will start at shortstop and Gary Pettis in centerfield. Curt Kaufman should throw short relief, and either Steve Brown or Ron Romanick, possibly both, will make the starting rotation. The Angels may also keep catcher Darrell Miller, whose sister Cheryl is an All-America forward on USC's women's basketball team.
The world championship will be decided at Dodger Stadium—without the Dodgers. The six-team, modified-round-robin Olympic baseball tournament will be held in Chavez Ravine from July 31 to Aug. 7.
Darrell Evans won't be worth the reported $2.2 million the Tigers gave the free-agent DH and first baseman for three years. If the Tigers wanted their money's worth, they should have given him a 10-year deal. Decennial Darrell has had All-Star seasons only in years ending in 3. In 1973, he hit 41 home runs and had 104 RBIs. Last year he hit 30 homers and had 82 RBIs. In 1993, look out!
The easiest autographs in the majors will come from Ron Cey and Bo Diaz at just six letters each. The toughest? Steve Carlton, who doesn't sign.
Good pitching will beat good hitting. And vice versa.