So the A's fired Steve Boros as manager last week because he wasn't tough enough. "You don't have to be an ornery, cantankerous kind of guy to be a good manager," said pitcher Steve McCatty, "but you do have to show you won't sit back when players do things wrong."
One of the reasons Boros was hired to succeed Billy Martin was his low-key approach to the game. It's an old formula—fire a martinet, or someone who has alienated too many players, and hire someone who'll sing lullabies and tuck everyone in.
You can be sure that will happen in San Diego when Dick Williams is bumped. Williams, who knows his baseball, has a personality glitch that causes him to get nasty with the hired help for no logical reason. If the Padres don't win this year after signing free-agent Goose Gossage and trading for Graig Nettles, it seems likely that Williams will be gone.
We offer this solution. The A's should hire Williams when he becomes available, to kick butts for a year or two, or however long it takes for him to wear out his welcome. And the Padres, when they make that change, should hire Boros. After all, he'd be the perfect tonic.
There was a slightly bizarre sidelight to the Boros dismissal, involving his successor, Jackie Moore. The A's coach was summoned to the office of team president Roy Eisenhardt last Wednesday, the day before the firing, and according to Moore, "We had a very frank discussion about the club. When I walked out to my car after the talk I started thinking, That might have been a job interview. I hope the right words came out.' "
The next morning Moore learned that the right words had come out—the job was his, but Boros wouldn't be told until after that day's game with the Orioles, which the A's won. "Here I am during the game," Moore said, "trying to communicate with Steve, joking around some, and all the time knowing I'm going to take his job. After we won, I'm thinking, 'Maybe this isn't the day. How long can I go through this?' " As it turned out, about an hour.
Bob Brenly may be hitting .339, but the biggest reason he has become the Giants' starting catcher is his improvement behind the plate.
Brenly, 30, didn't get drafted out of Ohio University in 1976, and he didn't stick in the big leagues until 1982. He came to spring training this year as just another catcher because manager Frank Robinson didn't like his pitch selection and the way he ran a game.
"Frank had been candid about it in the papers," says Brenly, who was an infielder-outfielder for most of his six years in the bushes. "And at the time I was too intimidated to go in to talk to him. I was intimidated right out of my shorts. But in spring training I finally did.
"I said, 'We've got to have a talk,' and he said, 'You're right. What's bugging you?' I told him what was bugging me, and he told me what I did that was bugging him, and we worked it out. The thing about Frank is, until you earn his respect he doesn't want to have much to do with you."
Gary Gaetti, the Twins' third baseman, said he was going on a hunger strike after a bad game last week in Toronto. Four hours later he was stuffing his face. He said thoughts of Gandhi came to him during his "fast." "I thought, 'How the heck did he do it?' " ...The Mariners' Jim Beattie has pitched 11 complete games since last Aug. 8 and has a 3-8 record in them. The ERA for the 11 games is 1.99, and the three wins were all shutouts.... The Red Sox, who grounded into a big-league record 171 double plays in 1982 and tied the mark in 1983, have 50 GDPs already, a record-setting pace. But the Brewers have 53. At that rate, they will GDP 200 times.... John Lowenstein played first base one day last week for the first time in five years. Had a nifty game, too. So Mike Flanagan decided to call him "Fred Astairical." ...La-Marr Hoyt, last year's AL Cy Young winner, is limping along at 3-5 with a 4.21 ERA. It's the old story—he's not painting the edges of the plate the way he's supposed to.... Angels designated hitter Reggie Jackson is 0 for his last 22 and is now batting .208.
The first-place Cubs have plenty of hitting, a bench and a bullpen. But do the Cubbies, who lost Dick Ruthven for possibly the season last week (arm circulation) but gained Dennis Eckersley from the Red Sox in exchange for Bill Buckner, have enough starting pitching?
They've been adequate in that area so far, thanks in part to Steve Trout, who has never really pitched to his potential, and Rick Reuschel, who was left for dead by the Yankees two years ago after shoulder surgery, but is alive and well, 25 pounds lighter and hitting the corners.
Trout, who has had his moments as a space cadet, is 5-3 and says the reason is pitching coach Billy Connors. Reuschel, who spent most of his career with the Cubs, is 2-1. When he weighed 250 he had one of baseball's most visible waistlines, but he lost the weight—he's now 225—he says, "Because I got the impression from [Cubs general manager] Dallas Green that if I didn't lose it, I wouldn't get the chance to prove myself in the spring."
The Red Sox may finally have found a replacement for Carlton Fisk. Rich Gedman, who started spring training as the backup to Gary Allenson, is batting .281 with eight homers and 24 RBIs, after hitting only two homers and driving in 18 runs in 204 at bats last season.
Gedman's eight homers is a record for a lefthanded-hitting Boston catcher. Hal Wagner hit six in 1946. "I'm going to go into Red Sox history," says Gedman, a Worcester, Mass. native. "That's neat."
After missing more than two years with a bum elbow, Houston's Joe Sambito has made it back to the big time even though he doesn't have that 90-plus mph fastball anymore.... Remember the home run, George Hendrick hit with two out in the ninth to end Mario Soto's no-hit bid? Well, Hendrick gave Soto the bat. Soto got a long fly ball, a double and a single out of it. Then he broke it.... Cardinal second baseman Tommy Herr thinks the trouble with his 22-25 team is "We've got some guys who don't care. We just seem a little too laid back at times." ...Greg Booker, a 23-year-old righty the Padres called up last week, is the son-in-law of Padre G.M. Jack McKeon. "I didn't look through baseball books trying to find a major league manager with an eligible daughter," says Booker, who has known McKeon's daughter Kristi since first grade.
The Mets' Darryl Strawberry has as much raw talent as any player in the game, but he still isn't applying it on a daily basis. And it appears that Strawberry, who has no home runs and only six RBIs since April 28, is also putting the wrong kind of pressure on himself.
Strawberry, 22, came to the majors last season as one of the most heralded rookies in years, but he has been criticized because of his work habits from high school all the way to the bigs. On the Mets' recent West Coast road trip he also showed up late for batting practice one morning and was benched.
"Some outfielders work on their defense during batting practice, but Darryl never does," one Met says. And when the Mets take infield, Strawberry wears a warmup jacket and lollipops his throws from short rightfield. "He walks through the rehearsal instead of treating it like a dress rehearsal."
LONG TIME NO SEE
After Tiger manager Sparky Anderson finished breakfast one morning last week in Anaheim, Calif., he lit his pipe. A nearby diner started making faces. "I could see the guy didn't like the smoke," Sparky says. "I thought there might be trouble. But then he recognized me."
"Sparky Anderson!" the man exclaimed. "I'm from Dayton, and when you were in Cincinnati I was your biggest fan. What a coincidence this is."
And then the fan had a question for the manager of the best team in baseball. "By the way, Sparky, what are you doing now?"
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
PETE O'BRIEN: The Texas first baseman batted .591 to raise his season average 48 points to .281. Among his 13 hits (in 22 at bats) were six doubles. O'Brien also drove in seven runs and scored four.
BALL PARK FIGURES
The numbers below provide an unofficial ranking of the majors' "luckiest" and "unluckiest" starters, among those with at least nine appearances. The rankings are based on the average number of runs scored in their behalf per nine innings while they were the pitchers of record:
Milt Wilcox, Tigers (6-1, 3.61)
Chuck Rainey, Cubs (3-3, 4.82)
Ron Romanick, Angels (6-3, 4.13)
Larry Gura, Royals (5-2, 3.99)
Joe Niekro, Astros (2-7, 3.05)
Lary Sorensen, A's (1-7, 4.85)
Bill Laskey, Giants (1-5, 2.89)
Bob Welch, Dodgers (4-5, 3.54)