Los Angeles may have limped through May with an 11-15 record, but the lineup changes it had to make because of a number of injuries may have been that old blessing in disguise. And the fact that the Dodgers held on to first place despite having five regulars on the DL at various times means the National League West is in a heap of trouble.
R.J. Reynolds, hitting .298 since his May 13 recall from Albuquerque, seems certain to play a lot of rightfield because Candy Maldonado and Terry Whitfield, who started the season sharing that position, have stopped hitting. And Franklin Stubbs, called up from Albuquerque on April 27 to replace the injured Greg Brock at first base, may stay put when Brock is ready to return because he has hit four homers, two of which won games. Brock, who drove in just 35 runs during the last four months of '83, had six homers but was hitting .205 with only 10 RBIs when he hurt his wrist. Says G.M. Al Campanis, "Brock is going to have to work like hell to get his job back. The other guy is pretty good."
Last season, when the White Sox won the American League West by 20 games and led the majors with 99 wins, they were 27-32 on June 13. So far this season the White Sox are 24-27 in a division in which only one team, California (29-25), is over .500. The Pale Hosers have 'em right where they want 'em, right? Maybe, maybe not. Everyone figured the White Sox would be doing a lot better. Some veterans said off the record in spring training that the White Sox couldn't lose.
In '84 the shortcomings have been in hitting (Greg Luzinski, Carlton Fisk and Harold Baines have combined for 44 RBIs, or three fewer than Eddie Murray); inconsistent starting pitching; and a bullpen that is minus Dennis Lamp and Salome Barojas. Lamp took his 15 saves to Toronto as a free agent, and Barojas, who saved 12 last season, was sent to Denver last week with a 4.94 ERA.
Fisk, who has been bothered by a pulled muscle in his stomach and hasn't started since May 22, swears the team is not complacent. "If anything," he says, "the guys are trying too hard to make it happen."
The Phillies' John Denny, on the disabled list with an irritated nerve in his right elbow, must make some changes in the strenuous martial-arts program he began after the 1982 season, a regimen that helped him win the 1983 National League Cy Young Award.
According to team physician Phillip Marone, the injury was a result of "overuse, a combination of his pitching and the exercise he does." Denny, who was leading the NL with a 1.55 ERA, was drawn to martial arts by clubhouse neighbor Steve Carlton.
Denny can continue the workouts, says Marone, "but I'm asking him to modify what he does. He has some beliefs; I have some. We have to come to a point where we reach an understanding. It shall be modified. He knows what I mean by modified. You can't argue with the success of the program, but whatever hurts, he will not do."
Having been benched for two games after going 6 for 38 and floundering afield. Rod Carew had some fences to mend when he began Tuesday night's game against the Yankees in Anaheim. In the ninth inning of Carew's previous game, Angels manager John McNamara had even used a pinch hitter, righty Ron Jackson, for the seven-time American League batting champion and .331 career hitter. "This is something to tell my grandchildren about," Jackson said. (He should also tell them he died out.) Earlier in that same game, Carew had beer booed loudly after he committed his third error in two games.
In the Angels' 6-5 win over the Yankees, Carew went 2 for 3 with an RBI. saved a run with a slick fielding play and stole a run when he kicked the ball out of the glove of Yankee catcher Butch Wynegar. "I had to do something after stinking up the joint," Carew said.
ON THE ONE HAND: "If this was a normal season, under normal circumstances I'd be pleased with it," Sparky Anderson said after his Tigers came home from a West Coast trip with a 5-4 record. "But for us in Fantasyland, it's not too good."
ON THE OTHER HAND: When you tell Blue Jays manager Bobby Cox that his team might win 100 games but still not beat Detroit, he winces and says, "Don't say that."
Oakland's Dave Kingman has invented a new way to get hurt—he tore a ligament in his left knee while arguing with an umpire. This bizarre episode began Monday when Kingman, the majors' home-run leader with 14, was ejected by first-base ump Steve Palermo because he disagreed with Palermo's call on a checked-swing appeal. "Tell Palermo he's got the worst case of bad breath I've ever seen. He's got to cut down on his garlic," Kingman said after that game.
The next day, Kingman singled in his first at bat, and about 20 feet out of the box, he turned to yell something at Palermo, who was the home-plate ump. At the same time Kingman stumbled and fell. He got up and finished the game but reported for work the next day with a bad limp. He'll miss at least a week.
Pitcher Dennis Eckersley has found that being a major league hitter can be a mixed blessing. Eckersley, traded recently from Boston to the Cubs, said, "My arms are killing me, my back's killing me," after taking batting practice and then going 0 for 2 (a groundout and a strikeout) in his first two at bats. "I don't feel that good." He felt better when he got his first big league hit in his next game.... The team-record hitting streak of Mets third baseman Hubie Brooks ended at 24 games. Brooks was on the trading block all winter after hitting .251 in 1983 and .249 in '82, but now is batting .291.... Houston's Jerry Mumphrey said Ozzie Smith is "the greatest player ever to walk on an infield," after the Cardinal shortstop went into the hole and robbed fellow Astro Mark Bailey.
When Bruce Hurst and Bob Ojeda threw back-to-back shutouts at Fenway Park last week, it was the first time since 1916—Babe Ruth and Dutch Leonard—that Red Sox lefties had pulled off that trick. Some luck was involved, though. The day after Hurst's schneid, Twins lefty Frank Viola had a 5-0 lead over the Sox through four innings. Then the rains came and forced a postponement.... It took him 19 games, but on May 30 Jim Rice finally hit his first home run of the season in Fenway Park after getting six in 25 games on the road.
GENERALLY SPEAKING: "We have got enough material here for a segment on General Hospital," said Angels manager John McNamara as he looked at the six names on the team's disabled list. "Maybe," he said after a pause, "a miniseries."..."This team drinks milk and goes home and watches General Hospital," said Detroit hitting coach Gates Brown when asked to compare the '84 Tigers with the '68 world champs. "The only time the '68 team turned on the TV, there was nothing on—'cause it was five in the morning."
Cleveland pitcher Bert Blyleven, who has been on the disabled list since May 23, wants to be traded, but Indians president Gabe Paul says nothing doing. "For two years [1982 and '83] we paid him a good salary and he did nothing because he was hurt," says Paul. "Now he owes the Indians and the city something in return. This is a totally unreasonable request." ...It's no coincidence that the Royals' offense has come alive now that George Brett and Willie Wilson are back. K.C. scored 104 runs in its first 32 games, 84 in its last 17.... Tom Seaver's 4.87 ERA reflects the sad state of White Sox relief pitching. Eight of the 10 base runners Seaver has turned over to relievers have scored.... Detroit's Jack Morris, who has 10 wins, is 15 games ahead of Denny McLain's pace when he won 31 in 1968. "You want to know why I stopped coaching baseball and switched to coaching tennis?" says Bill Lorenz, Morris's high school coach in St. Paul. "I had the American League's Cy Young winner and I played him at third base."
NICE ISN'T A VICE
Two weeks ago Steve Boros was fired as the A's manager because he wasn't "tough" enough. Last week he gave his views on managing while sipping diet soda from a cup that read: NO MORE MR. NICE GUY.
"Now it seems that players feel like they have to be mad to play effectively," he said. "You've got to jump all over them. You've got to curse umpires. Well, it's a sad world if every manager has to be a jerk to get things done. I know one thing, I'm not changing my style for anything. Not even if it means never managing again."
Did Boros think he might get another chance? "Maybe not," he said. "Maybe I'm too idealistic about things. Maybe no one will ask me. But I'm getting a little tired of this 'nice guy' stuff, people challenging my manhood. 'He's indecisive. He's wishy-washy. He just goes with the How.' I'm getting clubbed to death with it. To me, being a man means standing up for what you believe in."
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
STEVE KEMP: The Yankee leftfielder batted .591 to raise his average 53 points, to .341. Kemp's 13-for-22 performance included one homer and three doubles. He also had 10 RBIs and scored five runs.
BALL PARK FIGURES
Jim Palmer, 38, who has gone from the Orioles' pitching staff to ABC's broadcast booth after 268 career wins, says these were the 10 toughest batters he faced:
George Brett (LH), K.C.
Rod Carew (LH), Minn, Cal
Roberto Clemente (RH), Pitt
Carlton Fisk (RH), Bos, Chi
Doug Griffin (RH), Cal, Bos
Al Kaline (RH), Det
Hal McRae (RH), Cinn, K.C.
Graig Nettles (LH), N.Y.
Tony Oliva (LH), Minn
Jim Rice (RH), Bos