There is no joy in Philly, even when somebody hits a ninth-inning, game-winning, pinch-hit homer before the home folks in the middle of a pennant race. When Len Matuszek did that recently he found a two-person reception committee at the plate—the bat boy and Ivan DeJesus, who had been on base for the homer.
"I couldn't believe it," Matuszek said. "I thought for a second that the team was playing a joke on me. Then I thought I had the inning wrong, that it was the eighth, not the ninth. But I didn't even get much of a reception when I got to the clubhouse."
The Phillies just don't smile a lot when they're home. Their record in the Vet is 25-28, and those harsh Phillie fans have been booing them all season. Last week, reliever Larry Andersen described the clubhouse atmosphere this way: "There's no joy here."
There are some hitters who come to bat with runners in scoring position and get so uptight that they try to squeeze the sawdust out of their bats. Then there are the guys who bat in tense situations and act as if they're in nothing more important than a sandlot game—guys like Cleveland's Julio Franco.
August 12, 1984
Franco, 22, admits that his concentration wanders occasionally—that's one way for a shortstop to make 26 errors in the first 98 games—but when men are in scoring position, he's as good as they come.
Last year Franco drove in 80 runs, despite hitting only eight homers. You can get 80 RBIs when you bat .315 with men in scoring position (he hit .256 the rest of the time). This year Franco, who bats No. 2 in the Cleveland lineup, has 54 RBIs and only two homers. He's hitting .350 with men in scoring position, .254 the rest of the time.
"He can relax when other guys can't," says Cleveland batting coach Bobby Bonds.
"I don't have to be nervous," says Franco. "The pitcher has to be nervous. He's the one who should be squeezing the ball. He's got to come to you. I just swing like it's batting practice."
The name is Terry Pendleton, the team is St. Louis, the position is third base, the batting average is .444—not bad for the first 72 at bats of a major league career. Or, as Pendleton says, "No one just comes up, at any level, and hits as well as I have so far."
Pendleton, 24, was a 5'9", 180-pound second baseman last year in Class AA, but when he showed up at spring training the Cardinals had a surprise for him. "They said, 'You're moving to third.' It wasn't an ask-me kind of thing," he recalls.
Pendleton started the season at Class AAA Louisville. "I was getting daily reports on him that were good," says Cardinal manager Whitey Herzog. "Then I called Jim Fregosi, our Louisville manager, and he said Terry was so aggressive and so good you can't believe it. And the first play he made in the majors was a diving backhand stop over the bag."
But a trip to the DL by Willie McGee was the only reason Pendleton, who was hitting .297 at Louisville, was promoted on July 18. Andy Van Slyke had gone to third after Ken Oberkfell was traded to Atlanta, but he had to move to center when McGee went down. "Whitey told me I was only here for seven to 10 days, until Willie got back," Pendleton says. "He still hasn't told me anything else."
Herzog says Pendleton has inspired the recent surge that has produced eight wins in 10 games. Other teams have taken special notice of Pendleton, too. After Philadelphia's Charles Hudson brushed him back last Saturday, Pendleton said, "I wasn't expecting that. Everybody feels that's part of the game, but I didn't feel it was part of the game last year when I got my wrist broken twice." Herzog, meanwhile, was mad that his own pitcher, Dave LaPoint, didn't retaliate. Pendleton, after all, is a property well worth protecting.
Tiger shortstop Alan Trammell, who came off the disabled list (shoulder) last week, may not play in the field the rest of the year. Trammell is able to hit, but the ache in the back of his shoulder won't go away. Trammell's replacement is veteran utility man Tom Brookens.... Detroit manager Sparky Anderson can become the first manager in history to win 100 games with two different teams.... Texas manager Doug Rader, an advocate of 90-mph fastballs, is learning to appreciate 80-mph fastballs. After finesse pitcher Frank Tanana beat the Orioles 5-1 last week, Rader said, "I'm coming more and more to believe in guys who can pitch." ...The White Sox are henceforth to be considered a .500 team until proved otherwise, and one reason is the bullpen. Chicago has used 14 different relievers this season, and the stopper right now is 41-year-old Ron Reed, who has seven saves.... Roger Maris has a secret admirer in Tommy John. The Angels' pitcher, who first came to the majors in 1963, includes Maris among the five best players he has seen in his career. Maris, who played for Cleveland, K.C., New York and St. Louis from 1957 to '68, is the only one who's not in the Hall of Fame or a cinch to make it. John's other choices: Al Kaline, Roberto Clemente, Frank Robinson, Carl Yastrzemski and Reggie Jackson.
When the season started, Ken Phelps, a 30-year-old professional minor-leaguer, was the starting first baseman for the Mariners. He hit a home run in the first game of the season. He hit a home run in the second game. He broke a finger on his right hand in the third game.
"That was really tough to swallow," says Phelps, who was replaced at first by Alvin Davis. "Here was my opportunity and I'm out, and Alvin emerged and I couldn't get on the field."
Nevertheless, Phelps is now the Mariners' lefty DH because he does something unusual: He hits a home run every 9.4 at bats (19 in 179 ABs).
"Quitting crossed my mind at times," Phelps says of his eight minor league seasons, "but I said to myself, 'What else can I do?' I kept saying, 'Believe in yourself, your chance will come.' Now my career's just getting started, so I want to work hard and play another 10 years."
The Cubs' trade for Rick Sutcliffe could turn out to be the most significant deal of '84. He's 8-1 and 2.46 for the Cubbies, after being 4-5 and 5.15 in Cleveland.... The Phillies' Von Hayes, who has a .294 average, 12 homers and 26 steals after a poor first season (.265, six, 20) in the National League, says, "That was a ghost in my uniform last year." ...The first-place Padres, who went into the season with some question marks about their pitching staff, have had a 2.99 ERA since May 16. And Goose Gossage, who cashed in only seven saves in 14 opportunities between May 3 and July 13, has picked up six in his last seven chances.... Some of the reasons the Padres' Ed Whitson (39-48 lifetime entering '84) is 12-5: He's in the rotation, he's working for a first-place team and he's healthy. One more reason: He's perfected the palmball changeup that he started throwing last season.
Just when we were afraid the owners and general managers had gone on strike, just when we thought they didn't care anymore, one of the brethren, San Francisco owner Bob Lurie, fired manager Frank Robinson on Sunday.
After all, firing the manager when the team is going down the tubes is an accepted part of the national pastime. There were 26 in-season dismissals from 1979 to '83, but so far this season only the Bay Area teams have made changes, Oakland's Roy Eisenhardt giving Steve Bows the ax in May.
As a service to its readers, INISDE PITCH is providing its latest odds on the other managers most likely to be dumped before the season is over:
Vern Rapp, Reds: 4-5; Bob Howsam doesn't want to admit he made a mistake in his first year back as club president, but the natives are restless and the players can't stand him.
Del Crandall, Mariners: 2-1; the Mariners are only eight games out in the AL West, but George Argyros is one of the game's least rational owners.
Joe Torre, Braves: 9-2; Ted Turner just signed him to a two-year contract extension, but Torre has critics in the organization. If the Braves disappear from the race, anything can happen.
Bill Virdon, Expos: 6-1; the Expos may finish under .500, and Virdon could become a September scapegoat. It's been known to happen.
ONE TO REMEMBER
If the Cubs win the National League East—and the opinion here is that they will—last Thursday's 3-2 win over the Expos at Wrigley Field will probably be the game everybody remembers from 1984. Certainly it was the difference between first and second at the end of last week. Here's what made it special:
First, there were the two runs the Cubs scored when the Expos twice failed to turn inning-ending double plays with a runner on third. Then there were two spectacular catches by reserve center-fielder Henry Cotto that killed Expo chances.
Finally, in the top of the ninth, Pete Rose was pinch-hitting with one out and runners on first and third against Lee Smith, the Cubs' stopper. Rose lined one up the middle for what could have been a game-tying single. Oops. The shot caromed off Smith's right side and went high into the air toward shortstop Larry Bowa, who easily caught the ball and threw to first for a game-ending double play.
"I don't think I can hit a ball harder than that," Rose said. "But I can have better placement. Did they practice that play in spring training?"
Rose also pointed out that not all the Cubs were aware the game was over. Smith, for one, shouted to his first baseman, Leon Durham, "Hey, Bull, that's only two outs."
"He said, 'Get off the field, brother, the game's over,' " Smith recounted. "Then I strolled off the held and tried to act like everything was cool."
BALL PARK FIGURES
What a difference a year makes. Last season at this time, only the Tigers among the four current division leaders were above .500. Here are the records and standings for those four teams on Aug. 5, 1983 and exactly one year later:
AL East: Detroit
61-45, 2nd,—2; 72-38, +8
AL West: Minnesota
45-65, 6th,—13; 56-52, +1½
NL East: Chicago
50-58, 5th,—6½ 64-45, +½
NL West: San Diego
53-55, 4th,—13; 66-43, +9½
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
KEVIN McREYNOLDS: The Padres' centerfielder batted .500, hit three home runs and had 11 RBIs. Two of his RBIs were game-winners as San Diego won five of six. His slugging percentage was 1.050.
"I feel like a slab of sizzling bacon," said Reds manager Vern Rapp after 145 of 164 callers to a Cincinnati sports talk show voted in favor of firing him. "I'm getting smoked from all sides."