Red Sox stopper Bob Stanley, having an off-year (10 losses, 3.62 ERA), was booed when he entered a game last week. "I'm not afraid to say I'm scared out there," he said. "It's the first time in my career I was booed coming into a game. Usually they boo after I leave." One reason Stanley might be nervous is because his slump has come at a bad time—he has begun to negotiate a new long-term contract, and his agent had been talking about a $1 million-a-year deal.
For now, the middle of the Phillies infield is composed of a shortstop who can't hit—Steve Jeltz—and a second baseman who can't field—Juan Samuel. It will be interesting to see what 1985 brings. Jeltz, who batted .220 for Portland, is hitting .150 in his audition as the replacement for Ivan DeJesus, who has had a poor year defensively. Jeltz could get the job next year if the Phillies decide he can hit .220 in the bigs.
"The kid has the best actions of any shortstop who's come into the league since Ozzie Smith," says Hall of Fame shortstop Lou Boudreau, a Cubs broadcaster. "I can't believe how shallow he plays," says Philly manager Paul Owens.
As for Samuel, the offensive whirlwind who has committed 32 errors, Twins scout Ellis Clary is the latest to predict he'll be moved to centerfield in '85. "He's perfect for center," says Clary, "but he ain't a second baseman, nohow. He gets no jump on the ball, he doesn't anticipate well and he can't make the double play." Nonetheless, the Phillies say Samuel isn't moving anywhere.
When Dave Concepcion got three RBIs against the Giants last week, it was his first hat trick since April 27. As the press approached him after the game, Concepcion said "Go away. You guys haven't talked to me in a long time." To which Dave Parker said, "Aw, Davey, talk to them. Three ribbies from you doesn't happen but once every six months."...Ex-A's manager Steve Boros is scouting the Royals, a former employer, for playoff-bound San Diego. The Padres, by the way, have gone 15-23 since Aug. 6 but through Sunday had lost only one game off their lead. All those doubleheaders caught up with them, and the rest of the NL West stinks.... Former Houston stopper Joe Sambito, coming back after two years of elbow problems, doesn't understand why he hasn't pitched in any pressure situations since his May 25 return. Manager Bob Lillis says Sambito should be patient. "Next year I want him to be a stopper. That's been the plan all along."...Andre Dawson, who has played on a bum knee all year, might not need surgery after all. The decision—surgery or exercise—will be made after the season. Seems Dawson, who is finishing strongly (16 homers, 82 RBIs) after an abysmal start caused by his injury, will need only three months of rehab if he gets cut.
You're 29, a relief pitcher and your major league résumé is only 37 innings long. In August the team's ace reliever has surgery and you suddenly get a chance with a ball club going nowhere. Surprise, surprise, you save some games, and soon you're the stopper. But while you're saving a game, someone hits a nasty line drive off your left shoulder, your working shoulder. Do you come out?
"No way," said the Brewers' Ray Searage after Boston's Dwight Evans nailed him with a liner last week. "If I came out, it would have meant that they'd beaten me, that I was giving up, and I'm not going to let that happen. They're going to have to beat my pitches, or they're going to have to kill me."
Searage, who was called up Aug. 2 after Rollie Fingers went out, missed a couple of days with a sore shoulder but made it five saves in five opportunities in his first game back.
Remember the name Eric Davis. He's a 22-year-old righthand-hitting rookie outfielder for the Reds, and he'll be a household name in '85 if he keeps hitting tape-measure home runs. "He has a chance to be the best player around here," says player-manager Pete Rose.
Davis, who started the season with Triple A Wichita, was up for two weeks in May. Sent down for another month, he was promoted again on June 30. Since Sept. 3, Davis has seven homers in 44 at bats, including one off the upper facade in leftfield in Riverfront Stadium.
When the Giants wondered if Davis, who is on the slim side, a la Ben Oglivie, was using a corked bat, Rose shot back: "His arms are corked."
Asked about his chances for Manager of the Year, Tiger skipper Sparky Anderson said, "It don't take an IQ of three to get on the phone and call Willie Hernandez."...LaMarr Hoyt doesn't object to the possibility that manager Tony LaRussa may try him as the White Sox' bullpen stopper next season. "If I do what he's talking about," says Hoyt, taking a dig at his teammates, "I'd only be in games when we were playing well."...The Twins' Mickey Hatcher, in his first year as a regular, is 9 for 9 with four walks and 13 RBIs in his last 13 at bats with runners in scoring position after the sixth inning.
The next night in Toronto, the Blue Jays' Willie Upshaw and the Yankees' Dennis Rasmussen went at it after Rasmussen buzzed Upshaw. Said Jays manager Bobby Cox derisively, "She threw the crap out of the ball right at his head. I don't think she can pitch up here. She doesn't have the knowledge to knock somebody down."
Statistically, hit batsmen are down overall, but it appears that fighting is up. According to the National League, which lumps umpire warnings to pitchers and managers along with brawls, there were 19 such incidents in each of the past two years, and there have been 26 so far this year. The AL says there were 13 brawls in '82 and 12 in '83, and there have been 12 so far this year.
A MANAGER'S LAMENT: 'THEY'RE TRYING TO RUN ME OUT OF TOWN'
When the Braves unexpectedly won the National League West in 1982, Joe Torre, the new manager, was a genius. This year the Braves are tied for second, 8½ games behind the Padres, and guess who got stupid? Torre is now the morning-line favorite to be the first manager fired next season—assuming he makes it to '85.
"This is difficult to deal with," Torre says, "because I'm having to defend myself when I feel I really shouldn't have to. What really bothers me is the short memories there seem to be around here."
Torre's problems began last fall when the team released Phil Niekro, Mr. Brave. Torre swears it was an organization decision, but some people thought he saw Niekro as a threat to his job. "I resent the hell out of that because it's idiotic, but it's one of the reasons they're trying to run me out of town," he says. "Some people even say I did it because I wanted to be Mr. Atlanta."
So, the season started under a cloud, and when the Braves started to fall out of the race in July, the fun really began. Catcher Bruce Benedict sniped at Torre's choice of lineups, and no less a front-office personage than Hank Aaron, the farm director, said Torre was retarding the development of prospects Gerald Perry and Brad Komminsk by failing to play them every day. Torre has also feuded with a local writer.
Torre believes there are people in the front office, G.M. John Mullen and scouting director Paul Snyder for two, who wouldn't grieve if he were fired. "I'm not saying I don't have support up there because I do," Torre says. "But I get the feeling that everybody isn't pulling in the same direction."
When owner Ted Turner was looking for a new manager after the '81 season, his front office unanimously recommended Eddie Haas, the Triple A manager. But at the last moment, and at the suggestion of Bob Wussler, executive VP of Turner Broadcasting, Turner hired Torre. Wussler pointed out to Turner that Torre, a former Braves star who'd just been dumped as the Mets' manager, had the kind of name that might help the SuperStation's ratings. This season, however, the Braves' ratings are down 16%, and on July 20 Turner promoted Haas to be the batting coach.
Even if Torre does return, he'll likely be without Bob Gibson, his pitching coach and best friend. Turner and Torre don't see eye-to-eye on Gibson. "I asked Ted in what ways I'd disapppointed him from '82 to now," Torre says, "and he said, 'Nothing, no way.' But he said he wasn't happy with the pitching, and I explained that pitching wasn't our problem, that it was hitting. That Gibby seems to be the problem baffles me."
Torre has a point. The Braves led the National League in runs the past two seasons, but with Bob Horner missing most of '84 with a wrist injury, the Braves are tied for seventh in scoring. The pitching? In '82, Atlanta was 10th in ERA, .56 behind the leader; in '83 it was seventh, .58 behind the leader. This year? The Braves are eighth, .47 behind leader L.A.
"I got them used to winning here," Torre says, "and now, all of a sudden, it's a necessity. But that's the way things are. I understand that. But what's confusing to me is, if the turnaround supposedly started with hiring me, why the problems we have now might have to be solved by somebody else."
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
DWIGHT GOODEN: The Mets' 19-year-old star broke Herb Score's 29-year-old big league rookie strikeout mark of 245 by getting 16 Pirates in a 2-0 shutout. Gooden leads the majors with 251 Ks, a record 11.2 per nine innings.
BALL PARK FIGURES
As the 1984 season winds down, here's a team of players who'll have to wait at least one more year for a chance to be in baseball's biggest attraction, the World Series. All of them are 30 or older with at least 10 years in the pension plan.
Gary Carter, Mon
Andre Thornton, Cle
Jerry Remy, Bos
Chris Speier, Minn
Buddy Bell, Tex
Jim Rice, Bos
Jose Cruz, Hou
Don Baylor, NY
Phil Niekro, NY