The top line of the eye chart—E—was also the bottom line for the Phillies in '84. They were the Whoops Kids. Four times they made five or six errors in one game, and in one of those, the losing run was balked home. They turned fewer DPs than any team in baseball (112), and only two clubs made more errors. There were 33 E-6s, 33 E-4s and 31 E-5s.
"It was embarrassing," says third baseman Mike Schmidt, who made 18 errors before the All-Star break, but only eight afterward. "It was as if we had a disease."
"The defense will have to improve if we're to be contenders," says new manager John Felske. "I think it will. I hope it will."
Nobody's pointing any fingers at, say, second baseman Juan Samuel or shortstop Ivan DeJesus, but the infield was bad. Samuel has been working hard this spring to hone his skills. The Phillies solved DeJesus's fielding problems by trading him to St. Louis and making Steve Jeltz the regular shortstop.
The funny thing about the Phils is that they have a lot of speed, and defense and speed usually go hand in hand, or hand in foot. "The first three guys in our order," says Felske, "have a chance to steal 250 bases." The leadoff man is leftfielder Jeff Stone, who stole 27 bases in 51 games. Stone is prone to leg pulls, and as an ounce of prevention the Phillies have him wearing tights under his uniform to keep his legs warm. This has made him the object of some witty badinage. "Hey, Stoney, why don't you let your husband hit?" said centerfielder Von Hayes one day during batting practice.
Samuel, pardon his defense, is going to be one of the game's fine players. Last year he stole 72 bases and drove in 69 runs, despite striking out 168 times. If he reduces his Ks to, say, 100, he'll be a .300 hitter.
Hayes, too, is a rising star, and last season he began to live up to the promise that prompted the Phillies to send five players to the Indians for him in 1982. Hitting behind the three naturals is Schmidt, who had 36 homers and 106 RBIs in an off year. After that, though, comes the continental shelf.
The Phillies' pitching is very old—not necessarily bad, but old. Steve Carlton is 40, and as a slight concession to age, he's throwing a screwball. Jerry Koosman, 41, has beaten out some youngsters. John Denny, 32, and Shane Rawley, 29, also get the ball. Al Holland, a.k.a. Mr. T, will have to find his fastball and lose some weight if he's to resume his role as the Phillies' short man. Otherwise, the Phillies will be in Mr. Trouble.
For a general prognosis on the Phillies, we turn to Carlton, who actually spoke one day around the cage. The best way to interview Carlton is to overhear what he says, and then think of a question to go with it. Lefty was in a particularly good mood that day, joking with his teammates, and after someone whiffed, Carlton yelled, "Alllright!"
Steve, how do you think the Phillies will do?
JOHN RUSSELL (R)
JUAN SAMUEL (R)
STEVE JELTZ (L/R)
MIKE SCHMIDT (R)
JEFF STONE (L)
VON HAYES (L)
GLENN WILSON (R)
OZZIE VIRGIL (R)