The Philadelphia Phollies of 1985 offer a vaudevillian mixture of entertainers: jugglers, clowns, impersonators, prima donnas and Punch-and-Judy hitters. You'll notice that most of these performers do not necessarily make for good baseball players, which may explain why at week's end the Phillies, who as recently as 19 months ago were in the World Series, were 13-22, in fifth place and 10½ games out of the National League East lead. And they would be even lower if they hadn't taken two of three over the weekend from the Dodgers.
The Phillie offense, anticipated to be a strength, is hitting .236. The defense has made 37 errors, third to the Dodgers' 45 and the Giants' 38—the three teams have an outside shot at 200 errors for the season, a depth last plumbed by the '63 Mets. Steve Carlton and John Denny have four more Cy Young Awards (five) than they do 1985 wins (one). In other words, hitting, fielding and pitching are not going well, and those are three rather basic elements of the game.
The Phollies reached their peak last week, when they flat gave two games to the Braves and stretched their own sour streak to nine losses in 10 games. Over that span, the team hit .197, scored 22 runs and had 11 fewer hits (63) than strikeouts (74). Here are the Phiz Kids:
•May 8. After the Reds' Joe Price struck out the last six Phillies to wrap up an 8-2 win, outfielder Von Hayes thought of the next game at New York and said, "Maybe Dwight Gooden is what we need." Gooden allowed three hits, struck out 13 and won 5-0. Nice try, Von.
May 26, 1985
•May 13. Lefty reliever Dave Rucker, the only NL pitcher who didn't serve up a home run pitch in '84, was tagged for a pinch grand slam by Cincinnati's Tony Perez, putting the 42-year-old in the record book as the oldest grand-slam hitter in history. Reds 7, Phils 3.
•May 14. The Phillies ended a seven-game losing streak when Charles Hudson one-hit the Reds for eight innings, but he was so incensed when manager John Felske pinch-hit for him that he refused to shake Felske's hand and generally put a damper on what could have been a tension-lightening win.
•May 15. In what Felske called "the toughest loss of the year," the Phils led the Braves 2-0 in the ninth and lost 3-2 in 10. Reliever Kent Tekulve's front foot missed the hole in which he plants it to throw. Instead of holding the ball and starting over, he pitched, and Terry Harper knocked the ball over the leftfield fence to beat him.
•May 16. New Phillie shortstop Derrel Thomas, most recently the centerfielder-shortstop-DH-first base coach of the Class A Miami Marlins, could only wave at two grounders hit at him during a seventh-inning Atlanta rally, and the Braves won 6-3. "My reflexes were a little off," Thomas admitted.
Poor Felske. He is a big man (6'4", 225 pounds) with a foghorn voice and a golden retriever's exuberant friendliness. After a particularly undistinguished managing move earlier this season, he greeted the Philadelphia writers with a bulge beneath his shirt. When they asked him why he made the bonehead move, he lifted his shirt and revealed a hand-lettered sign that read BECAUSE I HAD MY HEAD UP MY BUTT!
The Phils have a major problem at short. Rookie Steve Jeltz, who last September exhibited glovework that brought visions of Ozzie Smith, made eight early errors, three in one game. Since he can't even carry the Oz's bat (.200 in 26 games this year), he's got to catch the ball to survive. His replacements have been Luis Aguayo, who in five previous seasons had started 13 games at short, and Thomas.
Second baseman Juan Samuel's offensive prowess (.272, 72 stolen bases, 191 hits in '84) was such that the team could absorb a few errors, or even 33, the number he made last year. Samuel has made only six E-4s so far, and even had a moment of fielding glory on April 20, when he tied the major league single-game record for assists at second, with 12. But he's hitting .225 and has walked only five times. He also had a ninth-inning grounder in that April 20 game which, handled cleanly, would have broken the record. He muffed it.
Leftfielder Jeff Stone is struggling along at .238 after hitting .362 and stealing 27 bases in 51 games last year. Rookie first baseman John Russell hit so well in spring training that the Phillies shipped Len Matuszek to Toronto. Now the right-handed Russell is hitting .176. Felske even asked Mike Schmidt if he would move across the infield if Triple A third baseman Rick Schu was ready for the big leagues. Schmidt agreed and was even seen oiling a first baseman's mitt, but for the time being the Phils will leave Schu just where he is. In Portland, Ore.
Schmidt likes to pooh-pooh his leadership qualities, but he also has aspirations to manage the team someday. He called an hour-long meeting before the L.A. series began Friday. Schmidt had no comment on what he said, except "It was my only contribution Friday. I went 0 for 2 and held a meeting."
Schmidt has started slowly before, but rarely has the team been as dependent on him. As a result, his totals of five homers, 14 RBIs and a .205 average have been devastating. Schmidt is nursing a strained hamstring and a sprained ankle, yet he has not become morose. When Dodger pitcher Jerry Reuss stopped by Schmidt's locker Saturday afternoon to chat, he asked, "Are you thinner?" "Yeah," Schmidt said. "I had to lose 10 pounds to hit my weight." At 6'2", 203, he squeezed in, two pounds under his average.
On Saturday, reliever Larry Andersen walked into the clubhouse wearing a T shirt that read, ROSES ARE RED, VIOLETS ARE BLUE, I'M A SCHIZOPHRENIC, AND SO AM I. "You look at this team, with the talent we have, it's got to make you think we're each two different people," Andersen says.
You're both right.