RED SOX ON A ROLL
Back on May 18 Al Nipper severely hurt his knee. Thirteen days later, Bruce Hurst collapsed on the mound with a groin pull and had to be carried off the field. The next morning Boston manager John McNamara called a team meeting. "That's the first time the Red Sox have had a meeting for a pitcher since Babe Ruth was around here," cracked Mike Brown.
Indeed, pitching is the principal reason the Red Sox head into their intradivisional wars in June with a three-game lead. The attitude change effected by Don Baylor (page 58) has been important, but the pitching turnaround has been astounding. This team is a far cry from the '77 Red Sox, which homered in bushels and left manager Don Zimmer sifting through trash barrels for pitchers. When have you heard of the Red Sox leading the league in earned run average? Says McNamara, "I don't know what it was like in the past, but from the time I arrived here last spring I tried to tell people, 'Pitching determines pennants.' Especially in a division like the AL East." He is right, because in the previous 17 years of division play, only three teams (the '82 Brewers, '75 Red Sox, '72 Tigers) have finished first and not led the division in staff ERA.
It's not that the Red Sox haven't developed any pitchers in the last decade. Look around: Don Aase, John Tudor, Bobby Ojeda, Mike Smithson.... "We just haven't had the same patience with pitchers that we have with hitters," says player personnel director Ed Kenney. "It seemed as if we were always rushing pitchers to the big leagues before they had enough Triple A innings. Before they got a chance to adjust to pitching in Fenway, they were run out of town."
June 15, 1986
"Pitchers were second-class citizens in a lot of ways," says Hurst, who was rushed, then buried, only to get a second chance. "This spring the pitchers started telling one another, 'Hey, we're a lot better than people credit us.' And then when Roger Clemens took over, it changed everyone's thinking." Says pitching coach Bill Fischer, "I don't care how good your pitchers are, if you have that great Number 1 stopper, the entire staff is affected. Clemens is that great Number 1 stopper."
Clemens shut out Milwaukee 3-0 on June 6 to run his record to 10-0; the Red Sox are 11-0 in his starts. While New York has had one complete-game victory all season, Clemens, Oil Can Boyd, Hurst (who was leading the league in strikeouts when he was hurt) and Nipper have 15 complete games and are a combined 25-10, with a 2.94 ERA. With the injuries, Boston had to bring up three-fifths of Pawtucket's rotation, but even that trio—Brown, Robbie Woodward and Jeff Sellers—have posted a 5-4 record. It should be noted that Boston is the only team in baseball with an all-homegrown starting rotation.
Now that he has solid starters, McNamara has got the maligned bullpen straightened out. The Boston relievers have been successful 15 of 18 times. Lefthanders Tim Lollar and Joe Sambito have allowed McNamara to get opposing lefty hitters out of games before closing with Bob Stanley, who is 9 for 12 in save opportunities. For the last four years, Stanley had to do the job alone.
Things are so happy in the Boston bullpen these days that Sammy Stewart has named the group "The Savings and Loan Association." "Stewart, Sambito, Stanley, Steve Crawford, Lollar, [bullpen catchers] Mike Stenhouse, Marc Sullivan and Dave Stapleton are all S or L," says the irrepressible Stewart. "Some of us save, then we loan out Lollar, Sullivan, Stenhouse and Stapleton for an occasional start."
Yes, Babe Ruth was a rookie on the last Red Sox staff that led the league in earned run average, four years before Ted Williams was born.
STEVE GARVEY, TROUBLEMAKER
Steve Garvey of the Padres was ejected from a game by umpire Charlie Williams June 5 for the first time in his career—from Little League through 2,201 major league games. The string was broken when Bip Roberts tried to score from third and was called out by plate umpire Williams, completing a triple play. Garvey, who watched the play from the on-deck circle, tried to show Williams that Roberts's hand had brushed across the plate. "We've got to bear down," Garvey told Williams, who immediately threw him out, although Garvey went to first base to warm up for the bottom of the inning before learning he had been ejected. "I didn't say anything," said Garvey. "In the realm of what it takes to get thrown out of a game, I'm quite sure this is the bare minimum." Said Williams, "He [Garvey] showed me up at home plate. He had no business doing that." The Padres believe Williams was carrying a grudge over an incident on May 27 in Montreal. Garvey asked for time and was backing out of the box after drawing back his bat and scraping catcher Mike Fitzgerald's face protector. Williams didn't acknowledge and signaled the ensuing pitch a strike. After a brief argument Garvey hit the next pitch over the leftfield fence....
The batting coach of the week? Steve Carlton of the Phillies. He noticed that teammate Glenn Wilson was using his arms too much and his hips too little in his swing. "Lefty doesn't talk to many people," said Wilson, "so I listened." He went on a tear and is now ahead of his 100-RBI pace of 1985....
Sometimes humor isn't appreciated. Peter Ueberroth thought up a practical joke for last week's draft. After the 25th pick, and right before Toronto selected, Bill Murray of the commissioner's office announced over the conference call that "the Yankees have been awarded a special pick." While 25 teams screamed over the phone, the Yankees selected "shortstop G. Frederick Will of University High School in Champaign, Illinois." It was political columnist George Will, but some teams didn't find out that it was a joke for 24 hours. When Boston scouting director Eddie Kasko discovered that the pick wasn't for real, he said, "I guess we know how seriously the commissioner takes the game."...
Mets president Frank Cashen could have had the National League presidency that will become vacant when Chub Feeney retires at the end of the year, but decided he didn't want the position. So Yale president A. Bartlett Giamatti will probably get the job, although Giamatti has always said his one goal in life was to become president of the American League.
LOU'S BECOMING BITTERSWEET
Lou Piniella is starting to feel the heat of being the Yankee manager. He has had a couple of emotional outbursts after losses, and he told Mickey Mantle, "If you want to age 10 years in a day, put on the number 7 and sit in my seat for a game." Piniella acknowledges that George Steinbrenner has called him a few times, but refuses to blame the Boss for his frazzled nerves....
The public pressure in Minnesota for Billy Martin is heightening as the Twins' pitching staff keeps deteriorating despite the presence of manager Ray Miller, a former pitching coach. While the hitters are on a home run pace that would shatter the big league mark of the '61 Yankees, their reputed Big Four Starters—who Miller predicted would be the best in the division—have been hammered. Bert Blyleven, Mike Smithson, Frank Viola and John Butcher are a combined 15-18 with a 4.87 ERA, allowing 364 hits and 107 walks in 330 innings. Things got so bad that Miller had to start Juan Agosto on June 6. "I'm shocked," said Agosto. He should have been. He earned the start by allowing 21 hits and 18 runs in his previous 5‚Öì innings. He lasted 1‚Öì innings, 5 hits and 4 runs....
The Tigers found out why Dan Petry was off to such a poor start. He had bone chips in his elbow, kept on pitching anyway and now may be out until the first of August, a serious loss to a team whose hopes for climbing back into the race were built around its pitching....
The Tigers also held a team meeting on the West Coast. "There's no emotion," Jack Morris claimed. "When you look back on the '84 club and ask what's changed besides the personnel, it's that no matter how bad a guy was going in '84, people were pulling for him."...
The Rangers are using a satellite radar dish instead of an advance scout. Manager Bobby Valentine installed the system with eight monitors in the clubhouse and a portable monitor they take on the road. They videotape every game, then show the tapes in the clubhouse. It saves an estimated $125,000 a year in road expenses for an advance man, but Valentine himself paid for the system....
Cincinnati players voted to ban the media from the clubhouse immediately after games. "We're in last place, nine games out, and we're worried about keeping the press out for 10 minutes?" asked Tony Perez, an apparent dissenter. A press release about the move was typed out and handed to Pete Rose by p.r. director Jim Ferguson. Rose rolled it up, flipped it into his wastebasket and said, "My name ain't on it."...
The day of June 5 was a bloody Thursday in baseball. Indians CEO Peter Bavasi forced public relations director Bobby DiBiasio—considered by many the best in the business—out, and Ken Harrelson fired one of baseball's brightest young executives, David Dombrowski. Harrelson and Dombrowski had "philosophical differences." The latter felt the minors were being ruined, that the cutback from 19 to 5 scouts was destructive, that Alvin Dark and Dick Allen and the Hawk's crew were over their heads.
THE ARTLESS DODGERS
Poor Tom Lasorda. The 25 runs surrendered in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia June 1 and 2 were the most given up in consecutive games by the Dodgers in 15 years. In between, the bus broke down en route to the Pittsburgh airport....
The video of AL Campanis's instructional book, The Dodger Way to Play Baseball, was released even as the team was making its 69th error in 53 games....
It will be a sad thing for the sport if the Braves' and Astros' worst fears are realized and the careers of Bruce Sutter (shoulder) and Nolan Ryan (elbow) are over....
There is concern around the Angels that Wonderful Wally Joyner could wear down. He has played two full winters and started every spring training exhibition game. As soon as he went 0 for 11 and dipped below .296 for the first time since early April, Gene Mauch banned off-field interviews. That came after two Los Angeles papers did at-home-with-the-Joyners pieces....
The Padres are hoping to sell or trade catcher Terry Kennedy so they can hand the job to Benito Santiago....
The Cardinal players are returning their National League Championship rings to the manufacturer because the stones have started falling out. Some players are reluctant to do so. "The way we're playing," says Jeff Lahti, "they might not let us have them back."...
Cal Ripken passed the four-year anniversary of the last time he sat down—June 5, 1982. In the ninth inning that night, Earl Weaver sent Jimmy Dwyer in to pinch-hit for Ripken against Minnesota righthander Terry Felton, who finished his career 0-16....
After nine minor league seasons, pitcher Dale Mohorcic has finally made it with the Texas Rangers. He had one previous spring trial with the Pirates, which ended after one intra-squad inning. Chuck Tanner told him, "Lefty, we're going to send you down." Mohorcic is a righty. He kept playing because "I can't do anything else. I get lousy jobs in the winter." In three of the last six years, Mohorcic pitched winter ball. In the others, he worked as a janitor, a truck driver and a bouncer....
Joaquin Andujar called Whitey Herzog last week and asked to come back to St. Louis. "You'd better talk to Mr. [Gussie] Busch," Whitey told Andujar.
BETWEEN THE LINES
QUOTES OF THE WEEK
•"I was so poor, my first contract was signed in dirt. My first Christmas present was shoelaces. We spelled poor with only one o, because we ate the other one. When I was growing up, my favorite food was ice. If we got past summer, we had it made—ice with flour, ice with salt, ice with sugar."—Indian outfielder Mel Hall
•"The only months I went without a homer were last November and December. If I liked failing so much, I'd have stayed in fifth-grade math."—White Sox DH Ron Kittle after a homerless May.
•"He wanted to sign it to 'the Can,' but they're pretty conservative at the White House."—Oil Can Boyd on an autographed picture he has from Ronald Reagan to "Dennis Boyd."
•Tiger pitcher Dave LaPoint allowed two grand slams in a span of six batters and one out.
•On June 2 the A's scored seven first-inning runs against the Tigers while putting three balls in play—thanks to seven walks. "Our scouting report was wrong," said Alan Trammel! "They were supposed to swing at a lot of bad pitches."
•The Tigers have been outscored in the first inning 55-20 through 49 games, and have allowed three or more first-inning runs in 10 of their 49 games.
YOU'RE MY IDOL
Before Dave Stieb broke his six-game winless streak on May 30, he patted and rubbed the belly of a Buddha that belongs to Mike Maunder of the Blue Jays' ticket department. The Buddha also helped stop the losing streaks of Jerry Garvin (10 games), Tom Underwood (9) and Dave Lemanczyk (7). Without the charm, Stieb lost his next start, giving up four homers and eight runs to the Twins.
NO SENSE OF HUMOR
When the Braves played an exhibition with their Richmond farm club, winning 6-3, Chuck Tanner allowed Dale Murphy to manage. Gene Garber played shortstop, Craig McMurtry and Jeff Dedmon played the outfield, batting practice pitcher Jim Guadagno caught (and stole a base), Rick Mahler pinch-hit and Ted Simmons pitched a one-two-three ninth. Two female flight attendants sat in the dugout. Since the tickets to the exhibition cost $10 apiece, the locals were upset, and The Richmond Times-Dispatch ran an editorial criticizing the Braves and suggesting that next year they play the game the day before the season opener "so they will take it a little more seriously."
NICKNAME OF THE WEEK
"Pickles," given to Vince Coleman by Whitey Herzog after the Cardinal outfielder was tagged out in three rundowns in four games.
•The Giants, who stole only 99 bases all last year, stole 59 in their first 55 games.
•Through last weekend, the Cubs' Bob Dernier was batting .171 (27 for 158) with 13 runs, 36 total bases, 6 doubles, 1 homer, 9 RBIs and 1 game-winning RBI. Meanwhile, the club's starting pitchers were hitting .198 (19 for 96), with 12 runs, 31 total bases, 4 doubles, 3 homers, 14 RBIs and 4 game-winning RBIs.
•Seventeen different starting pitchers have had their season strikeout high against the Seattle Mariners.
•Mariner pitchers have retired the side in order in the first inning four times in the last 30 games.
•What trade? As of last weekend, Giants shortstop Jose (Don't Call Me Gonzalez) Uribe had more RBIs (21) than Jack Clark (16).
•Expo reliever Dan Schatzeder had a home run, triple, double and single before every Cardinal except Clark, Willie McGee and Mike Heath. Schatzeder is 6 for 13.
•The Reds have lost 16 games at Riverfront Stadium, one less than they lost there the entire 1975 season.
•Mike Scott passed the 100-strikeout mark earlier than any other pitcher in Houston history. This is a team for which James Rodney Richard (313 strikeouts in 1979), Don Wilson and Nolan Ryan have pitched.
•Charlie Hough has decisions in 36 consecutive starts.
Roger Clemens of the Red Sox is now 10-0, five wins shy of the AL record for most consecutive victories at the start of a season. Here are the best starts in baseball since 1900:
Rube Marquard, 1912 Giants 19-0
ElRoy Face, 1959 Pirates 17-0
Johnny Allen, 1937 Indians 15-0
Dave McNally, 1969 Orioles 15-0
Brooks Lawrence, 1956 Reds 13-0
Ron Guidry, 1978 Yankees 13-0