NO MORE WAITING FOR LEFTY
As long as Steve Carlton believed he could pitch, there was no easy way out for the Phillies. Because Carlton—still thinking he could help a contender—refused to retire, the Philadelphia front office had no choice last week but to release the 318-game winner.
The Phillies agonized for weeks over the decision, but after Carlton's last five starts, in which he allowed 37 hits and 25 runs in 20‚Öì innings, they could wait no longer. "It was the most difficult thing I've ever had to do as club president," said an emotional Bill Giles, who had earlier been talked out of the release by Carlton himself. It took Giles three days to get up the nerve to tell Lefty.
Should Carlton admit he's done, and prepare for Coopers-town? Or can Lefty still pitch? "I don't think he felt he had the time he needed to work out his problems," said Philadelphia pitching coach Claude Osteen. "He felt that if he was given a little more time, things could have straightened out. There were times when he felt strong, when there was power in his arm, especially at the beginning of the year. But in all honesty, he didn't feel it or show it in his last five or six starts."
Carlton's basic problems were twofold: 1) He was unable to generate the consistent speed needed for his slider, and 2) he lacked control. The former is probably the result of age, even though Carlton is one of baseball's finest conditioned athletes. The latter is something he can't fix, because Carlton never really did throw strikes, at least not with his fastball. When he was a power pitcher, Carlton's great pitch was his slider, and batters were so afraid of that slider they would chase any fastball. "Thirty-eight hundred of his four thousand strikeouts were on balls," said one opposing manager. In the last two years, Carlton had come up with a screwball, but he had trouble controlling it.
What Warren Spahn and Sandy Koufax were to their eras, Steve Carlton was to his. But, as with so many great athletes before him, Carlton has had a hard time differentiating between what was and what is. Hence the awkward farewell.
Carlton didn't exactly leave with a Lou Gehrig speech, anyway. In the pregame ceremony on Wednesday night, announcer Harry Kalas said, "Now Lefty would like to say a few words to you fans." A still picture of Carlton appeared on the message board, accompanied by a tape-recorded message.
A RAT NAMED KONG
The last-place A's chose to give DH Dave Kingman little more than a tap on the wrist after he played an ill-considered practical joke on Sacramento Bee writer Susan Fornoff in Kansas City on June 23. In the first inning, Fornoff received a pink box. When she opened it, she found a live rat with a note tied to its tail that read, "My name is Sue." It was only one of a series of incidents between Kingman and Fornoff that other reporters view as clearly unprovoked harassment on the part of Kingman.
"From day one, he asked me to stay away from him, and I've tried to do that," said Fornoff, 28. When she reported for spring training duty in 1985, Kingman spewed obscenities at her. Earlier this year Kingman interrupted a Fornoff interview with Jose Canseco to interject, "You ask dumb questions," and he asked a male beat writer for "dirt" on her. When he hit his 400th home run last year, he refused to talk until she left the clubhouse. Kingman's problems with women journalists are nothing new; he was involved in two incidents in New York with female writers and another in Chicago with a woman television producer. "This is a man's clubhouse," Kingman told reporters after the June 23 game. "If someone can't take a simple joke, they shouldn't be in the game." He then saw Fornoff in the clubhouse. "Kleenex!" he cried out, throwing the box of tissues in her direction. "Anyone want to cry? Kleenex! Man's clubhouse! Tears! Anyone want to cry?"
The following day, general manager Sandy Alderson arrived at Royals Stadium, met for 45 minutes with Kingman and announced that the club had apologized to Fornoff, that Kingman had been fined $3,500 and that any such future incident would result in the release of the DH. It was later learned that the original agreement was for a $2,500 fine and Kingman's apology. But Kingman refused to apologize to Fornoff, and even tried to buy back the rat—named Kong by Fornoff—for $75. Kong is now in the possession of five-year-old Mathew Marble, whose dad is a friend of a Royals Stadium security guard. A $3,500 fine means little to a player who is earning $600,000.
TOM'S TERRIFIC F0R B0ST0N
The deal seemed years in the making, but on Sunday the White Sox at last traded Tom Seaver to the Red Sox for outfielder Steve (Psycho) Lyons. Seaver, who becomes the sixth millionaire on the Boston payroll, will add the right touch of class and a much-needed arm to the Red Sox staff....
The Yankees needed Seaver even more, but they refused to part with any of their youngsters. Hours after they were outbid for Seaver, the Yankees traded Ken Griffey to Atlanta for Claudell Washington and in-fielder Paul Zuvella, a deal which won't help them at all....
The Yankees' home losing streak reached a team-record 10 games on Sunday. In those 10 games, Yankee starters gave up 37 earned runs in 38‚Öì innings....
Last winter the Royals had teams lined up trying to trade for Mark Gubicza. Now he's in the bullpen, replaced by rookie Scott Bank-head. "Bankhead [3-1, 3.18] is more consistent," Dick Howser said. "Look at Gubicza's numbers [3-4, 4.66]. He's had too many walks , and he's pitched behind [in the count] to too many batters. The other guy came here to pitch and prove he belongs. Gubicza's a veteran who should pitch well in these situations. But I don't know what to expect from him from one game to the next, even one pitch to the next. He won 14 games last year, so you expected him to go to 16 this year. But he's not much better now than he was last year. Somehow, it's gotten away from him."...Baseball executives generally applauded Kansas City's signing of Bo Jackson, but the money caused problems for some clubs that hadn't signed first-round picks. The unsigned included the first two picks in the draft, Arkansas third baseman Jeff King (Pirates) and Texas lefthander Greg Swindell (Indians). "We want what a fourth-round pick gets," said Alan Hendricks, agent for both King and Swindell....
Unlike Jackson, wide receiver/outfielder Greg McMurtry of Brockton, Mass., chose, for now anyway, football over baseball, spurning the $195,000 package offered by the Red Sox. This left the Sox in the embarrassing position of being unable to sign one of their own fans. Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler, the man who convinced McMurtry to head for Ann Arbor, believes so strongly that McMurtry belongs in football that he said, "If Greg wants to play close to home, I'll release him from his letter of intent and he can play for Joe Paterno at Penn State."...Some Mets players have been critical of the use of Kevin Mitchell at shortstop, because he never played the position in the minors. "I know it's uncomfortable for them," Davey Johnson said. "They don't like the on-the-job training. But Mitch isn't as good as he is going to be [as a shortstop]. I don't hear anyone complaining when he drives in a run. He's not a dog on defense. He's better than [Dodger shortstop Mariano] Duncan."...While many people think of shortstop as a vital defensive position, the Mets and Red Sox had the two best records as of last weekend despite apparent weakness at short: The Mets were using Mitchell, Howard Johnson and Rafael Santana at that position, while Boston was employing Rey Quinones and Eddie Romero—after Glenn Hoffman was disabled....
Dwight Gooden's first slump of his career read: 3-3, 3.90 in nine starts. The Mets lost five of the nine. They were 28-7 in Gooden's 1985 starts.... After the Cubs won the NL East in 1984, Dallas Green had to sign potential free agents Rick Sutcliffe, Dennis Eckersley and Steve Trout. "I don't think anybody in Chicago wanted to lose Sutcliffe, Trout and Eckersley," Green says now. "But if you look back on it, it would have been the best thing that ever happened to us." Through June 28, that trio, plus starters Scott Sanderson and Jamie Moyer, had one less win (13) than Roger Clemens (14)....
It should come as no surprise to anyone that Tony Fernandez has made his run at stardom for the Blue Jays. He has committed only five errors (he had 30 last season) and in his first three weeks in the leadoff spot, he was 34 for 92 (.370), with nine consecutive multiple-hit games. While Fernandez put together that streak, Mike Easier had a similar eight-game streak. Easier may be having the best season no one notices, simply because Don Baylor has been so important to the Red Sox....
Until they got Griffey, the Braves had been desperately trying to find a left-handed-hitting outfielder. Atlanta's outfield offense is so weak that the outfield is on a 160-RBI pace—the only NL club with fewer than 199 RBIs from its outfield in '85 was Pittsburgh. Dale Murphy has been left with so little help that he could drive in fewer than 70 runs this season. In a 35-game span through last weekend, the Braves had just three wins from starters other than Rick Mahler....
The Twins felt they got a steal when they obtained lefthander Neal Heaton from the Indians for John Butcher, although Cleveland officials claimed that in his last five starts there, Heaton threw only three pitches that batters swung at and missed. Minnesota G.M. Andy MacPhail made four winter trades, and all seven players he acquired are in the minors while all five players he gave up are in the majors.
CARTER VERSUS THE EXPOS
The Gary Carter-Expos feud has added spice to Montreal's pursuit of the Mets. Carter and outfielder Mitch Webster nearly came to blows after Carter told Webster, "Tell Mike Fitzgerald [running at second base] to stop stealing signs or someone will get hurt." Asked about the rivalry, Expo pitcher Bryn Smith said, "The rivalry is between Gary Carter and the Expos." Montreal has never received due credit for that deal, but Hubie Brooks is a major offensive force at shortstop, pitcher Floyd Youmans is on the brink of becoming a star and, after a succession of injuries, Fitzgerald has taken over the catching job and raised his average above .300. As the Expos took four out of six against the Mets, Fitzgerald went 10 for 19....
The Dodger injury problems have reached epidemic proportions. On June 25 they had only two original regulars—Steve Sax and Mike Marshall—in the lineup, and when the oft-injured Bill Madlock was disabled on June 27, it marked the 10th time L.A. has used the disabled list this year. Injuries or no injuries, the Dodgers are contemplating the release of centerfielder Ken Landreaux, whose erratic, careless play reached a new low last week when he missed a hit-and-run sign, made a crucial error and inexplicably stopped at second on another hit-and-run single. ...
In Pedro Guerrero's absence, L.A. has come up with a new slugger in Franklin Stubbs. Last June, Guerrero hit 15 homers. This year Stubbs had 9 in the first 24 games of the month. Who would have thought that Houston's Glenn Davis and Stubbs would be Nos. 2 and 3 in the league in homers heading into July? Davis will be the first Astro to hit 25 homers since Cesar Cede√±o in 1974....
When the Giants traded Dave LaPoint and Eric Steven King to the Tigers in October, Roger Craig claimed Juan Berenguer would someday be the key to the deal. Craig now has the Panamanian Nolan Ryan as his bullpen stopper, and in his first 27 innings of relief, Berenguer had 34 strikeouts while allowing 14 hits and one earned run. "He looks like he just got off a horse with Pancho Villa's army," says Mike Krukow of the mustachioed Berenguer....
Gene Mauch has cautioned people not to underrate his starting pitchers. Sure enough, when the Angels swept Texas in a four-game series to get back to the top of the AL West, California pitchers allowed only 10 runs. The Angels will also get John Candelaria back after the All-Star break.
BETWEEN THE LINES
PLEASE, MR. SPACEMAN
Moncton Mets pitcher William Francis Lee II was suspended for four games for his part in a brawl with the Kentville Wildcats June 19. Lee, 39, objected to being brushed back by Kentville's Larry Hood, so he charged the mound, triggering a bench-clearing fight. Tempers often flare in the heat of the Nova Scotia Baseball League pennant race.
GRAND OLD CLICHÉ NO. 117
"Whoever is in first place on the Fourth of July finishes first."
In the last seven full seasons, only 11 of the 28 teams in first place on July 4 have won their divisions.
AND NOW, BACK TO THE BALL GAME...
On days when Braves games start at 5:40, their radio network affiliate WTIK in Durham, N.C., switches off in the 7-7:30 time period to carry Back to the Bible.
QUOTES OF THE WEEK
•"I thought they would have given this to me in May when I was hitting about .088."—Braves catcher Ozzie Virgil after taking a drug test, as required by his contract.
•"By the time we get to first place, we'll be traveling by horse and buggy.''—Reds outfielder Dave Parker on the club's budget-minded travel policy.
Yankee second baseman Willie Randolph has played with 25 shortstops in his 10½ years, from A (Sandy Alomar) to Z (George Zeber), including, on three occasions this season, three—Dale Berra, Ivan DeJesus and Mike Fischlin—in the same game. "Sometimes," says Randolph, "I look over there and think, Who is that?"
PITCHING PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK
San Diego outfielder-first baseman Dane Iorg pitched the last inning of an 18-1 loss to the Giants on June 23, giving up four runs, including the first career homers by infielder Mike Woodard and pitcher Mike LaCoss. "They had me clocked in the 80s," he told reporters. "No, that's your ERA," said catcher Bruce Bochy. "My ERA is 36," countered Iorg. "No," replied Bochy, "that was your reading on the radar gun."
HE AIN'T HEAVY, HE'S MY BROTHER
After Jim Slaton of the Angels made his sixth straight winless start on June 14, his 260-pound brother Frank decided to go on a hunger strike until Jim's next win. Slaton, removed from the rotation, hasn't pitched since then, and his brother has lost 16 pounds.
PROMOTION OF THE WEEK
An airplane passed over Toronto's Exhibition Stadium on June 25 carrying the following message: JIMY—GIVE CAUDILL THE BALL. The hint to Blue Jays manager Jimy Williams was paid for by Bill Caudill's agent, Scott Boras.
•When Phil Niekro and Don Sutton faced each other in Anaheim on June 28, it was the first matchup of 300-game winners since Pud Galvin and Tim Keefe met in 1892.
•The Pirates' 37-year-old, 230-pound pitcher, Rick Reuschel, pinch-ran for Mike Diaz twice last week.
•Bob Boone is the only man ever to catch both a perfect game (Mike Witt) and a 300th victory (Sutton).
•Brewers outfielder Rick Manning was so tired of the team's lack of support for Danny Darwin that he offered $20 an RBI when Darwin pitched on June 23. Darwin and the Brewers won 5-3, and Manning shelled out $100, including $40 to Cecil Cooper.
•Through last weekend, Giants outfielder Chili Davis had driven in 21 of 24 runners from third base with less than two out.
•Cleveland's 6'5", 220-pound catcher, Andy Allanson, hit his first professional homer after 1,025 at bats, 870 in the minors. When he returned to the dugout, Phil Niekro was lying on his back in mock shock.
•Tufts University lefthander Jeff Bloom, who appeared in SI's FACES IN THE CROWD for pitching no-hitters in three consecutive starts this spring, threw another no-hitter in his first start for the Anchorage Bucs.
These were the All-Star pitchers last year, but as their 1986 records show, only a few will be selected again this year: