BASEBALL

June 28, 1987

NOT A BLACK-AND-WHITE ISSUE

When the Phillies fired John Felske on June 18 and replaced him with third base coach Lee Elia, there was bound to be disappointment among black coaches who rightfully consider themselves to be managerial candidates—people like Bill Robinson, Cito Gaston, Bob Watson and Frank Robinson. But the Philadelphia case is not a black-and-white issue. Club president Bill Giles merely hired the best man for the job at the moment.

"These have been the worst two months of my baseball life," said Giles the day before the firing. At that point, the team he worked so hard to assemble—even stepping outside the owners' fraternity to sign free-agent catcher Lance Parrish—was floundering in fifth place in the NL East, 9½ games behind St. Louis. Felske had lost the respect of his players, and while Giles realizes that catching the Cardinals is a long, long shot, he could not afford to let the situation get any worse, especially with attendance dropping.

Giles knows the Phillies need a high-profile manager, someone from whom the club can take its personality, someone bigger than the best third baseman ever to play the game, someone with presence. But Whitey Herzog wasn't available last week. Neither was Roger Craig nor Sparky Anderson nor Tom Lasorda nor even Lou Piniella. "There are about six or seven managers in the majors right now and about 19 third base coaches disguised as managers," says one baseball executive. Ken Harrelson, former White Sox general manager, says, "The toughest job for a G.M. today is finding a real manager."

Giles looked around, found no available presence other than Billy Martin (whom he would not hire) and could wait no longer. He also could not give up on the season, which almost certainly would have been the perception had he hired an inexperienced manager from outside the organization. He had to go for the best man in the Phillies organization: Elia. The problem Giles now faces is that, because of Elia's popularity in Philadelphia, the sentiment will be to allow Elia another chance no matter how the Phillies finish. But Giles still knows he needs that big presence. (Lasorda would probably listen closely to an offer of a manager-G.M. position near his hometown.) The Phillies have several problems, but right now racism isn't one of them. Elia replaced Felske not because he's white, but because he was Giles's only logical choice.

A BLUE BIRD

The constant booing at Memorial Stadium and the decline and fall of the once-proud Orioles have apparently gotten to Eddie Murray. He is hitting .209 at home and .304 on the road, and he's also looking unhappy in the supposedly friendly confines. Visiting Yankee players were shocked last week to see Murray frequently standing at first base with his arms folded while an Oriole pitcher delivered the ball to the plate. This is not the real Eddie Murray....

For two years, Astro opponents have accused not only Mike Scott but also Nolan Ryan and Dave Smith (who went 27⅖ innings and got 13 saves before being charged with his first run of the year on June 18) of cutting baseballs so they take off and sail up and away from hitters like 90-mph Frisbees. "I've never seen pitchers throw fastballs with that kind of rotation," says Giants catcher Bob Brenly. "They defy aerodynamics. Whatever it is, it probably will be the pitch of the '90s. Just when we get the split-finger figured out, we'll have to contend with that."

LIGHTEN UP

Will all the politicians in Chicago please get off their soapboxes and let the Cubs install lights in Wrigley Field so they can play a mere 15 or 20 games at night? This will let the Cubs 1) play night games after long road trips; 2) hold occasional workouts at home; 3) appease other clubs who lose revenue when they can't broadcast their own games in prime time....

Vince Coleman took a lot of heat after slumping from .267 to .232 last year, and Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog talked in spring training of making him a pinch runner. But by the end of last week he had raised his average to .298 and had reached base in 50 consecutive games....

The American League owners got into two heated debates during the owners' meetings on June 10-11. The first was over the Eastern Division clubs' desire to do away with the balanced schedule. Because the Western clubs want the same number of dates with the crowd-drawing Yankees and Red Sox as the Eastern clubs get, all teams play intradivisional rivals 13 times and interdivisional teams 12 times each. This means that each team plays more games (84) outside its division than inside (78). The second issue was expansion. It appears likely that the AL will grow from 14 to 16 teams in three or four years, provided the A's, Mariners and White Sox continue to be healthy franchises.

CONDITION RED

Pete Rose moved Dave Parker from rightfield to first base last Sunday so Tracy Jones and Kal Daniels could be in the lineup at the same time. Parker replaced Nick Esasky, who was hitting .247 at the time. Says Parker, "We have two guys with great production who need to play. This is the year. The players feel it, Pete feels it, the city of Cincinnati feels it, the front office feels it. If Pete believes my moving to first base will help us, I'm all for it. I'll be out there with face mask and shin guards on."

...First the Expos salvaged Dennis Martinez, who is throwing as well as he did in the late '70s for the Orioles. Now tough Bryn Smith is on his way back after beating the Mets on June 17 to run his record to 5-2. In 1985 Smith went 18-5, and the Expos rewarded him with a $700,000 salary in '86. Well, last year he went 10-8, underwent elbow surgery and signed a 1987 contract that pays him the $62,500 major league minimum plus $11,000 per start. He could earn $675,000 if he pitches 200 innings in 30 starts. To date, he has thrown only 57 innings in his 10 outings.

FREE AGENTS '87

The Player Relations Committee's latest order is that teams cannot negotiate contracts with players during the season. And why should they, now that free agency has been virtually eliminated? So while this November's free-agent crop of Dale Murphy, Cal Ripken, Mike Schmidt, Jack Morris, Tony Pena and Jack Clark looks impressive, no one is expecting any major movement. Says Players Association director Donald Fehr, "What's happening with Murphy and the others is consistent with the entire free-agent picture. Their team doesn't talk to them during the season to make them feel like they're not important. Then when they become a free agent, they're told, 'You have to take what we've offered.' "

...Last week an American League manager, his coaches, a couple of scouts and a former executive happened to be pondering this question: "If you had one game to win for your life, what active AL pitcher would you start?" Not too surprisingly the answer was unanimous: Bret Saberhagen. "A Catfish Hunter who hits 94 and 95 on the gun," said one of the participants, though everyone also agreed that Jack Morris is still the best pitcher overall because of his year-to-year consistency. The same debate took place in a National League office, and again the answer was unanimous: Mike Scott. That tells you how much Fernando Valenzuela's shoulder is bothering him....

When one speaks of managers who possess the intangible presence, Dick Howser, who died last week of brain cancer, belongs at the top of the fist. No one in the game better employed the power of eye contact. His legacy? The 103 wins with the 1980 Yankees and the 1985 world championship in Kansas City are part of it, but so is his giving Ken Harrelson the nickname Hawk.

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PHOTOBILL SMITHManager Elia may be just a Phil-in, PHOTOBILL SMITHColeman's improved hitting has saved his job and launched the Cardinals. PHOTOJOHN D. HANLONScott may have replaced Fernando as the first choice in a must-win game. PHOTO©TOPPS CHEWING GUM INC.Happy 51st birthday to the Killer.

BETWEEN THE LINES

LOOK AT 'EM NOW
The four 1986 divisional winners were a combined 135-137 through last weekend.

HOME RUN DERBY

Two more explanations for the glut of home runs:

•"There's a hole in the ozone layer."—White Sox coach Eddie Brinkman.

•"It's the underground testing. Gravity is leaving the earth and so are the baseballs."—Indians pitching coach Jack Aker.

DAVID LETTERMAN, STEP ASIDE
When Twins president Jerry Bell told former owner Calvin Griffith that the club had signed Terry Forster, Griffith said, "I'm in better shape than he is."

EASY OUT
In the ninth inning of the June 15 White Sox-Mariners game, Carlton Fisk hit a fly into the Chicago leftfield bullpen area. While chasing after the ball, Seattle leftfielder Phil Bradley ran into White Sox bullpen catcher Ron Karkovice. Fisk was ruled out because of interference. "Karkovice even makes outs when he doesn't play," mumbled a teammate. At the time, Karko was hitting .068 with five hits and 32 strikeouts.

IF YOU'RE SCORING, THAT'S...A MESS
Against the Braves on June 17, Giants manager Roger Craig made 12 lineup changes from the sixth through the eighth innings. In the bottom of the seventh alone, Craig used three pitchers, three leftfielders, two third basemen and two rightfielders. In that inning, he moved lefty reliever Keith Comstock to rightfield and brought in righthander Randy Bockus to face Dale Murphy. Murphy homered to send Bockus to the bench, and Comstock returned to the mound and gave up two more hits. The Braves won the game, 6-1.

ONE DEVIL OF A DAY
On June 16, 1986, in Anaheim, Calif., pitcher Charlie Hough of the Texas Rangers pitched 8‚Öì innings of no-hit ball against the Angels. On June 16, 1987, in Anaheim, Ranger pitcher Jose Guzman had a no-hitter going for 7‚Öì innings.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK
Pirate outfielder John Cangelosi, on why he prefers being listed at 5'8" in the team's press guide when he is really 5'7": "It sounds taller."

THE ULTIMATE PLATOON
Within days of each other, Wally Backman and Tim Teufel, the Mets' second base tandem, were both placed on the disabled list with pulled hamstring muscles. Backman pulled his left, Teufel his right, which is also the way they bat in the Mets' platoon.

MISCELLANEOUS

Jack Clark hit his 19th and 20th homers on June 18. The entire Cardinal team had amassed 21 homers by the same date last year.

Jose Oquendo has started at every position but pitcher and catcher for the Cardinals this season, and claims that he has played both of those positions in his native Puerto Rico.

In his first appearance with the Astros, righthanded reliever Ron Mathis's fastest pitch was clocked at 83 mph. Padres infielder Luis Salazar, who worked an inning in the same game, had two pitches clocked at 84.

Eastern League first baseman Jose Birriel is hitting .294 for New Britain of the Red Sox organization. Because of pitching shortages on his club, Birriel has also been used as a pitcher. He won both of his starts—one was a six-hit shutout of Glens Falls last week—and is 4-0 with an ERA of 0.90. Two years from now, figure the Red Sox to sell Birriel to the Yankees.

Mets righthander Ron Darling has more career no-decisions, 48, than wins, 46.

Since winning the 1983 World Series, the Orioles have gone 104-159 against the rest of the AL East. Through last weekend they were 2-21 in '87 against Eastern Division teams other than the last-place Indians.

Mike Pagliarulo's 13th-inning homer in the Yankees' 10-5 win over Boston on Friday was the first off Joe Sambito by a lefthanded batter since 1978.

Pittsburgh infielder Jim Morrison was twice thrown out stealing in the same inning on June 15.

BALLPARK FIGURES
Through Sunday, eight players had 20 or more home runs, with George Bell leading in the AL with 23 and Dale Murphy and Eric Davis leading in the NL with 22 each. As further proof that baseballs are flying out of parks as never before, consider that in the previous five seasons only one player had hit 20 by June 21--Murphy in 1982. But a hot start doesn't guarantee anything, as this chart indicates:

LEADER ON JUNE 21

EVENTUAL HOME RUN CHAMP

1986

AL Wally Joyner (19)
NL Mike Marshall (17)

Jesse Barfield (40)
Mike Schmidt (37)

1985

AL Dave Kingman (17) )
NL Dale Murphy (17)

Darrell Evans (40)
Dale Murphy (37)

1984

AL Dave Kingman (19)
NL Dale Murphy (16)

Tony Armas (43)
Dale Murphy
Mike Schmidt (36)

1983

AL Jim Rice (16)
NL Darrell Evans Dale Murphy (19)

Jim Rice (39)
Mike Schmidt (40)

1982

AL Andre Thornton (18)
NL Dale Murphy (20)

Reggie Jackson (39)
Gorman Thomas
Dave Kingman (37)

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)