FOR THE BIRDS
This is an article from the Aug. 8, 1988 issue
On July 26, Blue Jay manager Jimy Williams yanked MVP outfielder George Bell from a game and benched him indefinitely for making a defensive mistake and shouting at Williams in the dugout afterward. The next morning several Toronto pitchers were sitting around the visitors' clubhouse in Minnesota talking about the team's sorry situation. Somebody shouted at starter Jimmy Key, "You're a lifer!" Key cringed and replied, "No way." And another player warned pitcher Dave Stieb that he'd better get hurt quick because if he pitches 225 innings, the option on his contract will automatically be renewed and he'll have to stay in Toronto. And a third groaned, "It's only going to get worse around here."
Indeed, the in-house fight that started in spring training when Williams moved Bell to designated hitter and center-fielder Lloyd Moseby to left, has mushroomed into a full-scale war that is tearing apart a team that should be in the thick of the American League East race, but instead was languishing in sixth place at week's end. Bell has simply refused to back down on his vow to get Williams fired, and Toronto general manager Pat Gillick has refused to give in to Bell—he feels that capitulating would send the players the message that a blatant disregard for the team is not only tolerated but also rewarded. The only solution to the impasse, as Gillick sees it, is to trade Bell—which he tried vainly to do last week—along with outfielder Jesse Barfield, pitcher Jim Clancy and catcher Ernie Whitt.
The Blue Jay management thinks that Bell is acting as irrationally as he did during the 1985 American League Championship Series, when after he was called out at third base on a close play, he accused the umpires of being prejudiced against players from his native Dominican Republic and also against teams from Canada. For his part, Bell contends that Williams has held a grudge against him since long before the DH showdown. "Everybody writes about my attitude. What about his attitude?" Bell said to Wayne Parrish of The Toronto Sun. "Jimy Williams said to me [during one of their many confrontations], that if it wasn't for baseball, I'd be in the Dominican Republic cutting sugarcane" Bell also told Parrish that if the club wants to get out of the 1989 part of his two-year, $4 million contract, "They can tear the contract up."
YOU FIGURE IT
The Yankees have made some baffling moves lately. First, why did they announce early that they weren't interested in pitcher Mike Boddicker, thereby helping rival Boston work out a deal for him last week with the Orioles? Second, why did they trade with the Mariners for designated hitter Ken Phelps? Several scouts believe that Phelps is a power-alley hitter, which as one of them puts it, makes him "as unsuited to Yankee Stadium as [former Yankee outfielder] Steve Kemp." Another scout adds, "Every time they get Phelps into the lineup, they weaken themselves defensively in at least three positions." It sure makes other clubs happy when the best first baseman in the league, Don Mattingly, has to play outfield.
A ROYAL MESS
Though the Blue Jays are a major disappointment, the No. 1 flop this season has to be the Royals, who have been crippled by all sorts of internal problems. Manager John Wathan has apparently lost control of the team and is frequently being second-guessed by the players. Veterans say the clubhouse atmosphere has never been worse, with definable cliques and open hostility between the everyday players and the pitchers. There have also been hints of racial tension. The three most recent team fights have matched a black player against a white player, inspiring second baseman Frank White to ask, "Why haven't we seen two whites fight, or two blacks fight? It's always black-white. That's not just a coincidence."
In one incident earlier in the season, outfielder Bo Jackson got into an argument with third baseman Kevin Seitzer about the treatment of a woman camera operator who occasionally visits the Royals' clubhouse. One thing led to another, and suddenly Jackson hooked his arm around Seitzer's neck, lifted him a foot off the ground and slammed his head against the team's indoor batting cage. The other fights pitted outfielder Willie Wilson against first baseman George Brett, and outfielder Danny Tartabull against pitcher Bret Saberhagen.
The Royals starting rotation went 16 straight games without a win before Saberhagen's 6-2 decision against the Orioles on Friday. To remedy the situation, the Royals shipped catcher Mike Macfarlane to the minors, even though he was hitting .265 with four homers and 26 RBIs, and brought up Larry Owen from the Omaha Royals. Wathan and G.M. John Schuerholz claimed that Macfarlane had become ineffective behind the plate, but others felt he was being used as a scapegoat for the pitching woes and had been stabbed in the back by K.C.'s pitchers. Since he was criticized in early April nobody had even hinted to Macfarlane that he was calling a bad game. Said one disgusted Royals veteran, "The manager we have is a former catcher. Why doesn't he call the pitches? All this shows is that the pitchers are running this team, no one else."
One pitcher who came to Macfarlane's defense was Charlie Leibrandt, despite the fact that he had a 6-11 record through Sunday. "I've got no one to blame but myself; it certainly wasn't Mike's fault," he said. "I'm shocked because I thought he was doing a nice job."
TWO OF A KIND
One National League scout calls the Dodgers'. Tim Leary "the other Mike Scott—and just about as good." Strong words for a pitcher who was 3-11 last year, but consider the similarities: Both Leary and Scott are hard-throwing products of the Mets organization whose careers started to take off after they perfected the split-fingered fastball. Leary did it at age 29, when he had a 20-31 career record, and Scott did it at 30, with a 29-44 mark. Because of Leary's emergence—he was 10-7 with a 2.37 ERA at week's end—and the encouraging way Mario Soto is throwing, the Dodgers let the Aug. 1 trading deadline pass without making a deal for more pitching.
MAYHEM BY THE BAY
July 26 was an ugly day for the Giants. Not only did they lose a doubleheader to the Dodgers, but numerous fights broke out in Candlestick Park and fans hurled golf balls and at least one baseball at the players.
Police arrested 20 of the fans, gave citations to 15 others and threw more than 100 of them out of the stadium. "The beach at Okinawa was safer," said Giants president Al Rosen. "I was frightened, shocked and disgusted. Those weren't fans last night. They came out for a show, looking for problems, and they got caught up in the fervor of the thing."
The steal of the year has to be Athletics outfielder Dave Henderson. The Red Sox dumped Henderson last September, and he finished the season with the Giants. But San Francisco didn't want him either, so Oakland signed him in December as a free agent for $225,000. Through Sunday he had 15 homers, which is more than any other Giants except third baseman Kevin Mitchell (15) and first baseman Will Clark (22), and two more than his teammates Dave Parker and Don Baylor have hit together. Henderson also had 41 extra-base hits, or four more than A's first baseman Mark McGwire....
Two more reasons the Tigers are hoping against hope that pitcher Jack Morris gets hot for at least a month: Righthander Jeff Robinson has never pitched more than 150 innings in a season as a pro; and lefthander Frank Tanana is now on a 226-inning pace....
Yankee owner George Steinbrenner refused to allow coach Jeff Torborg to interview for the Mariners managerial job, but Torborg's contract is up at the end of the season, and with his friend Woody Woodward the new general manager in Seattle, he will probably get his chance anyway. Working for Seattle owner George Argyros, however, can be as trying as working for Steinbrenner. The Mariners have had seven managers and six general managers in their 12 years of losing....
Life is unfair department: After fighting a three-year battle with a damaged shoulder and finally making a comeback, Braves reliever Bruce Sutter was hit with Bell's palsy, which has paralyzed one side of his face and caused him to be put on the 15-day disabled list but will probably keep him out longer....
Houston's futile pursuit of San Diego outfielder-first baseman Keith Moreland last week was an admission that they believe infielder Buddy Bell's right knee is so shot that he is finished. Scouts have clocked Bell running to first base in 5.1 seconds, which is Ernie Lombardi speed....
In an attempt to improve his 7-11 record, Minnesota pitcher Bert Blyleven has shaved his beard and announced he wants to be known by his proper name, Rik Aalbert Blyleven. "It worked for Willie—er, Guillermo—Hernandez, didn't it?" he says.
BETWEEN THE LINES
After the Astros lost their 11th consecutive game at San Diego's Jack Murphy Stadium on July 26, losing pitcher Jim Deshaies decided to take matters into his own hands. The next day he bought a witchcraft book and performed a curse-breaking ceremony in the visitors' clubhouse, which involved taking twigs from four different trees, spitting on them and throwing them on a fire while reciting a chant. After he finished, Deshaies asked if there were any nonbelievers present, and the only person to say yes was first baseman Glenn Davis. Later that night the Astros defeated the Padres 4-1. Davis strained his hamstring in the second inning and may be out for several days.
THE IMPORTANCE OF HAVING RICKEY
Through Sunday the Yankees were 50-32 in games that leftfielder Rickey Henderson had started and 10-10 in the ones he didn't start. With Henderson batting leadoff, the Yanks have scored 95 runs in the first inning, or 18% of their total runs for the season.
A QUANTUM DINGER
On July 16, Kansas City outfielder Bo Jackson hit a home run off Dennis (Oil Can) Boyd that hit the back wall behind the bleachers in Fenway Park. One of the Sox players in the bullpen said, "I wonder how far that would have gone if the wall hadn't been there." So John Trautwein, a Boston reliever who has a bachelor's degree in chemistry from Northwestern, later took out a piece of paper and started scribbling. Then he announced, "Estimating Oil Can's pitch at 85 miles per hour, the time it took to get to the wall at 3.0 seconds and the velocity off Jackson's bat at 90 miles per hour, I'd say it would have gone 540 feet." Somebody later checked a textbook and discovered that the formula Trautwein used, which also ignored other factors, was right. Said Trautwein with a shrug, "I haven't pitched since June 16. I might as well do something."
The White Sox beat the Mariners 1-0 in the 11th inning on July 26 when reliever Michael Jackson walked shortstop Ozzie Guillen with the bases loaded. That was no small feat; Guillen has twice tied the record for the fewest walks in a season: 12 in '85 and '86.
•Last year pinch hitters batted .234 with 103 homers and 735 RBIs. At week's end they were hitting .203 with 33 homers and 329 RBIs.
•Rangers slugger Peter Incaviglia has struck out all seven times he has faced the Red Sox's Roger Clemens and is 0 for 4 with four strikeouts against Boyd.
•Pitcher Todd Stottlemyre's last three appearances with the Blue Jays before being sent down to the Triple A Syracuse Chiefs on July 28 included two starts in which he failed to win despite 9-1 and 6-0 leads, and a game in relief during which he walked all three of the batters he faced, forcing in two runs.
•Shortstop Alfredo Griffin returned to the Dodgers lineup for a doubleheader against the Giants July 26 and made an error in each game. While Griffin was on the disabled list, his replacement, Dave Anderson, made only three errors in 60 games.
•The Indians' John Farrell, whose record through Sunday was 11-7, has pitched into the sixth inning or later in every one of his 31 major league starts.
•For his first two years in the majors, Twins centerfielder Kirby Puckett's slugging percentage was .362. In the last 2⅖ seasons, it has gone up to .537.
•The Expos' Otis Nixon is 14 for 37 against the Cardinals and 14 for 90 against the rest of the league.
•When the Phillies played the Mets on July 27, the highest average in the Philadelphia lineup belonged to a pitcher, David Palmer, who was hitting .292. Palmer had seven hits on the season: one single, four doubles and two homers.
THE ALL-KLUTZ TEAM
On July 27 the Yankees' Tommy John made three errors on one play, tying a 90-year-old record for most errors by a pitcher in one inning. Those miscues also tied John for a spot on this year's All-Klutz team, made up of the players with the most errors at each position.
Ellis Burks, Red Sox
Willie McGee, Cardinal
Dale Sveum, Brewers
Bobby Bonilla, Pirates
Andres Galarraga, Expos
Mark Grace, Cubs
Dwight Gooden, Mets
Tommy John, Yankees
Mark Langston, Mariners
Joe Magrane, Cardinals
Dennis Martinez, Expos
Jeff Russell, Rangers
Calvin Schiraldi, Cubs
Bill Swift, Mariners
*Errors through July 30
SOURCE, STATS, INC.