DECLINE AND FALL
When Whitey Herzog resigned as manager of the Cardinals on July 6, he told the press, "I just don't feel as if I've done the job. I think almost anybody in this room can manage this club better than I can." Now, after two weeks under interim manager Red Schoendienst and despite a four-game sweep of hapless San Diego, it's clear that the team's difficulties lie not in its manager but with its stars, many of whom may not be with the team next year. Last week even Herzog acknowledged that when he said, "I guess it wasn't me. I thought I was the cause."
Herzog recognized the Cardinals' shortcomings back in May, and he pleaded with the front office to make trades. But the Cards—National League champions in 1987 and contenders last year—did nothing and were in last place on Sunday. Worse, St. Louis could lose as many as nine free agents at the end of the season. After an ugly loss to the Dodgers on July 18, Cardinals first baseman Pedro Guerrero said of Herzog's resignation, "I probably would have quit too. It's been a long year. I can't wait till it's over."
When it is over, outfielders Vince Coleman and Willie McGee, third baseman Terry Pendleton and pitchers John Tudor and Ken Dayley, all potential free agents, may leave. When asked if he is prepared for that, general manager Dal Maxvill said, "Absolutely." He said outfielders Ray Lankford and Bernard Gilkey of Triple A Louisville "are ready to fill the shoes" of Coleman and McGee. Geronimo Pena, who missed part of Louisville's season because he had tuberculosis and broke a finger, is expected to replace Pendleton. Finding successors to Dayley and Tudor, though, won't be as easy.
Maxvill says he will listen to any free agent who wants to return, but he adds, "The money I've heard [approximately $9 million over three years for McGee, for example] is unrealistic." Maxvill cites the Expos, a team that lost four free agents during the off-season but seems the better for it. "We may be the first to follow Montreal's example," he says.
The future might look brighter for the Cardinals if they could trade some of those potential free agents. But Maxvill says the interest in Coleman, McGee, Pendleton and Dayley "is almost zip.
They're making big money. Why would a contender pay $600,000 for a guy for the last two months when there's no guarantee that you'll win a pennant?"
Meanwhile, St. Louis continues to be an embarrassment on the field. As of Sunday, the Cards had scored two runs or fewer in 37 games. They haven't pitched well, especially ace Joe Magrane, who after finishing 18-9 last year was 5-12 this season. They also haven't played their usual solid defense, especially McGee, who had 12 errors.
"If you want to know what happened to this team, look at the stat sheet," says Maxvill. "We're classic underachievers. There's no need to look for dissension or injuries. It all comes down to performance."
It's more than that, however. St. Louis's collapse is also about complacency. Herzog often implied this year that the Cardinals have been together too long. "You have to have hunger," says pitcher Bryn Smith. "This team has won one or two times. Maybe the hunger isn't there."
Catcher Tom Pagnozzi agrees. "Things can be taken for granted when you've played together for so long," he says.
The most immediate concern is the business of naming a new manager, which could happen by Aug. 1. Former Cardinals third baseman Joe Torre, who last managed in 1984, in Atlanta, and now works as a broadcaster on Angel telecasts, is considered the leading candidate.
Herzog, still employed by the Cardinals as an adviser, is keeping a low profile. He spends much of his time fishing or sitting by the pool and is said to be interested in running one of the National League's two expansion teams in 1993. After watching this year's Cards, he should find the level of play about the same.
A catcher's proficiency in throwing out potential base stealers is not kept as an official statistic because so many pitchers are terrible at holding runners on base. But Baltimore righthander Dave Johnson is another story. As of Sunday, no runner had stolen a base against him in any of his 33 starts as a major leaguer. In his 19 starts this year no one had even attempted a steal. By comparison, in the last 33 starts made by righthander Mike Scott of the Astros, opponents had stolen 51 bases in 57 tries.
Johnson, 30, a career minor leaguer until last season, doesn't pretend to have the kind of stuff Scott has. That's why last year he took the advice of Dick Bosman, his Triple A pitching coach at Rochester, and developed a quirky stretch position. "It's ugly, and it isn't comfortable, but it does the job," says Johnson, whose fastball reaches only the low 80's and who gives up more hits than innings pitched.
Still, he had an 8-6 record at week's end. "When I'm set, I can see first base," says Johnson. "Most pitchers look over there, but they can't see the runner. I can. At the same time, I'm ready to throw home. People ask, 'Couldn't you get more power another way?' I could, but as far as I'm concerned, the slower [my pitches are], the better."
Johnson's ability to trick hitters, and to keep them from stealing, is the main reason he goes by a familiar nickname: Magic Johnson.
Rangers first baseman-outfielder Jack Daugherty is a great testament to the power of perseverance. "Some guys sign for $100,000 and move up quickly," says the 30-year-old Daugherty, who through Sunday was batting .317. "I was the complete antithesis of that. I was Casper Your Friendly First Baseman. Totally invisible."
Daugherty hit higher than .400 while at Kearny High in San Diego but was ignored by the top baseball schools. Instead, he attended San Diego Mesa College before walking on at Arizona. He hit .343 over two seasons, 1981 and '82, for the Wildcats, but then he wasn't drafted. The scouts said he lacked power.
After leaving Arizona, Daugherty didn't play professionally in 1982. "My friends were doing well in pro ball," he says. "I thought, Hey, I'm as good as those guys. So I went to a major league tryout camp. It was awful. I took grounders next to a guy wearing cutoff Haggar pants and and black dress shoes. I got a 'Don't call us, we'll call you.' "
Oakland scout Mike Wallace, who had seen Daugherty play at Arizona, got him an invitation to an A's tryout camp in the fall of 1982. "I had my glove and spikes in a brown-paper bag," says Daugherty. "They had no idea who I was. I took some swings lefthanded. They said, 'Thanks for coming.' Then I told them I hit righthanded, too. I hit the ball good, and that's when they signed me. Kidding around, I asked, 'Do I get a bonus?' They said, 'You're lucky to sign.' They gave me $500."
Daugherty batted .261 for Class A San Jose in 1983 and then was released by the A's. The next year he won a spot with an independent Class A team in Helena, Mont. "I was making $600 a month," says Daugherty. "I slept in a clothes hamper in the clubhouse. What a team. We had every imaginable derelict there, even a kleptomaniac. He stole all my stuff. I had to send home for a glove I had when I was a kid."
Still, he hit .402 in 66 games, and his contract was purchased by the Expos in December 1984. Despite batting .307 over four more minor league seasons, he was traded to the Rangers in September 1988. Last season, at Triple A Oklahoma City, he was batting only .251 on July 5. "I was in a real meltdown," he says. "I needed to take time off. I was thinking of doing something else for a living."
The next day, however, Texas shortstop Scott Fletcher was put on the disabled list, and Daugherty was brought up. He went 5 for 10 in his first series, against Oakland. He ended up hitting .302 in 106 at bats. But not until Harold Baines, the Rangers' regular DH, was injured in early July of this year did Daugherty get a chance to play full-time. He responded with a string of multihit games and quickly became a fixture in the lineup.
"He could always hit," says teammate Charlie Hough. "But he's a little goofy."
Can anybody blame him?
When Ozzie Canseco and Mel Stottlemyre Jr. were called up to the big leagues by Oakland and Kansas City, respectively, the number of brother combinations active in the big leagues reached five—those two plus the Ripkens, Alomars and Perezes....
Toronto shortstop Tony Fernandez, a switch-hitter, says he's considering batting only lefthanded. As a righthanded hitter, he was hitting .202 with three RBIs through Sunday....
Some members of the Mets are complaining privately that manager Bud Harrelson is trying too hard to be a "tough-guy" manager and therefore is alienating some of the players. On July 13 he had an ugly clubhouse confrontation with first baseman Mike Marshall, after Marshall said he couldn't play because of an intestinal inflammation. At one point Harrelson told Marshall, "If you don't want to play for me, take off the uniform and go home." Marshall was later placed on the DL because of his illness....
White Sox general manager Larry Himes has lifted the ban on postgame beer in the clubhouse after road games. At home, where the players have to drive their cars after the game, the ban is still in place....
The Orioles don't appear interested in resigning outfielder Phil Bradley, a potential free agent at season's end, because they feel his asking price—an estimated $5 million over three years—is too high. They would miss his leadership, as well as his above-average skills....
Pirate reserve catcher Dann Bilardello, whom Mets broadcaster Ralph Kiner once referred to as Don Bordello, explains how he went 1 for 30 this year while Pittsburgh was 9-2 in games in which he started. "When I start," he says, "the other guys know there are really only seven hitters in the lineup, so they concentrate more on getting a hit. I'm trying not to put too much pressure on myself, but I think I'm overcompensating. I'm putting too much pressure on myself not to put too much pressure on myself."
BETWEEN THE LINES
Hours before the Royals' Bo Jackson hit three homers in three at bats-including a mighty 464-foot shot to right centerfield—against the Yankees on July 17, he taped a segment for Sesame Street that will air on PBS in November. In the segment, a spoof of the "Bo Knows" Nike commercials, Jackson and the Sesame Street characters demonstrate that Bo knows letters, Bo knows counting and, appropriately enough, Bo knows near and far. But in the final scene, Jackson is stumped by the appearance of some woolly sheep. "Bo, you don't know Peep," says the flock's shepherd, Little Bo Peep. Bo apparently doesn't know singles, either. He had only three in July, but had 23 RBIs for the month, before a shoulder injury in that July 17 game put him on the 15-day disabled list.
A MODEST PROPOSAL
After another big brawl, this time between the Reds and Phillies last Friday, Cincinnati pitcher Rob Dibble, who once considered playing pro hockey, said he knows a way to stop bench-clearing fights in baseball. "It should be like hockey," he said. "Third man in gets fined and misses playing time. They should just let the pitcher and hitter duke it out."
A PITCH FOR THE HALL OF FAME
On July 20, the Expos' Dave Martinez and Junior Noboa became the seventh and eighth non-pitchers to pitch this season. Martinez, an outfielder, started the eighth inning against Houston, which was leading Montreal 10-0. He loaded the bases with one out before being relieved by Noboa, who had been playing third base. Noboa walked home a run and then got pitcher Jim Clancy to ground into a double play started by Montreal centerfielder Otis Nixon, who had moved to the infield to play shortstop. "In the fifth inning I told [Expo manager] Buck Rodgers, 'I have a tremendous changeup,' " said Noboa. "I was just kidding. When he told me I was pitching, I thought, Oh, no, he took me seriously. I'm not that good. I'd like to face me; I'd go 5 for 5. But I got a double-play ball. I might go in the Dominican Hall of Fame."
A FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE
The Gate City Pioneers, an independent Pioneer (Rookie) League team in Pocatello, Idaho, have a roster that includes nine players from the U.S., two each from Venezuela and the Dominican Republic, one each from Puerto Rico, Mexico and Canada and five from Japan. "It's quite a collection," says manager Ed Creech, a Georgian who speaks with a thick drawl. "When I talk to the team, there are a lot of blank stares—about eight of them. My big worry is that these guys are learning English from me. They'll think everyone here talks like this."
BAD NEWS COMES IN THREES
Keep in mind that the Dodgers haven't executed a triple play since April 16, 1949: Gene Hermanski to Jackie Robinson to Gil Hodges. On July 17, the Red Sox grounded into two triple plays in one game against the Twins, a major league record. Rightfielder Tom Brunansky grounded into one in the fourth inning, and second baseman Jody Reed grounded into another in the eighth. Boston still won 1-0. Against Minnesota the next night, the Red Sox grounded into six double plays yet won again, 5-4. Reed hit into the first of the six DPs, in the first inning. "I got to the bench," says Reed, "and one of our guys said, 'Hey, did you know your last two swings turned into five outs?' "
BY THE NUMBERS
•Mariner shortstop Brian Giles drove in seven runs in one game on May 17, but through Sunday, Seattle shortstops had seven RBIs all told in the 60 games since then.
THE PLACES WHERE HITS ARE BORN
In a batting race of major league birthplaces, Ohio leads the field this year thanks to the Reds' Barry Larkin (.321) and the Blue Jays' Pat Borders (.295). On the flip side, the Padres' Joe Carter (.215) and the Orioles' Mickey Tettleton (.228) are putting the brakes on the Sooner state.
Through July 21
SOURCE: STATS, INC.