With Dick Wagner ousted last week as the Reds' president and chief executive officer, Bob Howsam resumed those roles—he'd relinquished them in February 1978 to become vice-chairman of the board—and indicated that significant changes might be forthcoming. Howsam said he would seriously consider revising Cincy's policy of not going after prominent free agents. He also said he favors retaining Bowie Kuhn as commissioner. Kuhn will lose his job on Aug. 12 unless he picks up three new supporters from the six National League clubs opposing his reelection. If Howsam can convince the Reds ownership to back Kuhn, the commissioner would need only two more switchovers.
It seems the Pirates are phasing out Dave Parker; they've dropped him to sixth in the lineup, benched him occasionally and yanked him for a pinch hitter against some lefty pitchers. Parker's five-year, $6.7 million contract expires at the end of the season, and it's doubtful that the Bucs, who have plenty of reliable outfielders, are interested in retaining his services.
Just a few years ago Parker, the 1978 National League MVP, was one of the most feared hitters in the game. But he has had numerous injuries since 1980 and has asked to be traded from Pittsburgh because fans there have jumped on his case. His statistics for this season, through last Sunday, were .264, 25 RBIs and four homers.
Why has Parker, 32, slumped so badly and why has he lost so much of the verve that once characterized his play? There are no easy answers, although several scouts say that Parker may be having difficulty handling inside fastballs because he's a bit heavy at 235 pounds. Montreal First Baseman Al Oliver agrees, saying, "It's tough for him to turn on an inside pitch. A couple years ago, with those same pitches, he'd have killed the first baseman with hard-hit balls."
Another possibility is poor vision, but Parker refused to have an eye examination last week after the club had made an appointment for him. "There's nothing wrong with my eyes," Parker said. But there's something wrong somewhere.
Cleveland's Julio Franco may well become what he hopes to be—"the shortstop of the future." Despite batting eighth most of the time, Franco, a 21-year-old rookie from the Dominican Republic, had 52 RBIs through last Sunday, the second-most by any shortstop in the big leagues. (Baltimore's Cal Ripken had 54 and Milwaukee's Robin Yount had 50.) Furthermore, Franco, who got off to a slow start at the plate this season, was batting .287 and leading the Tribe with four triples and 17 steals.
Franco had a .311 average for his five minor league seasons, but the rap against him was that he made too many errors—72 in his last two years. Thus, the Indians were able to obtain him last December along with four other players by trading Outfielder Von Hayes to the Phils. Although Franco is still making errors—17 through Sunday—he has shown excellent range and proved that he's coachable. Second Baseman Manny Trillo, who also went to Cleveland in the big swap, has helped Franco improve his overall fielding by constantly tutoring him. "He wasn't putting his hands together when I gave him the ball on double plays," says Trillo, giving an example of the sort of things he has been working on with Franco. "He caught the ball with one hand and wasted time bringing the other hand up to get the ball and throw."
Indians Manager Mike Ferraro is sure Franco can cut his errors appreciably if he can correct one other bad habit. "He fields the ball with his wrong foot forward," Ferraro says. "Julio fields with his right foot ahead of his left and then has to bring his left one up so he can throw."
Pete Ladd, who relieved so well for the Brewers late last season and in the playoffs, flopped early this year. On May 20, with his ERA resembling a crap shoot—it was 7.11—Ladd was sent to the minors. Since his return on June 21, Ladd through Sunday had had three saves, one win and a 1.23 ERA for 7‚Öì innings and had helped Milwaukee go 17-5.... Red Sox Outfielders Jim Rice (23 homers and 65 RBIs through Sunday), Tony Armas (19 and 55) and Dwight Evans (18 and 45) are going at a clip that would give them a total of 112 home runs and 307 RBIs at the season's end.... When Amos Otis, a three-time Gold Glove winner as a centerfielder, returned to action after missing 12 games because of a pulled thigh muscle, he was put in right by K.C. Manager Dick Howser. In center was Willie Wilson, who'd played spectacularly there during Otis' absence and who was expected to remain there.... A 5-for-16 performance at the plate last week dropped the American League-leading batting average of California's Rod Carew to .397, the first time it has been below .400 since April 18.
REGGIE JACKSON: The Angel outfielder was hitting only .210 with 12 homers and 34 RBIs at week's end. Says Jackson, "I'm so far from the game. I don't know what's going on. I feel I'd be better off sitting down. Not playing. There's nobody to talk to about it. I just pray." ...DENNIS ECKERSLEY: "I've been stinking," says the Boston righthander, who had a 5-7 record and 6.00 ERA through last Sunday. "It's killing me. I need to get my head above water. My stuff has been O.K. It's just been where I've been throwing the ball. I can't get it down when I need to."
As an Astro, Nolan Ryan has been shedding his label of being "only a .500 pitcher." Before joining Houston in 1980, Ryan had a 167-159 record (.512). His Astro stats: 47-29 (.618) through last week; and since June 18, 1982, 20-6, with a 2.37 ERA. A classic pitching match, Ryan vs. Philadelphia's Steve Carlton, didn't take place early this week as anticipated. The reason: Houston Manager Bob Lillis pitched Ryan last Sunday with three days' rest, instead of with his customary four. Had Lillis stuck to his normal rotation, Ryan would have faced Lefty on Monday. Lillis made the shift because he temporarily lacked the dependable fifth starter he would have needed on Sunday and because he wanted Ryan to face the Mets, whom he'd beaten 6-3 nine days earlier. Unfortunately, the strategy failed: Ryan lost to New York 3-1 although he struck out five, raising his career total to a record 3,583, one more than Carlton.
From watching the All-Star Game on TV, Dodger Outfielder Dusty Baker learned that "all the good hitters were doing what I wasn't doing—keeping my hands back." Last week, hands back, he batted .500, hit three homers and had 12 RBIs.... With two down in the top of the ninth, nobody on and the Giants ahead 6-5, Johnny Ray and Mike Easier homered off Greg Minton to give the Pirates a 7-6 triumph. Easler's blow, though, would not have cleared the fence had it not glanced off the glove of Left-fielder Jeff Leonard.... Atlanta Outfielder Dale Murphy's 20th homer of the year was his first in 97 at bats.... Los Angeles tied the major league mark it set last year by reaching 2,000,000 in home attendance on its 46th date.
every night when I see him, anyhow. Whenever he looks at me cross-eyed, or just looks at me. If he apologizes, I'll run him. I just don't care if the man ever plays a baseball game when I'm on the field ever, ever again."
Brinkman's comments were extraordinary for a man in a profession in which acting on a grudge could affect the outcome of a game. He showed considerably better judgment by not carrying out his threat in the rest of the series.
SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS
The infields at Anaheim Stadium and Wrigley Field are oddly similar: The grass is nearly as high as an elephant's knee and the dirt in front of the plate is almost mushy. The thick growth slows down grounders, and the loosely packed soil cuts down on high choppers, conditions that aid the Angels' and Cubs' aging infielders. That group consists of five Angels—Rod Carew, 37, Bobby Grich, 34, and Doug DeCinces, Tim Foli and Rick Burleson, all 32—plus Cubs Larry Bowa, 37, and Ron Cey, 35. Such groundskeeping apparently has helped. At week's end California was 22-17 at home, 39-37 overall on natural fields and 6-6 on synthetic surfaces. Chicago was 24-16 at home and 34-31 in all games on grass and had the second-worst record in the National League on ersatz greenery—7-18.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
RICKEY HENDERSON: The Oakland A's leftfielder batted .500, going 15 for 30 with three four-hit games. He also scored 10 runs and had three doubles, a triple, a homer, three RBIs and six stolen bases.
"When free agency became a reality a few years ago there was an overt effort to break down the paternalism of the club toward the players," says Astro President and General Manager Al Rosen. "That may hold true when it comes to salary negotiations, but for many players when something goes wrong—illness or trouble of some sort—the first place they turn is to the club."