The Brewers, who used to be Harvey's Wallbangers, are a woeful 12th in the American League in offense, and the lack of support is getting to Don Sutton, who is 3-5 despite a respectable 3.52 ERA. Sutton, who broke down last September after losing a close game, did it again last week after losing 3-0 to Baltimore.
"It hurts to work as hard as I do at my age  and feel like I'm getting nothing for it," he said, trying to blink back the tears. "If we can't win the games I pitch well in, what's going to happen in the games I don't pitch well in? At what point do I throw up my hands and say, 'I can't take it anymore?' "
Ted Simmons, batting .208, is one of the hitters not doing the job. "I hate this," says Simmons, a lifetime .292 hitter who was moved to the second spot in the order by manager Rene Lachemann last week in an attempt to get his bat going. "I'm angry. I'm frustrated. I wonder, 'Why do I have to go through this?' A young kid can't live with it because he's never been 3 for 45. When that happens the first time, it strikes such fear into your mind and body that you think you'll never get a hit again. But it will end. I've been through it so many times. I will get a hit. I will get another."
When the Expos called up first baseman Ron Johnson from Triple A last Thursday, they had to drop a pitcher. The apparent candidates were down to curveballer Greg Harris (0-1, 2 saves, 2.04 ERA) and fastballer Bob James (1-3, no saves, 6.87 ERA). But with James out of options, Harris emerged as the clear, but unhappy, choice for Indianapolis.
The Expos hope that James, who has struggled with his control throughout his career, will recover the form that enabled him to strike out 56 batters in 50 innings after he came up last July.
"This happened to me before at Cincinnati and New York," said Harris, who is 28. "But this is a much greater disappointment. I'm shocked. I've pitched better than Bo [James], and I'll continue to pitch better than Bo."
There was Angel righty Craig Swan explaining to reporters the operation he will need to mend a damaged nerve in his shoulder. And there was teammate Geoff Zahn eavesdropping as Swan described some "nerve testing."
"Is that," Zahn interrupted, "when you enter a game with the bases loaded and nobody out?"
After 11 games the Cardinals were 7-4. Then they lost seven straight. Then they won six of seven. Then they lost seven of nine. Then they won six of seven. Then they lost seven of eight. Then—you guessed it—they got hot again, winning eight of 11. A prediction: If the Cardinals hit a little bit, they'll win the National League East.
See, hitting is their problem, and is the reason they've been so streaky. The bullpen has been brilliant—Bruce Sutter has 14 saves and a 1.11 ERA, and the Cardinal relievers are 10-5 with 16 saves and a 2.42 ERA in 175 innings. And the defense is the best in baseball—the Cardinals have committed 31 errors in 60 games, the fewest in the majors.
But when they were losing seven straight, they scored 11 runs. When they lost seven of nine, they scored nine runs in the seven defeats. When they lost seven of eight, they scored 14 runs in the games lost. They're winning now because George Hendrick is hot and because supersub Andy Van Slyke, playing every day since David Green went on the DL with a drinking problem, is also hitting.
The Rangers may be 24-35, and 57-86 since the '83 All-Star break, but manager Doug Rader is about to get a contract extension. "I want Doug to know that this organization is committed to him," says team president Mike Stone.... "I've pretty much decided hitting for a high average really isn't me," says Vance Law of the White Sox, who's batting only .215 but has nine homers. Last year his BA was .243, but he had only four homers. "I was getting old lining out to right-field."...Yankee reliever Jay Howell may finally be taking advantage of his terrific right arm. He has 47 Ks in 36‚Öì innings.... The Brewers' Peter Ladd, another righty reliever with a terrific arm, isn't prospering as the backup to Rollie Fingers. Ladd saved 25 games last year despite spending a month in Triple A, but this year he's got only two saves and a 7.78 ERA.... Very quietly, Twins rookie second baseman Tim Teufel, last year's International League MVP, is hitting .268 with 14 doubles, six homers, 30 RBIs and 34 walks. Calvin Griffith may be tight, but he sure comes up with young talent.
Remember when people made fun of George Steinbrenner for putting someone in the stands with a walkie-talkie to help position Yankee fielders? Well, other teams copied the Yankees, and bit by bit over the past few years, technology has become more a part of the game. The Brewers, for example, have stationed a man behind home plate with a walkie-talkie to communicate with the pitchers. So if you see a Brewer pitcher wearing what looks like a Walkman, don't worry. He's not listening to Talking Heads. He's finding out about his velocity and pitch location.
The Giants' season had become so dismal that outfielder Jack Clark and others helped convince manager Frank Robinson last Thursday to ditch his nice-guy routine. Of course, in the past some players have ripped him for being too tough and too aloof.
"I had a reputation for being a hardass, and I just felt it was unnecessary," Robinson says of his change in style. "You should be a little kinder and more understanding. I'm trying to come into the mainstream after being in the old school."
"He's been super during this whole time," says Clark, who feuded with Robinson in past seasons but kissed and made up this year and found himself appointed team captain. "But nice guys finish last. I told him, 'We need you to be the guy you were and should be.' "
On Thursday night, after the punchless Astros humiliated the Giants 14-5, Robinson heeded his team's advice. He had said before the game, "There's no sense yelling at them when they're down." But after the game, which included four Giant errors, Robinson closed the clubhouse and yelled.
When Robinson was through, the Giants had learned the following: Rock music would be banned in the clubhouse before and after games; the TV set would be kept off; the postgame buffet would be eliminated; a system of fines for mental mistakes would be instituted; and a 3 p.m. workout stressing fundamentals would be held before Friday night's game against the Astros. Something must have helped, because the Giants won 5-4 to break a seven-game losing streak.
A day before the Twins' Jim Eisenreich went on the voluntary retired list last week because of the nervous disorder that continues to plague him, he had this conversation with teammate Ken Schrom, who asked Eisenreich what his plans were.
"I'm going to play in St. Cloud," Eisenreich said, referring to a semipro team in his hometown.
"Gee," Schrom said, "if you can play there and hit .400, you can play here. I know the quality's not as good, but it's the same game."
"No it's not," Eisenreich answered.
The Phillies have turned only 32 double plays and their immensely talented rookie second baseman, Juan Samuel, seems to be the reason. Samuel's mechanics are faulty, and he bails out too quickly, but this kid is so good and so willing, he's bound to improve.... Braves stopper Steve Bedrosian has allowed four earned runs in 33‚Öî innings, a 1.07 ERA. He's 4-2 with eight saves in nine save opportunities.... "There's no use rushing into games in early June when I could tear something and be out a month," says 43-year-old Pete Rose, who used to regard injuries with disdain. Rose has been out of the Expos' lineup since May 19 with a sore right elbow, and when he returns he will move from left to first, exchanging positions with Terry Francona. Pete's arm can't handle the demands of the outfield anymore.... "We will go down in history," says Astro G.M. Al Rosen, "as the team that gave up home runs to Rafael Landestoy [No. 4 in his career], Mario Ramirez [No. 2] and Brad Wellman [No. 2] in the same week." Worse still, Al, they all came within four days.
The Pirates are last in the NL East and 11th in offense in the league. They also have six quality starters, which would suggest that they trade a pitcher for a hitter. Of course, they've been short on hitting and long on pitching since December, when they lost Dave Parker to free agency and traded Mike Easier to the Red Sox for starter John Tudor.
As the June 15 trading deadline approaches, G.M. Harding Peterson moans that everyone is trying to hold him up in trade talks. But he has himself to blame for the holes in his outfield. He signed 37-year-old free agent Amos Otis—whom the Royals declined to keep after his '83 RBI total dropped by 47—and Otis was unproductive before crashing into a wall and going on the DL. Peterson gambled on rookie Doug Frobel, who's hitting .146.
So Jason Thompson, who may not be an ideal cleanup hitter, bats fourth without a power hitter behind him to offer protection. He's hitting .237 with three homers and 23 RBIs.
Parker, meanwhile, has 35 RBIs batting cleanup for the Reds despite only three home runs. However, two of them came last week. "I've taken a look at the team, and there have been times when we've needed the big plow," he said. "So I'm taking on the role of the fourth hitter." Nice of you to notice, Dave.
Giants second baseman Manny Trillo is getting "shock" treatments for his left hand, broken May 13. A Physio-Stim generates electric impulses to stimulate bone growth. He'll be back next month.
A MODEST PROPOSAL
Last Tuesday night, White Sox first-base coach Dave Nelson made an unusual declaration of love. With the connivance of technicians who work the White Sox' message board and Diamond Vision screen, he proposed to Kathy Gutknecht before the bottom of the fifth inning of a 6-1 loss to the Angels.
As Nelson trotted to the coaching box KATHY, WILL YOU MARRY ME? flashed On the message board. At the same time the Diamond Vision camera focused on the object of Nelson's affections. She was easy to find because Nelson had got her a front-row box seat on the first-base side. He then trotted over to the stands and gave her an engagement ring, which she accepted. Then Nelson kissed his future bride and the game resumed.
Afterward the White Sox Kangaroo Court went into session. Justice was swift, justice was merciless. Nelson was fined $10 for kissing during a game.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
GREG LUZINSKI: The White Sox DH ended a season-long slump (one homer, 11 RBIs) by becoming only the 10th player in big league history to hit grand slams in consecutive games, against the Twins.
"It's fashionable in the American League to walk George Brett," the Royals' Hal McRae said last Wednesday right after Brett was walked in the first inning with Willie Wilson on second and one out. The Royals went on to score three times in the inning in a 5-2 win over the Mariners, and Brett went 0 for 3. "Managers sleep better when he doesn't beat them. If that's the way they want to lose, it's O.K."