Hubie Brooks thinks about the trade all the time. The numbers just didn't add up. Exchanging one player straight-up for four didn't seem right, especially when he was one of the four. Then he had to read stories that lauded the great deal his old team got. That's what really galled him.
"I'm tired of hearing that the Mets got Gary Carter for a song and a dance," says Brooks. "I may not be able to sing, but, boy, am I going to dance."
New Expos manager Buck Rodgers has kept Brooks's dance card filled this spring with a new partner, Vance Law, a newcomer himself, from the Chicago White Sox. Every day in spring training they took 50 to 60 grounders and tried to shuffle-step through double plays, Brooks at short to Law at second. With Dan Driessen at first and Tim Wallach at third, the infield is made up of four former third basemen.
"We've all played third base but that doesn't mean we're third basemen," says Law. On a team with a Raines and a Shines, anything is logical.
Actually, Brooks and Law have quite a bit in common. In college, Brooks, who attended Arizona State, played against Law, a Brigham Young man; they were both drafted in 1978; neither wanted to be traded; and both must learn unfamiliar positions on an unfamiliar surface.
The two are supposed to give Montreal added offensive punch and perform workmanlike jobs in the field. In 1984, the eight Expos who played second or short had a cumulative batting average of .227 and hit zero home runs. Brooks and Law averaged .269 and combined for 33 homers. "We wanted to get one good athlete at short or second," says general manager Murray Cook. "We felt fortunate to get two."
"We don't expect either to be Ozzie Smith, but we don't expect them to be good hit/no field either," says Rodgers. "This will give us a balanced lineup." Brooks may have a way to go, however. He had eight errors through 17 spring training games, two coming in one bleak afternoon against—how humiliating!—the Mets, on ground balls hit by—yes—one G. Carter. Later, a frustrated Brooks said, "It wasn't my decision to play this position."
Soon after, the Expos started using videotapes to show Brooks what he was doing wrong: His stance was too flat footed for a shortshop, and he was throwing across his body, instead of over it. "I don't think we're as bad as Abbott and Costello out there, but we have a lot of work to do," says Law.
Many people claim the measure of a team's mettle is straight up the middle: catcher, shortstop, second base and centerfield. With two third basemen in the double-play slot, another former Met, sophomore Mike Fitzgerald, behind the plate and yet another ex-Met, rookie Herm Winningham, in center, Montreal's middle could be a muddle.
These are lean times for the once-vaunted Team of the '80s. The Expos never did win the division title that was expected of them, and now they seem to be one of the worst teams in the majors. Says pitcher Steve Rogers, "We've been disbanded. We are no longer a nucleus of superstars. [Andre] Dawson and I are the last two." Rogers is trying to come back from a 6-15 season, and Dawson, who hit .248 in 1984, has bad knees.
"If something happens to Dawson's knees this year," says Cook, "I'm applying for a job as a sportscaster."
If this puts more pressure on Brooks and Law, nobody will admit it. "We don't have to go out and be Fred and Ginger right away," says Law. "A lot of people have written us off," says Brooks, "but then, as a former Met, I guess I'm used to that."