Now that George Steinbrenner has got the drop on the other owners, who will be the next manager to go? In Baltimore, Edward Bennett Williams wishes Joe Altobelli were Earl Weaver. On the South Side of Chicago, Jerry Reinsdorf has already said public opinion could be the death of Tony La Russa. With the season one month old, INSIDE PITCH is ready to reveal which managers are the best bets to be ex-managers before the season is over.
La Russa: 8-5. After last year's collapse, .500 won't do it and that's what the White Sox look like. Time isn't on his side, either: He's had the job since August '79.
Doug Rader: 9-5. The Rangers are 107-154 since the All-Star break in '83.
Whitey Herzog: 2-1. He's not a favorite with Lou Susman, who runs the Cardinals for Gussie Busch. If they put-put along at .500 for too long, he'll be gone, probably to be replaced by Joe Torre.
Billy Martin: 5-2. The players don't want him, and he doesn't get along with the G.M., Clyde King. Besides, the Yankees aren't good enough to win. In August, when they're 10 games out, Martin will be replaced by Lou Piniella.
Pat Corrales: 3-1. The Indians have new ownership and no pitching. So what if it isn't the manager's fault.
Bob Lillis: 4-1. John McMullen is one of the more impatient owners, and the Astros are only a .500 team.
Joe Altobelli: 5-1. Williams is infatuated with Weaver, and last year he called Altobelli a "journeyman" manager. Altobelli's only hope is for his team to stay close all season.
Eddie Haas: 6-1. He has already bunted over runners to take the bat out of Dale Murphy's hands in a game-winning situation. According to one Brave, "He doesn't talk to you. He doesn't act like you're on the same team."
What we have in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh is a failure to communicate. The Phillies' rookie manager, John Felske, was aghast when he found out that owner Bill Giles had recently dangled the possibility of a pinch-hitting job in front of Greg Luzinski, who ate himself out of baseball. Felske's reaction? "One of shock." Was he interested in Luzinski, who retired after no one offered him a free-agent contract last winter? "Only if he was lefthanded."
In Pittsburgh, where manager Chuck Tanner and G.M. Harding Peterson have worked together since '77, there was a difference of opinion on what to do with recently acquired Al Holland.
"We can use Holland as a late-inning reliever," Peterson said, "and that would allow John Candelaria to return to the rotation."
"Holland will work long relief," Tanner said. "John Candelaria is my late-inning lefty."
Remember when we all laughed at Ranger G.M. Tom Grieve after he traded Billy Sample to the Yankees for Toby Harrah this spring with the thought that Harrah would lead off and play, gasp, second base? Well, the joke seems to be on us. Harrah, 36 and coming off a horrible year, is playing a very adequate second base, thank you, even though he had never played the position regularly in his 14 seasons. He's also hitting a mere .339 with a .506 on-base percentage.
Last year, Ranger leadoff men batted .239 and walked 47 times. Harrah already has 19 walks.
"Toby hated New York, and the way he feels about himself and the team and the city are very important because he's a very sensitive guy," says Grieve, who used to be Harrah's roomie. "If I didn't know him as well as I do, I would have been one of the other 25 teams who didn't think he could play anymore."
Says Harrah, "I'm just playing the way I can, and after all, I had only one bad year in the big leagues. What Tag [Grieve] did, trading for me, was a lot more difficult. He has a lot of guts."
Reggie Jackson, an owner? It could happen one day. Jackson, 38, plays for the Angels, but he might become an angel of a different sort for the Oakland A's, who are looking for investors to keep them in the Bay Area.
"I'd hate to see them sell it," says Jackson, a multimillionaire who still has a great many ties to Oakland, the town in which he made his name. "I can't get involved directly now because I'm still playing, but my lawyer [Steve Kay, a San Francisco attorney] has some people who would be willing to buy into the club. We could come up with around $10 million."
It's almost a shame that Reggie can't buy in now. If he hit especially well against the A's, someone could say, "He owns their pitchers."
Padre second baseman Alan Wiggins, who went AWOL last week, has arranged to enter an undisclosed drug rehabilitation center. Wiggins, who signed a four-year, $2 million contract last winter, was hitting .054 when he disappeared. Reportedly, he had also recently separated from his wife.
Wiggins spent time in a rehabilitation center after his arrest for the possession of cocaine in 1982. But his previous problems will not count against him, according to the drug program worked out by the players and owners last year. That program provides for Wiggins to receive his full pay for 30 days, half pay for the next 30 days and the minimum salary, prorated, after that.
The question, though, is whether the Padres will be true to their word. When Wiggins returned to action in '82, team president Ballard Smith said, "I have told Alan if this happens again, it will mean the end of his association with the Padres."
Vince Coleman was supposed to be a year away, but when Willie McGee pulled a muscle, Coleman got a chance to play in the Cardinals' outfield. Now it looks as though he won't be returning to Triple A. Coleman, who set a pro ball record in 1983 with 145 steals (in 113 games!), is hitting .289 and is 11 for 14 stealing in 14 games.... The Cardinals, who had one streak of 17 straight steals, have 36 thefts in 49 tries after 18 games.... When Fernando Valenzuela was 12-17 last year, the Dodgers scored one run or fewer in 13 of his 34 starts. This year, he hasn't even been that lucky. When he was beaten 1-0 by the Padres Sunday on Tony Gwynn's ninth-inning homer, it was the first earned run he had allowed this season in 42 innings. Valenzuela (2-3) has been shut out in two of his starts and received only one run in two others.... When the Mets' Bruce Berenyi went on the DL last week, rookie Roger McDowell replaced him in the rotation. That gave the Mets four starters—Dwight Gooden, Ron Darling, Calvin Schiraldi and McDowell—whose average age is 22½ and whose major league experience going into this season added up to two years and 61 days.... Veteran righty Lary Sorensen, who hooked on with the Cubs this spring, likes what he sees in the clubhouse. "The teams I've been on, three guys, maybe four, would hang out together," he says. "Here, 14 or 15 will go out to dinner, to a concert or some other event. They go around the room saying 'Can we count you in?' and 'Are you coming?' Sure they can count me in." ...Houston righty Mike Scott may finally have found the right off-speed pitch to complement his 90-plus heater: the split-fingered fastball. Scott, 5-11 last season, spent a week in the offseason working with Roger Craig, the guru of the split finger. In two consecutive starts recently, Scott worked 16‚Öì innings and allowed no earned runs and nine hits.... The move to the bullpen seems to be working for Mark Davis, the 24-year-old Giant lefty who was 5-17 last season. He has allowed three runs and seven hits and struck out 23 in 16‚Öì innings.... After John McSherry, a 300-pound umpire, called Pete Rose out on strikes in Houston, Rose told him, "That ball was low, you missed it. If it had been a hamburger, you wouldn't have missed it."
The medical report from Milwaukee combines the good with the bad. Pete Vuckovich, the 1982 AL Cy Young winner who missed most of the past two seasons because of shoulder surgery, has allowed three earned runs over 14 innings in his last two starts. His victory over Chicago last Wednesday came only 948 days after his last win.... Paul Molitor, coming back from elbow surgery, is hitting, but the elbow may not be able to handle the strains of third base on an everyday basis. "Four [straight] games seems to be about my limit," he says.... And Robin Yount, a leftfielder these days because of his aching right shoulder, will not be moving back to short anytime soon. One estimate is July. Don't hold your breath.... John McNamara, the new Red Sox manager, named Jim Rice the team's third captain (Bobby Doerr and Carl Yastrzemski were the others). According to McNamara, "He pays the price to be a leader." Said Rice, "You can put numbers up but it's nice to have public recognition of leadership." No one works harder than Rice, who plays hurt and never offers excuses.... When the Brewers scored five times in the ninth to beat Detroit 11-7, they ended a Tiger streak of 107 straight games in which ninth-inning leads had stood up. Willie Hernandez, severely hampered by a bronchial condition, was a spectator, having been forced to take himself out of the game after the eighth.... What game is Dave Rozema playing? "I'm not going out there thinking I have to pitch nine innings every game," says the Rangers pitcher. "If I pitch six and a quarter, seven and a quarter innings and keep my team in the game, I've done my job." ...After the O's Scott McGregor was knocked out in the second inning by Texas on April 22, he was one bored lefthander. "He asked us if he could come down and help warm up the pitchers," said backup catcher Floyd Rayford. "I told him we had that taken care of. Then he wanted to know if he could warm up the outfielders. I told him we had that taken care of, too." Said McGregor, "The sad thing is that I got here at two and played only 20 minutes. You should be able to go out and coach or something." ...A's shortstop Alfredo Griffin, who walked four times in 419 at bats for Toronto last season, already has five walks this season.... Joe Carter and Otis Nixon, a pair of young Indian outfielders, are road roomies. Teammates call their hotel digs The Presidents' Room.
RONALD C. MODRA
The Chicago skipper may be the next to go.
Phillies reliever Larry Andersen volunteered to be the guide for 15-year-old Damon Ravenel, a terminally ill Charleston, S.C. kidney transplant patient, when Ravenel visited the team's Clearwater, Fla. training camp this spring thanks to his hometown's Make-A-Wish Foundation. Andersen was so moved by the experience that he asked the foundation if Damon could make a trip to Philadelphia during the season. When told that funds were lacking for more than one trip per child, Andersen picked up the tab for Damon to come to Philadelphia last weekend and watch the series between the Phillies and the Cubs.
Boy, when Peter Ueberroth takes over, he really makes sure things are run efficiently. When all 13 games were played as scheduled on April 26, a major league record was set: There had not been a single postponement because of weather in 206 games. The old record date: April 25, 1960, back when there were only 16 teams in the majors.
FOR ROSE AND HIS REDS, IT'S COBB OR BUST
On April 14, in New York, collector Barry Halper gave Pete Rose an 80-pound bronze bust of Ty Cobb for his birthday. The Reds took Cobb to Atlanta, where they started a seven-game winning streak. Now equipment manager Bernie Stowe makes sure Cobb goes wherever the Reds go. Before their games, the players dress Ty in different ways, sometimes with flip-down sunglasses. Rose, 81 hits away from Cobb's record, 4,191, says he isn't superstitious, but whenever he walks by the bust, he gives Ty a little tap.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
MICKEY HATCHER: Minnesota's left-fielder broke out of a slump with nine straight hits against the A's on Saturday and Sunday to tie the American League record for consecutive hits in two games.
Now that the Tigers have fallen out of first place—briefly—after residing there for a record 198 straight days, it's time to start rooting for them to stay on top. There have been six different world champs the past six seasons, and baseball could use a powerhouse team to look up to, or root against.
See, the game needs a team that sets a standard of excellence, a team we can talk about in the 1990s, the way we talk now about the feisty, hairy A's of the early '70s, the '75-76 Big Red Machine and the '77-78 Yankee Bronx Zoo.
Fans enjoy powerful teams with distinct identities, and the Bless You Boys could be next in the line of great clubs. So...Go Tigers! Win another World Series.
"As a pinch hitter, if you're 1 for 4 you're doing your job," said Texas's Alan Bannister, a utility player who once led the American League with 40 errors. "Defensively they won't let you go 1 for 4. I've tried it."