If Dwight Gooden had been a Mariner reliever or a San Francisco reserve outfielder like Eddie Milner (who volunteered for drug rehab last week), the words of the commissioner would not have seemed quite so haunting. But now that his honeymoon is over, Peter Ueberroth's pronouncement that "baseball is drug free" is regularly thrown back in his face.
Still, Ueberroth stands by the words in the context in which they were delivered. "What I said after 'baseball is drug free' was that there will be no more scandals, no more Pittsburghs," he says. "There will be firefights, instances and individuals, but because of the peer pressure, the players themselves are trying to—and will—put an end to the problem within the game." Ueberroth says that the major leagues are now beginning to reap the benefits of three years of testing in the minor leagues, and he notes that the sport did go through the 1986 season without major incident. "What existed in 1983-84-85 no longer exists," he says, "and that's what I intended as the context."
As for other matters concerning the state of the game, Ueberroth says:
•Baseball can survive in Seattle in the wake of owner George Argyros's switch to the San Diego Padres and his Southern California roots. "If we can find local ownership, it can work," says Ueberroth. The commissioner is more concerned that the Bay Area may not be able to support two franchises.
•He will not let up on his avowed affirmative-action intentions. "Despite what has been written, approximately 50 percent of the hirings in this office since I took over have been minorities." Ueberroth says he is actively searching for potential management candidates among minorities. He also says he may offer Don Baylor a position in the commissioner's office after the Boston designated hitter retires. He wants to give him the experience he'll need to become a major league general manager.
•The tendency of lawyers on both sides to litigate-arbitrate-grieve is a source of constant frustration and impedes any form of meaningful negotiations between the owners and the players. Late in spring training Ueberroth and agent Randy Hendricks tried to convince the Players Association and the Player Relations Committee to: 1) Drop the May 1 date after which free agents like Tim Raines, Rich Gedman and Ron Guidry could re-sign with their former clubs, and 2) Drop the rule requiring compensation (a first or second round draft choice) for signing Type B free agents such as Danny Heep, Sammy Stewart and Charlie Moore so that they could play before the draft is held on June 4. But both sides held their lines and prevented the players' return.
Ueberroth is learning how defenseless and thankless the baseball commissioner's job can be. And we are learning that he is not exactly what he seemed to be at first glance. He does not possess rolling eloquence, he is not a public relations genius and he really isn't much of a politician. But in terms of dealing with the deep-seated problems of baseball, Ueberroth has been a strong behind-the-scenes persuader and negotiator. He is demonstrating far greater instincts for the integrity of the sport than most of us thought he would.
The honor of the most disappointing start in the National League belongs to Philadelphia (3-9). Naturally, that puts the first noose around the neck of manager John Felske. With no logical replacement on the Phillies staff, owner Bill Giles might have to go outside the organization, and former Phillie and present Met coach Bill Robinson would be a strong candidate. Felske trashed his office after a sloppy April 14 loss to the Mets. After losing the next night, pitcher Kevin Gross chided his manager for pinch-hitting for him in the bottom of the sixth with the Phillies trailing 1-0 and Gross working on a two-hitter, and Felske called him "an immature boy." Pitcher Joe Cowley, who was supposed to shore up the starting rotation, got only five outs in his first two starts, and then had the nerve to blame the media for his pitiful performances. In the meantime, new catcher Lance Parrish was hearing boos for three passed balls, a .160 batting average and 14 straight opponent steals in nine games. The fans didn't perform any better, shouting obscenities at Parrish's wife and exiting in droves during a no-hit bid by Jamie Moyer of the Cubs. It made for a sour atmosphere in a week the town should have been preparing to celebrate Mike Schmidt's 500th homer....
Schmidt did become the 14th player to hit 500 homers when he hit a game-winning shot with two outs in the ninth inning on Saturday in Pittsburgh. He downplayed the milestone: "I don't think it's unbelievable, maybe because I'm the one who hit it. My dad has probably made 37,854 milkshakes in his life at our family restaurant. That's enough ice cream to fill Lake Erie. I think that's unbelievable, but it's not a big achievement to him." Schmidt could conceivably overtake Mel Ott (511), Ernie Banks and Eddie Mathews (512), Ted Williams and Willie McCovey (521), Jimmie Foxx (534) and Mickey Mantle (536) this year....
SI's two preseason picks in the AL, the Indians and the Rangers, had won only a total of four games as of Sunday. Texas (1-10) could blame its pitchers (6.17 ERA), its fielders (an abysmal 12 errors) and its hitters (a .214 average with runners in scoring position). The manager, Bobby Valentine, blames himself. "My attitude going into the year was that I wasn't going to be as fiery with the umpires, I wasn't going to get on other teams' nerves. I was going to try to be more 'professional,' as some people put it. It sure hasn't worked."...
The Cardinals were concerned about John Tudor's shoulder and elbow troubles. But then on Sunday, Met catcher Barry Lyons fell on Tudor going after a pop-up in the Cardinal dugout, breaking a bone in the pitcher's knee and putting him out of action for at least two months....
Kirby Puckett and Reggie Jackson ran into each other after a Twins-Athletics game, and Reggie asked Puckett his weight. Puckett, 5'8", admitted to 215. Jackson, who is 6 feet, said he also weighs 215. Puckett didn't miss a beat, saying, "Yeah, but you're a legend. I'm trying to get there."
This gamer against Pittsburgh made Schmidt the 14th with 500 homers.
Uebie: more substance than style.
No more Mr. Nice Guy: Valentine says he has been too easy on the umpires.
¬¨¬®¬¨¬©TOPPS CHEWING GUM INC.
Happy 71st birthday, "Country."
Baylor: Manager, G.M. or higher?
TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Leach: A leader who loves to win.
BETWEEN THE LINES
THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES
Robert E. (Bob) Hope is an Atlanta public relations executive who joined the Braves board of directors during the winter. Hope, whose rèsumè includes a stint as the club's public relations director and an attempt at an all-women baseball league, was on a committee which selected a timeless slogan for the Braves this year: "Play Ball, Y'all." But Hope outdid even himself when he sent owner Ted Turner a memo suggesting that general manager Bobby Cox take acting lessons. It seems that Hope doesn't like Cox's honest and candid assessments of his second-division team and wants him to sugarcoat the shortcomings. Turner ignored the memo, simply forwarding it to Cox, who exploded. Bob Hope's idea was immediately on the road to oblivion.
THE MOTHERS' HALL OF FAME
John Paciorek played in one game in 1963 (box score line: 3 4 3 3), and Jim Paciorek broke in with Milwaukee the first week of this season. The record, though, for most years between debuts by brothers is held by Jesse (1924) and Art (1954) Fowler.
QUOTES OF THE WEEK
•"Pawtucket was a lot bigger city on the way up than on the way down."—Red Sox infielder Glenn Hoffman, upon his recall from the Rhode Island city.
•"Every statue in New York is smiling."—Braves TV announcer Ernie Johnson, after a fly ball by Atlanta's Dion James smote what Johnson thought was a pigeon but turned out to be a dove.
ONLY ONE HOMER OFF RUTH'S PACE
On the day the Yankees honored the 60th anniversary of their 1927 team, Don Mattingly struck out three times for the first time in his career. Six decades earlier, Babe Ruth fanned three times in his home debut, then went on to hit 60 homers.
THE BASEBALLS ARE A BARGAIN
In the Red Sox yearbook, Oil Can Boyd lists his favorite vacation spot as Haiti.
•When Boston played Texas on April 14, one of the fans was 110-year-old Sam Corwin of Winthrop, the senior citizen of Massachusetts. Corwin was old enough to vote when the Red Sox won the first World Series in 1903, 41 when they won their last Series, 69 when Johnny Pesky held the ball, 90 for the Impossible Dream, 98 when Carlton Fisk hit the foul pole, 101 when Bucky Dent took Mike Torrez over The Wall, and 109 when Mookie Wilson's ground ball went through Bill Buckner's legs.
•The Cubs, who have stolen 100 bases six times in 62 years, were on a 275 pace after 10 games, going 17 for 17. They also succeeded in their last 13 attempts of 1986, giving them 30 straight.
•The Cardinals hit more homers (8) in their six games before their home opener on April 14 than in the entire month of April (7) last year.
•Before giving up an earned run on April 17, Reds relief pitcher Rob Murphy had not yielded an earned run since Aug. 31, 1986.
•When out-of-town scores are announced at the Seattle Kingdome, Mariner fans cheer the Padres' failures and boo their successes. San Diego, of course, is the other woman that owner George Argyros jilted them for.
•San Diego became the first team ever to start a game with three home runs when Marvell Wynne, Tony Gwynn and John Kruk connected against San Francisco's Roger Mason on April 13. But by the time the game was over, the Padres had been outhomered 4-3 and they had been out-scored 13-6.
•Boston ace Roger Clemens and Toronto ace Jimmy Key have faced one another five times since last July 2, with the Blue Jays winning four. Key's record is 3-1 with a 1.91 ERA, while Clemens's is 1-3 with a 3.28 ERA. Each had a no-decision on Sept. 26 when Toronto beat Boston 1-0 in 12 innings.
According to an informal poll of major league managers, coaches and executives, here are 20 active players (six of them minorities) who have the "necessities" to be good managers:
•DON BAYLOR, Red Sox.
In the club yearbook, he lists his postplaying ambitions as becoming "a manager, general manager or the commissioner." The first may be less than his considerable talents deserve, however.
•DARRELL EVANS, Tigers.
"Strong, bright, forceful and decent."
•PHIL GARNER, Astros.
"The first National Leaguer who comes to mind."
•WILLIE UPSHAW, Blue Jays.
"He's so quiet and so nice that outsiders don't realize he's as tough as Baylor or anyone else."
•KEITH HERNANDEZ, Mets.
"The consummate baseball mind. He would have the media waiting on his table."
•HAL McRAE, Royals.
The man who George Brett says taught him how to win.
•ALFREDO GRIFFIN, A's.
Players simply follow him. Anywhere.
•RICK LEACH, Blue Jays.
"A natural leader whose life is geared to winning at everything," says his former manager, Bobby Cox.
•ANDRE DAWSON, Cubs.
"The presence of a five-star general."
•PHIL NIEKRO, Indians.
"A student of the game who brings blue-collar values to a blue-collar sport."
•BILL ALMON, Pirates.
A Brown man, he could follow in the tradition of former Ivy League managers Eddie Collins and Red Rolfe.
•GRAIG NETTLES, Braves.
Cox says Nettles has "knowledge, an ability to have fun and a media touch. He won't be just good, but great."
•GREG GROSS, Phillies.
"He cannot miss at whatever he does in baseball."
•TIM FLANNERY, Padres.
"Tireless and positive."
•BOB BOONE, Unsigned.
An ideal manager, if he doesn't go straight to the front office instead.
•LEE MAZZILLI, Mets.
Forget the old teenybopper image. "He is very tough, he works hard and he can own a town."
•MARTY BARRETT, Red Sox.
"The computer in spikes" has brains, movie-star looks and an orator's tongue.
•TED SIMMONS, Braves.
"For all his intellectual pursuits, he's a hard-rock guy. No player will ever be ahead of him."
•GARTH IORG, Blue Jays
"Tougher than you might think, with the sense of humor to last a whole season."
•JOHNNY RAY, Pirates.
"He knows the game, he knows people and he has the consistent personality to endure," says his appreciative manager, Jim Leyland.