When 31-year-old Dave Dombrowski took over the general manager's duties from Montreal Expo vice-president Bill Stoneman on July 5, few people south of the Canadian border took notice. But a lot happened in Dombrowski's first 10 days on the job. The Expos picked up three games on the division-leading New York Mets in less than a week. Then Dombrowski made significant trades with the Cincinnati Reds and the Chicago Cubs to get a pair of good outfielders, Tracy Jones and Dave Martinez, and an outstanding pitching prospect, Pat Pacillo, in exchange for outfielders Herm Winningham and Mitch Webster, catcher Jeff Reed and pitcher Randy St. Claire. And when those deals were done, Dombrowski said, "We think we can still win the National League East."
Dombrowski says that the spark that ignited the previously inert Expos came from two players Montreal signed as minor league free agents last winter, 29-year-old outfielder Otis Nixon and 27-year-old second baseman Rex Hudler. Nixon, a career .211 hitter, stole 19 bases in 23 games after being called up in June from Indianapolis. Hudler, who has hit .153 lifetime, stole eight in his first 17 games. "They give us as much speed as any duo," says Dombrowski. If Nixon fades, Expo manager Buck Rodgers can platoon Jones and Martinez in centerfield. And Dombrowski is convinced that the bats of Andres Galarraga, Tim Raines, Tim Wallach and Hubie Brooks can get Montreal enough runs to support its pitching staff. "Our pitching is certainly good enough to win," says Dombrowski. He may be right, because Pascual Perez (6-3, 1.58 ERA) is back in action after missing six weeks with a broken finger. "He may be the top starter in the league," says Dombrowski. "Dennis Martinez [10-7, 2.51 ERA] is outstanding. The two kids, Brian Holman and John Dopson, have been great. And our bullpen [led by Jeff Parrett's 10 wins, including an 8-0 record in extra-inning games] is as good as any."
By the end of the week the Expos had won nine of 11 games, but were still 8½ games behind the Mets, so they may not have a realistic shot at winning the division this year. But wait till 1989. Just look at Montreal's pitching: Behind Holman and Dopson are a stellar Triple A trio, including 6'10" lefthander Randy Johnson and righthanders Sergio Valdez and Pacillo.
EVERYBODY'S FAVORITE CAT
Why do the Detroit Tigers keep winning? For an answer, consider two out-of-the-spotlight scenes at the All-Star Game in Cincinnati. Tiger Alan Trammell, voted the AL's starting shortstop but unable to play because of an elbow injury, showed up anyway, in uniform. During batting practice, while other All-Stars played Home Run Derby, Trammell picked up the loose balls around the infield for the BP pitchers. Then during the game, whenever an AL pitcher warmed up in the bullpen along the leftfield line, Trammell performed a task usually assigned to a coach or a ball boy: He went out to protect the bullpen workers from batted balls. "Everyone on the bench was talking about it," said AL manager Tom Kelly. "Damnedest thing I've ever seen. Here's maybe the best player there is, and he acts like a clubhouse kid. What a person."
MAC: THE KNIFE
The firing of John McNamara as manager of the Boston Red Sox showed just how divided the club's top officials are. When the announcement was made at a press conference Thursday, CEO Haywood Sullivan expressed his objection to the firing, while general manager Lou Gorman said, "I'm just an employee." The decision was made, of course, by principal owner and president Jean Yawkey, and it was not an unpopular one with the vast majority of Bosox players. Late reliever Lee Smith had groused about McNamara's using him too early; twice Smith had been called into games in the seventh inning. Younger players like Mike Greenwell, Todd Benzinger and Jody Reed had for weeks been asking older hands when Mac would get the ax. Ace righthander Roger Clemens has not been a McNamara fan since the skipper pulled Clemens from Game 6 of the 1986 World Series and told the press, "My pitcher asked out." For her part, Yawkey seemed to hold McNamara responsible for several instances of unseemly behavior by players on buses and planes and in hotel lobbies, some of them resulting from the palimony suit filed against Wade Boggs.
Interim manager Joe Morgan, who skippered the Pawtucket farm club from 1974 to '82, won his first four games as the Bosox skipper and could end up with the job permanently. He is very popular with most of the players, some of whom, like Boggs and Marty Barrett, worked for him in the minors. Former Mets and Atlanta Braves manager Joe Torre and St. Louis Cardinals pitching coach Mike Roarke are other candidates for the job.
As Morgan took over, the Red Sox signed Larry Parrish, who had just been released as the Texas Rangers' DH. McNamara had planned to use Parrish in rightfield, move Dwight Evans from right to first and bench Benzinger. But Morgan plans to stick with Benzinger and Evans, using Evans in right when Dewey feels healthy. So Parrish's presence will only turn up the heat under DH Jim Rice. What happens, said Gorman, "will depend on Rice." Rice's answer? The night Parrish signed (but hadn't yet reported), Rice was dropped from sixth to seventh in the batting order and went 5 for 6 in a doubleheader.
Bobby Witt returned to the Texas Rangers after an eight-week Triple A stint in Oklahoma City and pitched his two best games of the season, a five-hit 2-1 loss to the Orioles and a 3-0 shutout of the Brewers, each time going the distance. Says Rangers manager Bobby Valentine, "People make it sound as if a career is over when a player is sent back to the minors. That's not so. A trip to the minors can be a constructive chance for a young player to get his feet on the ground. Witt came back and was throwing naturally, the way he used to. Going back gave him the chance to realize how tough it is for players to hit against him."...In their search for a lefthanded hitter to replace the injured Dave Parker, the Oakland Athletics have zeroed in on Fred Lynn of the Orioles, Harold Baines or Greg Walker of the White Sox and Ken Griffey of the Braves. Baltimore wants no more than either Luis Polonia or Stan Javier plus a minor leaguer for Lynn, who has hit 17 homers, but the A's have been reluctant for two reasons: 1) Lynn's salary is nearly $1.5 million; and 2) he has a no-trade clause in his contract and wants even more money before he okays a deal.
A MESSY NEST
Just two years ago the Toronto Blue Jays were acknowledged to have the best outfield in baseball. George Bell, Lloyd Moseby and Jesse Barfield were all only 26, and the three seemed destined to spend a decade together, perhaps as the nucleus of a dynasty. At the 1987 All-Star break they had 62 homers among them; Bell ended up with 47 and the American League MVP trophy. But at this year's break, the trio had but 25 homers. Bell had only 11 and seemed unhappy about everything. Moseby had been moved from center-field to right, and Barfield was not only benched, but he was also being shopped around for a second baseman or a centerfielder. The Jays are convinced that Barfield is near the end of his productive years; his defense has deteriorated almost as much as his power has. If true, that would be sad—two years ago Bar-field led the league with 40 homers.
•Speaking of George Bell, his 20-year-old brother, Juan, has progressed so rapidly in the Los Angeles Dodger organization that he has been jumped from San Antonio to Albuquerque, where he recently replaced Mariano Duncan. Bell is now establishing himself as the Dodger shortstop of the future.
•Larry Bowa is likely to surface as a Philadelphia Phillie coach next season. But what about third baseman Mike Schmidt? Schmidt announced that he would like to return to the club in 1989, but president Bill Giles did not jump up and down. Giles said that such a decision would be his, not Schmidt's, and that he has not yet made up his mind on his plans for the future Hall of Famer.
•The San Francisco Giants are shopping for a power hitter, and they also are quietly looking for another pitcher so they can try to keep pace with the Dodgers. Giants righthander Mike Krukow is still on the disabled list, lefty Dave Dravecky won't be back until at least early August, and manager Roger Craig is concerned about 39-year-old righty Rick Reuschel's back.
BETWEEN THE LINES
THE CYCLE OF FAME
When the Giants' Chris Speier hit for the cycle on July 9, he joined some exclusive company. Because he had also hit for the cycle as an Expo in 1978. Speier became:
•The fourth player to perform the feat for two different teams. (The others were Joe Cronin, Washington. 1929, and Boston Red Sox, 1940; Babe Herman, Brooklyn, 1931, and Chicago Cubs, 1933; and Bob Watson, Houston, 1977, and Boston, 1979.)
•The third player to do so in seasons at least 10 years apart. (The others were Cronin and Joe DiMaggio, New York Yankees, 1937 and 1948.)
A STRIKING SUCCESS
Montreal Expo first baseman Andres Galarraga finished last week as the National League's top hitter with a .335 average, but with 88 strikeouts. Only two major league batting champions struck out more than 100 times: Roberto Clemente (103) in 1967 and Dave Parker (107) in 1977.
THE BONDS MARKET
Pittsburgh Pirate outfielder Barry Bonds has had his ups and downs. He went 14 for 34 to start the season and also had 13 consecutive extra-base hits. Then he went 7 for 60 to drop his average from .368 to .239, recovered to go 10 for 23 and followed soon with an 0 for 17 stretch. As of Sunday he was hitting .301.
•Through Sunday, the American League East teams were three games ahead of the AL West clubs in interdivisional play.
•Chicago Cub shortstop Shawon Dunston has more intentional walks (five) than unintentional walks (three).
•How often do the Philadelphia Phillies strike out? Sixteen National League pitchers reached their season highs in strikeouts against them.
•Oakland A's reliever Dennis Eckersley had 26 saves by July 10, the most anyone has ever had at the All-Star break. He had 36 between last year's and this year's breaks.
•The Minnesota Twins are 17-3 in games started by Frank Viola, 34-36 otherwise.
•Pittsburgh centerfielder Andy Van Slyke had 14 homers, 14 triples, 13 doubles and 13 stolen bases through last weekend. He has a chance to become the first player to reach 20 in each of those categories since Willie Mays did it in 1957.
•When the Detroit Tigers' Jack Morris lost to the California Angels on July 14 and dropped his record to 7-10, it marked the first time he was three games under .500 since he was 1-4 in 1978.
•One reason for the Kansas City Royals' inconsistency: Leadoff hitter Willie Wilson's on-base percentage is .295, and he has an astounding walk-strikeout ratio of 8 to 73.