When Dallas Green assembled his coaching staff in a Dearborn, Mich., hotel room last Friday to tell them he had been fired and that Bucky Dent was replacing him as the Yankee manager, he broke out laughing. It appears that even the people George Steinbrenner fires find him amusing.
Steinbrenner can't stand to be laughed at. In early August, according to one coach, Steinbrenner met with Green and his coaches to reprimand them for the team's miserable record in games in which they were behind after the seventh inning; Green ridiculed the owner for not knowing that almost every team loses in that situation. Green also publicly ridiculed Steinbrenner for taking the Yankee scouts off the road after the All-Star break, and called him Manager George in the press. Then, when Steinbrenner asked for a 2 p.m. meeting with Green on Aug. 16, Green refused, saying "I'll be at the park, working."
Steinbrenner isn't used to that kind of treatment. It became only a matter of time before Friday's confrontation, when Green and four of his coaches were told to pack up. Said one Yankee coach, "Dallas was relieved to be away from the ridiculous garbage that goes on around the Yankees." Green doesn't have to worry about finding a job: While the Yankees have gone without a first-place finish for seven seasons—longer than any AL East team but Cleveland—Green has a strong rèsumè. He built the Phillies as director of minor leagues in the '70s and then managed the team to a world championship in 1980. He took over as general manager of the Chicago Cubs in 1982, and in '84 the Cubs went on to postseason play for the first time in 39 years. He developed a farm system there that produced Damon Berryhill, Mark Grace, Rafael Palmeiro, Shawon Dunston, Jerome Walton and Dwight Smith. Green is already rumored to be in line for jobs in San Diego, Cincinnati and Boston.
As for Steinbrenner, he seems to have become a prisoner of the tabloids, living for the instant gratification of one day's back-page headline in a business in which it takes years to build an organization.
What he cannot accept is that these Yankees just aren't very good. The starting pitchers have an ERA of 4.84, the worst in baseball. They don't have a first or second starter or a legitimate No. 4 or No. 5 hitter. The immediate reaction of the Yankee players to the firing was confusion. "The guys we lost [Green and his coaches] worked their tails off and never quit on us," said first baseman Don Mattingly. "We've had it happen before, but this was very confusing." The Yankees lost their next three games.
And the future? Dent will be a dutiful servant, as his—or was it Steinbrenner's?—first lineup made clear. In it, Mattingly batted second and Roberto Kelly third, a slap at Green, who had refused to move Kelly up from ninth despite his .333 average.
The only hope for the Yankees is to lure one of the four big free-agent-to-be pitchers—Mark Langston, Mark Gubicza, Bryn Smith or Mark Davis—to New York. But even if the Yankees succeed in signing one of them, there is no hope of building an effective organization with talented, decent men as long as Steinbrenner is around.
Tom Drees has done something no one had ever done before at the Triple A level: On Aug. 16 he pitched his third no-hitter of the season—a 5-0 victory over Las Vegas—for the Vancouver Canadians, part of the White Sox organization. (Bill Bell pitched three no-hitters for Bristol, Va., at the Class D level in 1952; and in 1908, Walter Justus threw four for Lancaster of the Ohio State League.) Drees, who threw consecutive no-hitters in May, is such a hero in Vancouver that the club commissioned a painting of him and has given away 4,000 copies of it. Another night, they handed out 1,000 baseballs that Drees had signed.
You might ask what a 26-year-old lefthander with three no-hitters is doing in the minors. "He's got a long way to go to be a big league pitcher," says Vancouver manager Marv Foley. "He's been up and down. And remember, he's coming off an operation [arthroscopic surgery was done on his throwing shoulder last winter]."
White Sox general manager Larry Himes was at last week's seven-inning gem—two of the three no-hitters have been seven-inning games—and was noncommittal as to whether Drees would be called up in September. "He's on his way, but we want to make sure he's fully recovered from the operation," said Himes.
The White Sox thought so little of Drees this spring that they included him in a list of players they would throw into a deal they were discussing with the Tigers. "He has a below-average fastball," admits Foley. "And he has more walks than strikeouts." This year, Drees has an 11-10 record. He was 30-31 in his four previous pro seasons. Says one scout who has seen Drees: "Drees gets behind too many hitters. Guys with his stuff can get behind 2 and 1 on Triple A hitters, but big league hitters will kill them."
BEST IN CLASS
No one, especially not Cub manager Don Zimmer, expected that Jerome Walton would be hitting .309 midway through August and have the longest hitting streak of the season—30 games through Sunday. When Walton made the jump from Double A this spring, Zimmer knew from his reports that he "was the kind of defensive centerfielder we needed and that he had the speed we needed at the top of the order. I said if he hit .260 in spring training, that was enough to win the job." Many scouts were skeptical about Walton's hitting. He starts with an exaggerated open stance, then pulls in and dives into the pitch. "You should be able to eat him alive with fastballs on the inner part of the plate," says one scout, "but he has such extraordinarily quick hands that he's handled everything so far. His hands are like a [Rod] Carew's or [Tony] Fernandez's." Only a final-month nosedive or another severe hamstring pull, like the one that sidelined him for 28 games earlier this season, will keep Walton from winning the NL Rookie of the Year award.
Brewers second baseman Jim Gantner had his season—and possibly his career—cut short by an illegal rolling block by Yankee rookie Marcus Lawton on Aug. 15. Gantner suffered ligament damage to his left knee. Milwaukee general manager Harry Dalton calls the injury "a critical double loss." The obvious loss is on the field; Gantner has hit .331 in 33 games since the All-Star break. Now Dalton will have to deal for a new second baseman, when what he really wanted was another starting pitcher. The second element of the loss is that the 35-year-old Gantner is a fiery team leader. Along with Robin Yount and Paul Molitor, he called a players-only clubhouse meeting in Kansas City after the club lost its first six games following the break and fell into sixth place, 12 games behind Baltimore on July 18. The meeting got a lot of feelings out in the open, and since then the team has gone 23-10 and moved into second place, a half game behind the O's.
EJECT THE IMPS
The refusal by National League president Bill White to suspend Reds manager Pete Rose for the shoving incident last Tuesday with umpire Joe West was an unofficial acknowledgment that umpires sometimes antagonize players, coaches and managers. "I'm very concerned about the escalation of baiting by umpires, which too often gets players ejected for no reason," says Cincinnati general manager Murray Cook. A case in point might be umpire Joe Brinkman, who lost his temper during a game on Aug. 13 and went after Oakland catcher Ron Hassey. Brinkman had to be restrained by A's manager Tony La Russa. On July 15, Minnesota's mild-mannered DH Jim Dwyer backed out of the box after what he thought was a terrible first-pitch strike call and said, "The ball was outside." Umpire Greg Kosc snapped, "Get the——out of here," infuriating Dwyer, who swore back. Dwyer then was tossed by Kosc for using the same word the umpire had used. "It all goes back to Peter Ueberroth's sellout to get the umps back on the field in the '84 playoffs," says one general manager. Says Montreal manager Buck Rodgers, "Now umpires can't be fired, and there's no reward for competency because they take turns on the playoffs and World Series. Players and managers have to perform to be rewarded; so should umpires."
BETWEEN THE LINES
WELCOME TO THE SHOW
Tiger manager Sparky Anderson approached the mound to remove rookie pitcher Brian DuBois in the seventh inning of a game with the Yankees on Aug. 17. DuBois, who was trailing 2-0 in his major league debut, saw Anderson reach out to him. Not realizing that the manager was asking for the ball, DuBois ripped the glove off his right hand and shook Anderson's hand.
CURVES UP AHEAD
Boston pitchers recently found out why they were giving up so many hits on breaking balls this season. "A lot of teams had our signs," says pitcher Roger Clemens. It seems right-fielder Dwight Evans likes to know what the pitchers are about to throw, so he has second basemen Marty Barrett and Jody Reed relay the catcher's signs by flashing them behind their backs. "In some parks where the bullpens are in centerfield, opposing players were picking up the signs and flashing them to their own hitters," says Clemens. And how did the Red Sox finally figure out that their code had been broken? "One of the Texas players sent me a note telling me that they were getting them that way," says Clemens, who refused to reveal his benefactor's name.
Phillie manager Nick Leyva, who celebrated his 36th birthday last week, says, "Once a man begins managing, his age should be calculated like a dog's—one year equals seven human years."
When former White Sox outfielder Harold Baines returned to Comiskey Park with the Texas Rangers on Aug. 17, the family of Chicago shortstop Ozzie Guillen held up a banner that read, WELCOME BACK, HAROLD. In similarly fond fashion, the White Sox retired Baines's number 3 last Sunday.
THE STEPHEN KING DOME
Rangers pitcher Charlie Hough allowed just one hit in nine innings of a game with the Seattle Mariners on Aug. 15. Meanwhile, Texas got 13 off Seattle pitching. Seattle won 2-0. The Rangers, who had the most hits by a scoreless team since 1928, were 13 for 31 with either no one on base or a runner on first, and 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position. The two Seattle runs came this way: 1) on a Harold Reynolds single, followed by a balk, a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly; and 2) on a walk, a stolen base and a three-base error by Steve Buechele.
•Toronto has won 15 straight games at Fenway Park, out-scoring the Red Sox 126-52.
•Milwaukee pitcher Ted Higuera's lifetime record after the All-Star break is 46-15.
•The A's and Angels together have as many 10-game winners (eight) as the entire seven-team AL East.
•Jamie McAndrew, the son of former Met Jim McAndrew, is 10-0 for the Dodgers' Great Falls club in the Pioneer League.
•Dodger first baseman Eddie Murray has hit four of his 15 home runs at night this season. He insists he doesn't need glasses, however.