The way manager Jim Frey looks at it, he and third-base coach Don Zimmer will be "double-dating for the first time in 35 years." Frey and Zimmer do go back a ways. They began playing ball together in Cincinnati when they were both in their early teens, and they both graduated from Western Hills High, a veritable cornucopia of baseball talent that includes among its alumni Pete Rose, Eddie Brink-man, Russ Nixon, Dick Drott, Herm Wehmeier and Art Mahaffey.
Frey and Zimmer went their separate ways in 1949 when Zimmer signed with the Dodgers, and they weren't reunited until this past winter when Frey was hired as manager and, in turn, hired Zimmer. As a matter of fact, Frey is having a reunion of sorts with his boss, because it was Cub general manager Dallas Green, then managing the Phillies, who defeated Kansas City, then managed by Frey, in the 1980 World Series.
Frey and Green may once have been rivals, but they share a common, though not especially original, theory that teams should be built from the pitching staff upward. Frey spent 15 years in the Baltimore organization, where, as he put it, "We always took care of the pitching first, figuring that the other ingredients would come afterward. You can have a good hitting team, but there'll be periods in a season when the runs will be tough to come by. That's when you've got to win those 2-1 and 1-0 games. And that takes pitching."
Unfortunately, the Cubs are the living antithesis of that argument. They are, as usual, good-hit-no-pitch, although the addition of Scott Sanderson, acquired in a deal with Montreal, could help some. Sanderson didn't pitch much in '83 after he injured a thumb in July, but he seemed healthy enough this spring. He'd better be, because, aside from Chuck Rainey and Dick Ruthven, Frey doesn't have much in the way of dependable starting pitchers, and he'd like to give some rest to stellar relievers Bill Campbell and Lee Smith, who between them worked in 148 games last season. Campbell, in particular, "just seemed to run out of gas," says his new manager, who observed the Cubs last year while serving as the Mets' hitting coach.
"If I'm on the hot seat," says Frey, who's grateful just to be managing again, "it's a position I enjoy. Everybody tries to analyze himself from time to time. When I got fired in Kansas City [in 1981], I felt bad about it. I thought I'd done a good job. But I do think I might've paid more attention to the human elements in this game. I think I'm prepared now to spend more time trying to understand the individual needs of my players." Alas, this team passeth understanding.
Chicago had the majors' worst record in night games (20-36, .357). But at friendly, unlit Wrigley Field they were 43-38, .531. With 701 runs and 140 homers, the Cubs were second in the league in runs and third in home runs. Day or night, they were at their best when they were on the field; their 115 errors were an all time team low.