Chicago management decided that the way to improve the Cubs' performance was to start having strategy meetings before every game. They have had so many meetings, in fact, that the get-togethers are beginning to bother the players, who think the culprit is team vice president Larry Himes, not Trebelhorn. "We hold so many meetings that by the time we get on the field, no one knows what to think anymore," says Chicago third baseman Steve Buechele. "This game is played by instinct, not by radar guns and charts and computers and all that other crap they throw at us."
This latest minirevolt against Himes adds to his reputation as one of the least-liked executives in baseball. Don't be surprised if he is fired by the end of the season if the team's fortunes don't improve.
Who Is Mr. Clutch?
We posed that question to all 28 major league managers by asking them which player in their league, with runners at first and second, two out and the score tied in the ninth, would have the best chance of driving the run home? (The managers were not allowed to vote for one of their own players.) The winners were both clear-cut: Blue Jay Paul Molitor and Giant Barry Bonds.
The results certainly weren't a surprise, but the margins of victory were. In the American League, Molitor received eight of the 14 votes, the White Sox's Frank Thomas got three, and Blue Jays Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar and Ranger Will Clark got one each. Tiger skipper Sparky Anderson, who chose Molitor, said, "I wouldn't even pause. I want to see him batting cleanup on a team where the first three hitters get on base 700 times. I promise you Molitor would knock in more runs than Frank Thomas or anyone. Molitor knows how to get a base hit."
The National League managers were just as unhesitating. Bonds received nine of the 14 votes, the Cubs' Mark Grace got two, and there was one each for the Cubs' Ryne Sandberg, the Reds' Kevin Mitchell and the Padres' Tony Gwynn. Met skipper Dallas Green picked Bonds, saying, "It's pretty much a no-brainer, isn't it? Is there a better hitter in the game? There's not a pitch he can't handle. And he's got discipline and power." Phillie manager Jim Fregosi agreed and paid Bonds probably an even higher compliment, saying, "I'd probably walk him."
Sending a Message
Hats off to Padre manager Jim Riggleman for benching outfielder Phil Plantier, who failed to hustle on a fly ball he hit against the Mets while leading off the second inning on April 27. The towering fly landed untouched in leftfield when New York's Kevin McReynolds lost sight of the ball, but Plantier, who could have had a double, had to settle for a single because he wasn't running hard. So Riggleman yanked him, leading to an ugly scene in the dugout as Plantier stalked after the manager, complaining bitterly.
In Plantier's defense, he has played hard since joining the Padres last year and he has been playing with a sore ankle this season. But running hard to first base should be the least a player can do. And remember, this isn't the first time Plantier has had a clash with a manager. Red Sox manager Butch Hobson complained about Plantier's work ethic during the 1992 season, and that helped precipitate the trade that sent Plantier to San Diego for pitcher Jose Melendez.
The question now is how Plantier will react after being shown up by his manager. Sadly, players today don't often respond well to such criticism.