Anderson says he has received support from some of his fellow managers, but privately few of the other skippers agree with his decision, and at least two question his motives. "I think he's in a power struggle with the front office, and he's losing," says one American League manager. Another skipper suggested that Anderson's ego is so big that Anderson believes it is beneath him to work with replacement players.
The 1994 managers of the year, Buck Showalter of the New York Yankees in the American League and Felipe Alou of the Montreal Expos in the National, have expressed misgivings about managing replacement players, even in exhibition games. However, Yankee owner George Steinbrenner was quick to say he expects Showalter to honor his contract to the letter. Alou has yet to be pressured publicly to manage exhibition games.
Elsewhere, Philadelphia Phillie manager Jim Fregosi, whose camp was littered with replacement players whose careers ended years ago (including grandfather-infielder Todd Cruz), watched the pitchers throw every day but had interest in little else. The Cincinnati Reds' Davey Johnson spent the hours leading up to Cincy's first workout fishing on the pond at the Reds' complex. The Cleveland Indians' Mike Hargrove said he had an "attitude crisis" one day but went off by himself for 20 minutes "and got it squared away."
Major league managers, coaches and trainers were invited to meet on Feb. 16 in Orlando with Donald Fehr, the head of the players' union, and to Fehr's surprise it became a loud, contentious session. New York Met skipper Dallas Green and his Pittsburgh Pirate counterpart, Jim Leyland, were among those who upbraided union officials for having threatened to take away licensing money from managers and coaches who worked with replacement players. One manager said he thought Phillie coach Larry Bowa "was going to kill" union general counsel Gene Orza, who made the threats in January and then backed off them two weeks later.
When Torre spoke at the meeting, he was the voice of reason. A key figure in the growth of the players' union in the late 1960s, Torre offered insight into baseball's labor turmoil that few in the game can match. In serving as a player representative from 1964 to '77, including a stint as the National League's rep in 1969, he took a prominent role at the bargaining table next to then union leader Marvin Miller.
During spring training in '69 Torre was a holdout because Atlanta general manager Paul Richards wanted to cut his salary the maximum 20%, and Torre wanted the same money ($65,000) he'd made the year before. In '68 Torre had batted .271 in 115 games and was seriously injured when hit in the face by a pitch. Richards wouldn't budge, so Torre gave Richards his business card—Torre had an off-season job with a municipal-bond firm in New York City—in case Richards changed his mind. According to Torre, Richards dropped the card in the trash can and soon thereafter said, "I don't care if he stays out until Thanksgiving." Two weeks later, on March 17, 1969, Torre was traded to St. Louis for Orlando Cepeda. "Player reps lost a lot of jobs in those days," Torre says.
In '71, with the Cardinals, Torre led the National League in batting (.363), hits (230) and RBIs (137), and was named the league MVP. But when a player strike canceled the first 13 days of the '72 season, he was booed at Busch Stadium on Opening Day. "That hurt—I really had trouble recovering from that," says Torre, who was confronted by fans on the street, even in movie theaters, who loudly questioned why players wanted more money (the strike had been over pension benefits). He got lots of hate mail. "I laughed at some of it," he says. "I don't know if you could laugh at the same mail today."
Torre says if he were a player now, he might be as pro-union as he was 30 years ago, but he acknowledges there has been a change in the rank and file. "We were players, we were athletes," he says. "Players today are celebrities. My problem with the players is they don't understand the history of all this. They think the players' association began when they got to the big leagues. They think, I have it coming to me. That's a bad attitude no matter where you work."
At the same time, Torre wonders how an owner can cry poverty and then sign a player to a $27 million contract. "Obviously no one forces someone to pay those numbers." he says. When this strike's over, Torre says, "both sides are going to get booed."
Adding to the complexity of Torre's spring is the fact that he is in the final year of his contract with the Cardinals. He was nearly fired after last season, when St. Louis went 53-61 before the strike, and if he doesn't win the Central Division this year, he'll probably be out the door. If there's even a chance that replacement-game standings will be carried over after the strike ends, he had better put together a good team this spring. "I'm going into this like it's my last year in St. Louis," he says. "If it's not, fine."