?"In two years [Pirate second baseman] Jose Lind may be the best infielder in the game," says Cubs scout Charlie Fox. "If he and Ozzie Smith played in the same infield, there might not be such a thing as a ground single."
BACK TO THE ZOO
When former Yankee reliever Sparky Lyle returned to the Bronx for Old-Timers' Day last week, he expected to see his ex-boss, George Steinbrenner, in the clubhouse before the game. "I'm waiting for George to come in here and chew our butts out just for the hell of it," he said. "It wouldn't be right to send this team out on the field without really giving it to us one last time."
Unlike many Yankees, Lyle has fond memories of Steinbrenner's clubhouse harangues. "We'd lose a game and hear that he was coming down," Lyle added. "We'd sit in front of our lockers with our heads down, acting ashamed. He'd come busting through the clubhouse doors and say, 'You're damn right. You should be hanging your heads after the way you played.' And then he'd go into his 'Down on the Docks' talk. He'd say, 'You guys don't know how good you've got it. How would you like to work down on the docks? You wouldn't last because you have to have guts.' Then he'd leave and we'd all crack up. We'd win the next day and George would think he was a genius for getting us fired up."
CHINKS IN THE ARMOR
The Mets' midseason slump has been attributed to a number of factors, ranging from the absence of injured first baseman Keith Hernandez to an overall lack of intensity. But one scout spoke for many analysts last week when he said, "Once you get away from their pitching, the team itself simply isn't that good. Without Hernandez, their one outstanding everyday player is Darryl Strawberry. Period." The Mets' biggest concern is catcher Gary Carter, who has been trying for 10 weeks to hit his 300th homer and is having trouble throwing out base runners. Another problem area is the defense, which accounted for 16 unearned runs in the last 23 games. Earlier this year people scoffed when Mets pitcher Bobby Ojeda said, "We're not as good as we were in 1986." It appears that Ojeda was right.
The Athletics had worked out a deal with the Orioles to trade outfielder Luis Polonia and a minor leaguer for Baltimore outfielder Fred Lynn. But when Lynn asked for a raise and an extra year on his contract, which runs out next year and will earn him $1.45 million in '88 and $1.55 million in '89, the Oakland front office declined, suspecting that Lynn cares more about money than about playing for a winning team. Meanwhile, two of Lynn's teammates—first baseman Eddie Murray and pitcher Mike Boddicker—have told opposing players that they would be willing to crawl to get on a contending team. Boddicker could get his wish soon if the Orioles and the Red Sox can agree on a trade involving Boston rookie outfielder Brady Anderson.
MISSING THE BOAT
Chaos reigned in the Mariners' front office last week when they traded designated hitter Ken Phelps to the Yankees for outfielder Jay Buhner and two other players, and outfielder Glenn Wilson to the Pirates for outfielder Darnell Coles. "The general manager [Dick Balderson] has no power, the club president [ Chuck Armstrong] was out of town, and the owner [ George Argyros] was on a boat," said one frustrated general manager who wanted to make a bid for Phelps. "It was ridiculously confusing." Pirate general manager Syd Thrift was able to complete the deal for Wilson only because he got through to Argyros via ship-to-shore phone.
THE PLOT THICKENS
For those of you who have been trying to figure out why the Royals have been so inconsistent this year, the events of last week offered some fresh clues. On July 17 outfielder Willie Wilson and first baseman George Brett came close to blows on a plane after the team was swept four straight in Boston. When the smoke cleared, Wilson said, "I don't care if it's George Brett, Lou Gehrig or Babe Ruth. Who does he think he is? I'm not sorry I did it. What am I supposed to do, stick my head between my legs, and say, 'Yes, sir,' just because he's George Brett? He hasn't respected me in the 11 years I've been here. Maybe he will now."
OLD AND NEW