FOR THE BIRDS
On July 26, Blue Jay manager Jimy Williams yanked MVP outfielder George Bell from a game and benched him indefinitely for making a defensive mistake and shouting at Williams in the dugout afterward. The next morning several Toronto pitchers were sitting around the visitors' clubhouse in Minnesota talking about the team's sorry situation. Somebody shouted at starter Jimmy Key, "You're a lifer!" Key cringed and replied, "No way." And another player warned pitcher Dave Stieb that he'd better get hurt quick because if he pitches 225 innings, the option on his contract will automatically be renewed and he'll have to stay in Toronto. And a third groaned, "It's only going to get worse around here."
Indeed, the in-house fight that started in spring training when Williams moved Bell to designated hitter and center-fielder Lloyd Moseby to left, has mushroomed into a full-scale war that is tearing apart a team that should be in the thick of the American League East race, but instead was languishing in sixth place at week's end. Bell has simply refused to back down on his vow to get Williams fired, and Toronto general manager Pat Gillick has refused to give in to Bell—he feels that capitulating would send the players the message that a blatant disregard for the team is not only tolerated but also rewarded. The only solution to the impasse, as Gillick sees it, is to trade Bell—which he tried vainly to do last week—along with outfielder Jesse Barfield, pitcher Jim Clancy and catcher Ernie Whitt.
The Blue Jay management thinks that Bell is acting as irrationally as he did during the 1985 American League Championship Series, when after he was called out at third base on a close play, he accused the umpires of being prejudiced against players from his native Dominican Republic and also against teams from Canada. For his part, Bell contends that Williams has held a grudge against him since long before the DH showdown. "Everybody writes about my attitude. What about his attitude?" Bell said to Wayne Parrish of The Toronto Sun. " Jimy Williams said to me [during one of their many confrontations], that if it wasn't for baseball, I'd be in the Dominican Republic cutting sugarcane" Bell also told Parrish that if the club wants to get out of the 1989 part of his two-year, $4 million contract, "They can tear the contract up."
YOU FIGURE IT
The Yankees have made some baffling moves lately. First, why did they announce early that they weren't interested in pitcher Mike Boddicker, thereby helping rival Boston work out a deal for him last week with the Orioles? Second, why did they trade with the Mariners for designated hitter Ken Phelps? Several scouts believe that Phelps is a power-alley hitter, which as one of them puts it, makes him "as unsuited to Yankee Stadium as [former Yankee outfielder] Steve Kemp." Another scout adds, "Every time they get Phelps into the lineup, they weaken themselves defensively in at least three positions." It sure makes other clubs happy when the best first baseman in the league, Don Mattingly, has to play outfield.
A ROYAL MESS
Though the Blue Jays are a major disappointment, the No. 1 flop this season has to be the Royals, who have been crippled by all sorts of internal problems. Manager John Wathan has apparently lost control of the team and is frequently being second-guessed by the players. Veterans say the clubhouse atmosphere has never been worse, with definable cliques and open hostility between the everyday players and the pitchers. There have also been hints of racial tension. The three most recent team fights have matched a black player against a white player, inspiring second baseman Frank White to ask, "Why haven't we seen two whites fight, or two blacks fight? It's always black-white. That's not just a coincidence."
In one incident earlier in the season, outfielder Bo Jackson got into an argument with third baseman Kevin Seitzer about the treatment of a woman camera operator who occasionally visits the Royals' clubhouse. One thing led to another, and suddenly Jackson hooked his arm around Seitzer's neck, lifted him a foot off the ground and slammed his head against the team's indoor batting cage. The other fights pitted outfielder Willie Wilson against first baseman George Brett, and outfielder Danny Tartabull against pitcher Bret Saberhagen.
The Royals starting rotation went 16 straight games without a win before Saberhagen's 6-2 decision against the Orioles on Friday. To remedy the situation, the Royals shipped catcher Mike Macfarlane to the minors, even though he was hitting .265 with four homers and 26 RBIs, and brought up Larry Owen from the Omaha Royals. Wathan and G.M. John Schuerholz claimed that Macfarlane had become ineffective behind the plate, but others felt he was being used as a scapegoat for the pitching woes and had been stabbed in the back by K.C.'s pitchers. Since he was criticized in early April nobody had even hinted to Macfarlane that he was calling a bad game. Said one disgusted Royals veteran, "The manager we have is a former catcher. Why doesn't he call the pitches? All this shows is that the pitchers are running this team, no one else."
One pitcher who came to Macfarlane's defense was Charlie Leibrandt, despite the fact that he had a 6-11 record through Sunday. "I've got no one to blame but myself; it certainly wasn't Mike's fault," he said. "I'm shocked because I thought he was doing a nice job."