Catcher Bill Freehan agrees with Stanley. "No matter what business you are in," he says, "when you take the big man out it means a lot. Our concern, however, can't be wondering about what the loss of Frank Robinson is going to do to Baltimore. Our real concern has to be with ourselves. We know Baltimore is going to be good. We have to be better."
It is traditional to say the Boston Red Sox "have a chance." Where will the Red Sox finish? In Detroit on Oct. 4 is the only safe response. Eddie Kasko spent the spring giving the impression he had something up his sleeve. Close inspection revealed only his arm. Or a few arms, for Kasko feels he has the best pitching staff of his tenure. He is trying to fashion a new look on defense—speed to go with that pitching—and it could work if the speed can stay in the lineup. Luis Aparicio will soon turn 38 and that is ancient for a shortstop. Doug Griffin encountered severe back problems during most of 1971, and Tommy Harper's stolen base total of 73 in 1969 for Seattle shrank to 25 last year at Milwaukee. But 25 stolen bases for a Boston player causes the light to go on in Old North Church. Only once since 1935 has a Sox player stolen as many as 26. Harper will play center field, with Reggie Smith in right and Carl Yastrzemski in left. Look for Yaz to hit more to left Held and center. If the Sox really do play a running game, watch for Carl to run, too. He's good at it.
But what of the wall, the Great Green Monster in left? Who will make use of the GGMIL? Danny Cater, acquired from the Yankees, will not hit it very often. Harper might do a job on it, and then again he might not. Third Baseman Rico Petrocelli, however, has demonstrated that he can.
The two new pitchers on the starting staff are Marty Pattin, winner of 28 games for Milwaukee over the last two seasons, and Rogelio Moret, a 22-year-old lefthander who was 14-1 during the Puerto Rican schedule. Sonny Siebert (16-10) was the team's top pitcher and he is an "Oriole killer,' with a career record of 15-4 against them. Ray Culp (14-16) is the other starter. But both Culp and Siebert finished last season with arm trouble. And catching is a question mark, too, on this mystery team.
It is not inconceivable that Milwaukee could have its best team and worst record in 1972. The Brewers were baseball's best last-place club in 1971. They added some badly needed power by picking up George Scott, Billy Conigliaro and Joe Lahoud from Boston, but their move into this division could make winning much harder. Last year they were 27-45 against East teams, 42-47 against the ones in their own division.
The Brewers were not opposed to the division switch however, Trawl will he easier, there are radio and television benefits and their East opponents should be better draws in Milwaukee. If their pitching holds up, the Brewers could move out of last place.
Last year the Brewers led the league in shutouts with 23 and had the sixth-best team ERA, 3.38. Unfortunately, they were last in club batting (.229). They traded Pattin and Lew Krausse, two of their better pitchers, to Boston for Scott, Conigliaro, Ken Brett, Jim Lonborg and Lahoud in a 10-player deal. Scott, Conigliaro and Lahoud accounted for 49 Sox homers and 143 RBIs, somewhat misleading figures since Conigliaro and Lahoud were platooned. Reportedly there was bad blood between them in Boston. "It was competitive," Lahoud says, "nothing personal. It seemed I would have a few good days and then I'd be benched as soon as I had a bad one. That's no alibi, just a statement of fact."
Lonborg, Bill Parsons (13-17), who was the Rookie Pitcher of the Year, Jim Slaton (10-8) and Skip Lockwood (10-5) are the starting pitchers. The prime man in the bullpen is Ken Sanders, who had 31 saves and finished 77 games. "I wish Ken Sanders was twins," said General Manager Frank Lane.
As for the Yankees, at last the public will get to see a young ball club. Not a terribly good one, perhaps, but young. It will be tested early. In its first 10 games New York draws Baltimore eight times, Detroit twice. To stay in the race the Yankees will have to start well.
Ralph Houk, optimist senior grade, believes he has one of the game's best outfields to get things moving. Bobby Murcer attained stardom last year with a .331 batting average, 25 home runs and 94 RBIs. Roy White is a good player and Rusty Torres is up from Syracuse with excellent notices. The infield corners are in the hands of two potentially fine hitters, Rich McKinney at third and Ron Blomberg at first. Defensively, however, they are hardly wizards. Shortstop and second base have been depressed areas in recent years and it is doubtful that Houk will permit as many infield crimes as he has in the past, although he is still scuffling for able bodies.