To win a pennant in the National League it seems a certain type of manager is required. He must be strong, quiet and patient. Some years he is named Walter Alston, others Red Schoendienst, Gil Hodges, Sparky Anderson, Johnny Keane or Danny Murtaugh.
So how docs Bill Virdon fit in as the new manager of the world champion Pittsburgh Pirates? "There will be a difference between Murtaugh and Virdon," says Pitcher Steve Blass. " Murtaugh was a man with a sense of humor. I remember the first time I ever pitched for him and he gave me the ball and said, 'Steve, go out there and pitch three innings or four hours, whichever comes first.' Another time I was pitching in spring training and was wild as could be. Danny came to the mound and asked me what was the matter. I told him I just couldn't seem to find the plate. 'Rather remarkable,' he said. 'It's been in the same damned place for 78 years.' "
Nobody can judge what kind of humor Bill Virdon possesses until the Pirates go through their first losing streak, which may be never. If there is a problem, it could be the pitching. The biggest Pirate winner was Dock Ellis, the famed bed-measurer, with a record of 19-9. But Ellis finished the season with a sore elbow and a shaky record of 5-6 following the All-Star break. Blass was 15-8, Bob Moose 11-7, Luke Walker 10-8 and Nelson Briles 8-4, not bad but not overpowering. The relievers are better. Young Bruce Kison won plaudits for his relief performance in the Series, but still ranks behind Dave Giusti. Over the last two years Giusti has saved 56 games and won 14 others and that totals 70. He also worked four games in the playoffs against San Francisco in addition to three against the Orioles. His ERA for those was 0.00.
Roberto Clemente needs only 118 hits to reach 3,000. And there are all those other hitters: Manny Sanguillen, Richie Hebner, Dave Cash, Al Oliver, Bob Robertson, Gene Clines, Willie Stargell. Stargell had an operation on his knee after last season and Pittsburgh needs a healthy Willie.
While the Pirates can dwell on then accomplishments of last year, the Chicago Cubs begin with their usual hangover. Dissension was rampant in the clubhouse, and near the end of the season Owner Phil Wrigley placed ads in the papers in support of Durocher. Time and excuses are running out on the Cubs. They are aging but, should certain things fall into place, they could win the division. Durocher's future could be determined during the first two weeks when the Cubs meet Pittsburgh six times one-third of the seasonal total. A good showing in these games would bring Chicago to life; a bad one will put Leo's head on the block.
Much of the hope for a successful season lies in the knees of Randy Hundley, "He's not only our catcher," says Reliever Phil Regan, "he's our leader." From 1966 to '69 Hundley averaged 153 games a season but since then has only 82 games of work. Both of Hundley's knees have undergone surgery. "Purely as a wild guess," says the team doctor, Jacob Suker, "Randy may be able to catch 100 and some odd games."
The major off-season maneuvers for the Cubs centered around building an outfield that could cope with the artificial surfaces in the league. Rick Monday came from Oakland and Jose Cardenal from Milwaukee and they will play center and right fields. Monday has now completed his military obligation and that should help him. Over the last five years he has averaged only 124 games a season. Harnessing Jose Cardenal has not been easy. If Durocher can draw the best from him, Chicago will have a very fast base runner with adequate power plus a hitter who can deliver runs.
With a splendid opportunity to win in 1971, Chicago folded in August, and Durocher was criticized for not using his bullpen correctly. But his hitters were really to blame and the starters had to struggle. Ferguson Jenkins won 24 games and the Cy Young Award while Milt Pap-pas (17-14) had his winningest season. The failure of the team to hit hurt Bill Hands (12-18) more than any other pitcher. From the end of June to the middle of September, Hands was cuffed. He won only one game and lost 10, and during the losses the Cubs scored only 14 runs. The fourth starter is Burt Hooton, the team's No. 1 draft choice last June who has only 21 innings of big league experience. The last word on the Cubbies, of course, must come from Ernie Banks, now a coach. "Something old, something new, the Cubs will do in '72," said Ernie.
Montreal's goal last year was lo play .500 ball. It missed by 10 wins but even so the Expos were fifth for the first time after consecutive last-place finishes. "We did finish ahead of the Phillies," Manager Gene Mauch says, "but I really don't know if we moved ahead of them or if they slipped behind us."
The team's lineup will be basically the same with Rusty Staub (19 HRs, 97 RBIs .311) the big man in the attack along with Bob Bailey (14, 83, .251).