He has few kind words, however, for his own players, whom he has publicly chastised on occasion for their lackluster performances. Only his remarkable juniors have escaped his scorn. And with good reason, for Grich, Baylor, First Baseman-Outfielder Terry Crowley and Catcher Johnny Oates have come to the rescue of a team the superstars have left foundering.
"The young guys have carried us," says Rettenmund, graciously acknowledging the obvious.
"Those four are people I know will improve," says Weaver. "I'll go so far as to say that with them, we have the potential to be a better ball club than the one we had last year."
The youngsters have been the beneficiaries of Weaver's incessant tampering with the lineup, and they are properly grateful. "It's a great feeling to know that on any day you have a shot to play," says Crowley, a good-looking Irishman whose average is in the .270s. "We're as close to using 25 men as any first-place team can be—and I still consider us a first-place team. All of us know we have a future, so we don't sulk if we don't play. I'm only 25. I can wait my turn."
"I was shooting for 50 at bats this season," says the 26-year-old Oates, who has more at bats than that already and leads the team with a .281 average. "I am surprised."
So is Baylor, 23, who admits, "if anyone told me in spring training I'd be playing as a regular two weeks in a row, I'd have said they were crazy."
Baylor, tall and well-muscled, leads the team in home runs with seven and in stolen bases with nine. He and Grich, also 23, are of legitimate superstar potential, and with any other organization it is probable they would have been given a chance to shine at least a year sooner than in Baltimore.
At Rochester in 1970 Baylor hit 22 home runs, scored 127 runs and batted .327. He was named Minor League Player of the Year by
The Sporting News
. But there was no room for him in an Oriole outfield already overflowing with Frank Robinson, Buford, Rettenmund and Paul Blair, so he was farmed out again to Rochester.
"I was disappointed," he says. "I didn't think there was much more for me to prove."
Nevertheless he swallowed his shrunken pride and hit 20 home runs, scored 104 runs and batted .313 for Rochester last year. There was no sending him down again.