The thought of Earl Weaver preparing his daily Baltimore lineup card somehow suggests a medieval sorcerer riffling through the parchment pages of The Book of Wonders. Indeed, there seems to be more necromancy to this chore than science. Imagine Weaver sitting on a high stool, a conical cap crowning his florid vaudeville comic's face, his forefinger pressed down upon the magic words, his hoarse voice raised in incantation: "Rettenmundus, Etchebarrenun...."
Weaver would have it otherwise, of course. To those who suggest the Orioles are doing it with mirrors and magic, he protests that his team is somehow surviving in the race for the championship of the American League East through gritty pitching and The Charts. The numberless lineup changes he makes are founded purely in science, says he. The Charts tell him what should be done, and he does it. On one day last week, for example, they told Weaver that while his team's collective batting average was only .217—an unbelievable .217—he could field a lineup that would be hitting .350. The Charts show the Orioles' Weaver-era batting averages against any given pitcher. On this day it was Milwaukee's Ken Brett. So while Merv Rettenmund may have been batting a mere .250 for the season, the Weaver papers showed he was a .400 hitter against Brett. And so on. The lineup that Weaver flung at Brett had a career average of .350 against him. Reassured by this data, Weaver was supremely confident before the game.
"The Charts give us an edge," he said, smiling. "The point is that certain guys hit certain pitchers better than other guys. It's not always on a lefty-righty basis, either, although it generally works out that left-handed batters hit right-handed pitchers better and vice versa. We should score some runs out there tonight."
Weaver confronted the left-handed Brett with nine right-handed batters, but, lo, they hit only .222 that night, not .350, and the Brewers won 6-4.
The next evening in Yankee Stadium, The Charts told Weaver that Boog Powell, suffering a woeful season-long slump, was a .309 hitter against New York lefthander Fritz Peterson. So, though Powell bats left and was hitting .162 at the moment, into the lineup he went. In four at bats Powell popped out to the catcher, flew out to center field, struck out and walked. Even so the Orioles won 4-0 behind Mike Cuellar's five-hit pitching.
One skeptical member of the Orioles' entourage views Weavers method with contempt. "Why," he asked, "does he bother with all those numbers? Why doesn't he just come out and say the right-field line at Yankee Stadium is only 296 feet long and maybe even Powell could pop one up that far."
For a manager who has won three American League pennants in three full seasons on the job at Baltimore, Weaver has been exposed to uncommon criticism this year. His constant shuffling of the lineup is a source of particular irritation to veteran ballplayers who are accustomed to regular working hours. Second Baseman Dave Johnson complained, "Checking the lineup card any more is like looking for the prize in a box of Cracker Jack. Every day is a mystery. You get yourself up, and then you're set down. I don't think we can keep going like this."
Weaver is acutely aware of the semi-mutinous talk. "I know, I know," he said, exasperated. "They say that if they played every day, they'd be playing better. I say that if I played them every day, the way they're going they'd play us right into sixth place."
The shifting about is most bewildering to anyone not attuned to The Charts. In an eight-game stretch last week, for example, young Bobby Grich played first base and batted sixth, played shortstop as a late-inning substitute for Mark Belanger, then played second base and batted second, shortstop and batted second, first base and batted second, second base and batted fifth, second base and batted second, and second base and batted third. Grich already has played all of the infield positions this season. He has been one of no fewer than four Oriole first basemen. The others are Terry Crowley, Don Baylor and the poor, punctured Powell.
Rettenmund has played all of the outfield positions and has been up and down the batting order like a stock-market quotation. In that same eight-game period he batted leadoff, third, seventh, sixth, leadoff, sixth and seventh twice in a row, for a change.