Winkles, in his naivet�, also sees no reason why the game cannot be played faster. He has ordered his players to "run hard" to and from their positions, Arizona State style. This includes pitchers. "Sometimes our pitchers are ready to throw to a hitter before the other team has even left the field," he says happily.
Among Winkles' hustlers is 37-year-old Frank Robinson, who will join his former Cincinnati teammate and McClymonds High School of Oakland chum, Vada Pinson, in the Angel outfield. Robinson suffered the season's most humiliating injury to date—fracturing a toe while climbing out of the press box—but by the end of training he was running well again. Robinson will not be content to be just another designated hitter. "He enjoys the game more if he plays both offense and defense," says Winkles. Robinson came to the Angels along with Pitchers Bill Singer and Mike Strahler and Infielders Bobby Valentine and Bill Grabarkewitz in the trade with the Dodgers for Andy Messersmith and Ken McMullen. Winkles hopes Valentine, who has "a go-go charm," will be a "motivating force" at shortstop. Grabarkewitz, who has had a shoulder problem, could play either third or second. Singer will join Clyde Wright, Rudy May and the major league strikeout king, Nolan Ryan, on a pitching staff that is second only to Oakland's.
Minnesota, third in the league last year in earned run average, also has fine pitching with Jim Kaat, Bert Blyleven and newcomer Bill Hands. Kaat needs only 21 more wins to reach 200 and Blyleven, who will turn 22 on Opening Day, was 17-17 a year ago. Elsewhere the Twins face double trouble. Among other things, their 26-year-old shortstop, Danny Thompson, a fine fielder and a .276 hitter a year ago, has an unusual ailment, granulocytic leukemia, but he expects to play.
"Some people live into their 90s with it," Thompson says. "I'm not receiving treatments now. The doctors told me that they are close to developing a vaccine for it which would be similar to the polio vaccine. I'm sure they'll have one by the time this starts affecting me, if it ever does." Though they are short-handed at many spots, the Twins do have two well-known potential DH figures in sore-legged Tony Oliva and aging (36) Harmon Killebrew.
The Texas Rangers have a more noteworthy sore-but-super-sometimes candidate in Rico Carty. One trouble is that Carty wants to play regularly in the outfield, a role that has to date defeated him. But with the Rangers Carty and his .317 lifetime batting average might not look all that bad, for with the exceptions of Carty, First Baseman Mike Epstein, Outfielder Alex Johnson and All-Star Shortstop Toby Harrah, they are, regrettably, a team of nonentities. When you are that bad no amount of deepthink is going to help.
Especially if you are bumping brains with Oakland Manager Dick Williams, a savant who spent much of last year preaching the virtues of mental alertness and who, in practicing what he preached, shattered all major league records for conferences on the mound.
Forty-seven men played for the A's in 1972, and Williams found something for all of them to do—especially play second base. Eleven A's, not all of them infielders, manned that position. Williams even had Gene Tenace, then a catcher and now a first baseman-catcher, on second for a time. But for all of his cerebral high jinks, Williams knows enough not to tamper too much with a winner, and that is what the A's appear to be.
Consider their pitching. For starters, Williams anticipates having 21-game winner Jim (Catfish) Hunter, 19-game winner Ken Holtzman, 15-game winner John (Blue Moon) Odom and onetime 24-game winner Vida Blue, who slumped to a 6-10 record after his protracted contract hassle with Owner Charles O. Finley resulted in a disastrously late start. This spring Blue and Finley sparred again. In the bullpen the A's are even better than they were last year—and they were last year's best. Now they have veterans Paul Lindblad and Horacio Pina, both acquired from the Texas Rangers, to go with World Series hero Rollie Fingers and Darold Knowles. It is a dream pitching staff—two right-handed starters (Hunter and Odom), two left-handed starters ( Holtzman and Blue), two right-handed relievers (Fingers and Pina) and two left-handed relievers ( Knowles and Lindblad). To catch them the A's recently acquired Ray Fosse in a trade with Cleveland, giving up Dave Duncan.
Elsewhere in the lineup there are some niggling problems. Despite his World Series achievements, Tenace is unproved both as a first baseman and as a hitter, and the A's still have not found a centerfielder. They could be looking for one among Billy Conigliaro, Angel Mangual and Bill North well into the season. And premier slugger Reggie Jackson has gimpy legs. He hurt the left one in the final playoff game with Detroit, then developed tendinitis in the right one while favoring the left. Even hobbled, Jackson should prove a formidable threat as a designated hitter, a game Williams should enjoy. Already he is saying that any of his players may turn up as DH as long as he is someone who can get the bat on the ball. And his mind on a pennant.