Kansas City Manager Whitey Herzog is less enthusiastic about throwing out the first ball. The Royals were two games under .500 in the second half of last season and had to struggle to win the West by 2� games. When the signing season began, Herzog knew his team needed pitching and right-handed power, but he also realized that the Royals' management was opposed to bartering for players. Now, he admits. " California has to be favored."
If he takes a good look over his other shoulder. Herzog might also see Texas sneaking up on him, the Rangers having signed Campaneris and former Yankee Pitcher Doyle Alexander.
Last year's second- and third-place Western Division teams, Oakland and Minnesota, seem to have fallen far back. "We have a good chance of losing 100 games next summer," says the A's Bill North. New Manager Jack McKeon believes he and Finley "can patch this thing up and turn the club around," but with a mediocre farm system, no one is quite sure how.
The Twins lost only one unsigned player of any importance—Bill Campbell, the league's leading reliever, who went to Boston. But the draft to stock the American League's two new teams was especially painful for Minnesota, because leadoff batter Steve Braun went to Seattle and Bill Singer, the only starter with a winning record, to Toronto. Owner Calvin Griffith considers the reentry process to be "the ruination of our game," but by stubbornly refusing to contend for talent, he may be guaranteeing that it will have a particularly ruinous effect on his team.
With the decimation of Baltimore, New York might have ignored the bartering and still have retained its Eastern Division championship. But as long as George Steinbrenner is in charge, the Yankees are sure to dance every dance. With the glamour and financial fringe benefits of New York City and barrels of money to use as inducements, Steinbrenner snatched Catfish Hunter in 1974 and almost nabbed Andy Messersmith last spring. By scoring big in the free-agent free-for-all, he caused Baltimore's Ken Singleton to say, "The Yankees are getting to the unbeatable stage."
Jackson will give the Yanks charisma, power, a dependable rightfielder and positive thinking. "I'd like to think we're the best team in baseball right now," he says. With Gullett, perhaps the game's best lefthander when he is healthy, New York could be just that.
The loss of Jackson, Grich and Garland is likely to drop the Orioles behind Boston and Cleveland. Just a year removed from the World Series, the Red Sox still have the talent to challenge the Yanks. Boston also has a smart front office that hopes it has allayed any future free-agent problems by signing most of its important players to long-term contracts. At least that's the theory. In practice, it may not work out so well. Pitcher Luis Tiant, for example, feels like a second-class citizen after hearing about all the booty won by the free agents and wants his contract renegotiated for the second time in less than a year.
A few weeks ago Indian Manager Frank Robinson said, "We need one more productive hitter and an established starter to win it all." By signing 26-year-old Garland to a contract that, incredibly, stretches over 10 years, Cleveland landed an established starter, but in the expansion draft it gave up its most productive hitter, DH Rico Carty. Don't worry, nobody else understands the Indians' reasoning either.
The acquisitions of Garland by Cleveland and Bando by Milwaukee seem to disprove one of the standard fears expressed by the reentry draft's opponents: that players would strenuously avoid the Midwest and head for coastal glamour spots. And by getting no one at all, Detroit may have debunked another of those anxieties: that a team's holdover players would complain when a big contract was added to the payroll. "I was really disappointed," says Tiger Centerfielder Ron LeFlore, "but our GM, Jim Campbell, said if he spent a lot he would be afraid to face the team. Well, isn't he afraid to face us after getting nothing?"
The draft had far less effect in the National League, where only four players left their clubs. Despite the loss of Gullett, who played only a minor role in winning the 1976 pennant, smugly superior Cincinnati, which refused to participate in the reentry process, still should dominate its division, especially because its closest pursuers, Los Angeles and Houston, also decided to stand pat. The Astros may regret that decision, if San Diego Owner—and McDonald's hamburger magnate—Ray Kroc, who picked up Tenace and Fingers and finished second in the Jackson Sweepstakes, has improved his team enough for it to overtake Houston.