The plot for the Cubs' riches-to-rags story sickened with each injury. Last week they lost their fifth starting pitcher. Scott Sanderson tore a ligament in his right knee Tuesday when his spikes caught in the dirt on the mound. He joined Rick Sutcliffe (shoulder, hamstring, groin), Dennis Eckersley (shoulder), Steve Trout (elbow) and Dick Ruthven (toe) on the disabled list. As Sanderson hobbled off the field, pitching coach Billy Connors had a thought. "This is like Custer's Last Stand," Connors said to himself. "And they just got the last soldier."
In the off-season Chicago spent a total of $18 million to keep Sutcliffe, Trout and Eckersley from flying the coop. Last year this trio was 39-16. This year it's 24-16. In the cases of Sutcliffe and Eckersley, they tried to come back too soon. "It shows courage on the players' part," says general manager Dallas Green, "but not good common sense." Says Eckersley, "A lot of guys feel obligated, responsible, and it's not too smart to do that."
And so the Cub pitching is in shambles. "I don't even know the first names of our new pitchers," says reliever George Frazier.
"I had very high expectations for this club," says Frey. "But then we lost Sutcliffe and [Gary] Matthews and then we lost Trout and then we lost [Ryne] Sandberg for seven or eight days and then we lost Sanderson with a bad back for a couple of weeks and then we lost [Bob] Dernier and [Jody] Davis and then we got some pitchers back but they weren't fit and each succeeding start for them they got worse, when we thought with each succeeding start they'd get better."
Frey has held meetings almost every week. Last Wednesday Green came in and exhorted the club not to give up, upon which the Cubs went out, committed an error and a balk in the first inning and lost 8-7 to the Expos. When they called up Shawon Dunston and put Larry Bowa on waivers last week, Chicago pretty much acknowledged the season was over. Last year it ended on October 7. This year it ended on August 12.
I don't think I've ever been with a club that was more team-oriented.
—DICK WILLIAMS, May 1985.
Hostilities broke out in San Diego last week. Centerfielder Kevin McReynolds, recovering from a bruised heel and anxious to shake a recent slump, wanted to play, but Williams wouldn't put him in the lineup. "It's a little game, I guess," said McReynolds on Tuesday. "He'll play the power game to show who's boss. Well, I'll give him a little time to play. I may walk in at any minute and say something. I don't know. Am I mad? That'd be too satisfying to him. He's tried to play Mr. Macho before. You know, 'I run the team' stuff. It's a little game with him."
Go on, Kevin, don't hide your feelings. "It's a big deal, but it won't get to me. If you've ever heard the word 'front-runner,' that's where he sits. If you look at his past, that's the way it has been."
Williams, however, did not care to answer McReynolds, and when his critic got two singles and a double on Thursday, the manager said, "McReynolds was great. He got some big hits. I hope it continues."
The Cubs blame their misfortune on injuries, but the Padres are starting to blame it on themselves. General manager Jack McKeon was openly critical of Williams for telling the team after the All-Star break to play as if the season were about to end. Between Williams' speech and the strike deadline, the Padres went from a half game out to seven games out.