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To be fair, San Diego has had its share of injuries—Rich Gossage is hurt and a retread Roy Lee Jackson actually won a game last Sunday. The loss of the speed of Alan Wiggins has hurt the Padres so much that they resorted to calling up the speedy yet flighty Miguel Dilone.
But there is the Dick Williams Burnout Factor (see Boston, Oakland, California and Montreal). Sooner or later, his players turn on him, and it looks as if they're turning in San Diego.
And so are the Fates. The other day Williams had to make a quick trip to an Imperial Beach, Calif. supermarket. He took his wife Norma's Mercedes and he was in such haste that he forgot to apply the parking brake. When he returned to his car, he found that it had rolled backwards and hit another one, damaging both a taillight and the rear bumper on the Mercedes. There's a metaphor for San Diego's season in there somewhere.
In my mind I play my Tigers against my Reds all the time. You know what? The Tigers win, and it doesn't even go seven games.
Of the three teams that have fallen from grace, the Tigers are the most surprising because they held the prospect of greatness. Last year they waltzed through the American League and lost only one game in the postseason. Says Tiger G.M. Bill Lajoie, "Everybody warned me this would happen, but I didn't want to believe it. I thought we had the kind of guys who would rise above it."
Oddly enough, the Tigers have hardly used the disabled list this season, so they don't have injuries to use as a crutch, so to speak. There are still plenty of alibis to choose from, however, and the Tigers have been squeezing a few for ripeness.
Sparky thinks the players' heads have been turned. "Too much outside stuff," he says. "There have been so many appearances it's unbelievable. Where do you make your living? Baseball. If you need that piddly outside stuff when you're making the money these players get, something's wrong. Is that worth having a bad year for? The World Series will be worth $75,000, but you can forget that."
Ace pitcher Jack Morris (13-6 this season) says, "It's the hitting. Last year our extra men did the job. Fielding has cost us a few games. Our aggression level is not as high."
Darrell Evans, who has 27 homers, says, "Maybe we're trying too hard." But Willie Hernandez, Cy Young and MVP winner, says, "It's a bad attitude. When we fell behind, everybody lost the hunger to win. Now I just collect my paycheck and keep my mouth shut."
The team is very careful not to blame Hernandez, because he was the single most important Detroit player last year, but he is also the single most important reason why the Tigers are 12 games worse than they were at this time in '84. Last season he saved 32 games in 33 opportunities. In his last 10 appearances, however, Hernandez has allowed as many homers (six) as he did in all of '84, while blowing four save opportunities and absorbing three losses.