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It was no surprise that free agent Dave Parker (right) bolted the Pirates for a two-year, $1.6 million contract with the Reds. What was surprising was Parker himself: When he showed up at baseball's winter meetings in Nashville last week, he was clean-shaven for the first time in years, having removed his beard voluntarily. That was symbolic of Parker's joining the game's most conservative outfit, one that in recent years has been long on short hair and short on the long drives it hopes he'll provide.
"They'll have no problems with me," said Parker, who had had more than his share of controversy in Pittsburgh. As for the red carnation in his lapel, the Cincinnati-born Parker said, "It's to show my jubilation about coming home."
While Parker spoke at a press conference, President Bob Howsam beamed. For Howsam, signing the cleanup hitting rightfielder was an affirmation of his willingness to loosen the team's double-knotted purse strings and relax its starchy image. Said Howsam, "Dave's more mature, and I've become more realistic."
Twins owner Calvin Griffith wants to move his team to Tampa, but other baseball executives have nixed the idea. They've also decided that relocating any franchise is out of the question, mainly because of the lawsuits such moves would provoke.
In Nashville the owners accepted the recommendation of the Long-Range Planning Committee that strong consideration be given to expanding to 32 teams. Although no timetable was suggested, nor any specific locales, fans in at least a dozen cities had their hopes raised for acquiring a major league franchise. The best bet is that two teams will be added to the AL as early as '85 or '86, giving the league 16 teams and simplifying scheduling. The NL would also go to 16, adding two members at a time and completing its expansion by '92.
Though getting Mike Easier from the Pirates gave the Red Sox a much-needed lefthand-hitting DH-first baseman, the price—Pitcher John Tudor—was high. Tudor was Boston's biggest winner the last two seasons (13-10 and 13-12). He was also one of only five AL lefties who pitched 200 or more innings in 1983 and gave up less than a hit an inning. With a shift in home parks from Fenway to Three Rivers, Tudor should be an even bigger winner. However, he must become more aggressive about pitching inside to righthanders now that he won't have to worry about Fenway's Green Monster. Easier, meanwhile, must adjust to the unfamiliar DH role and prove he can consistently hit lefthanders.
Near the end of the Cubs' 1983 highlights film is a shot of a homer by rookie First Baseman Carmelo Martinez, with Announcer Harry Caray shouting, " Carmelo Martinez, mellow Carmelo." Indeed, some felt that expression would be heard often in years to come. It may be, but not by Chicago fans. Martinez, 23, was one of three players the Cubs traded to the Padres. In exchange, Chicago got Scott Sanderson (6-7, 4.65 ERA), whom San Diego had just obtained from Montreal to set up this triangular trade.
Los Angeles also dealt away a pitcher of promise. In a deal with the Mets for Utility Man Bob Bailor and lefthanded Hawaiian Reliever Carlos Diaz, the Dodgers gave up lefthanded Hawaiian Sid Fernandez. L.A. needed a utility man and, with Steve Howe's career possibly ended because of drug use, had to strengthen the bullpen.
The. Dodgers rarely err in evaluating talent, and there are indications that they may be right again, even though they surrendered the pitcher with the most dazzling strikeout record of any minor-leaguer in recent years: 560 whiffs in 402? innings. But Fernandez, as of now, has three strikes against himself. Strike One: He's an immature 21-year-old who dropped out of winter ball recently because he was homesick. Strike Two: He's always packed a lot of weight on his 6'1" frame and now is a hefty 240 pounds. Strike Three: His erratic control has gotten even worse, and he's gone from an average of 4.7 walks per nine innings in '82 to a 5.6 in '83.
Yogi Berra is still owner George Steinbrenner's choice to replace Billy Martin as manager of the Yankees. Steinbrenner's reluctance to comment publicly on the matter in Nashville was believed to be related to the state of Martin's health.