Bill Bergesch, the Yankees' vice-president of baseball operations, was considering an inquiry as to whether George's Team has too much talent. "It's a problem," he says. "But like the guy says, 'I've been rich and I've been poor. Rich is better.' Everything does look great, doesn't it?"
But as the spring days crept by, the Yankees—surprise, surprise—were embroiled in wall-to-wall bickering, even sans Reggie. Owner George Steinbrenner had promised to act his age this year (he's 51), but he forgot his vows and made sneering references to some of the players. George lambasted Manager Bob Lemon for playing First Baseman Dave Revering at third and feuded with Sweet Lou Piniella over Piniella's weight. Lemon, meanwhile, fined Piniella because he left the park early one day, and had another argument with him for throwing a ball into the stands.
Steinbrenner was mad, too, that his players kept getting small but aggravating injuries, and blasted the team's trainer for not instituting a flu-shot program last winter. Outfielder Dave Winfield pulled a hamstring, Second Baseman Willie Randolph is out for three or four weeks with a broken little toe on his right foot, Third Baseman and Captain Graig Nettles was hit by a foul ball on his left calf, and newly acquired (from Cincy) Outfielder Ken Griffey had his knee drained, as in past springs. Meanwhile, extra practice sessions were ordered as the team played poorly.
Still, their talent is easily the best of all the major league teams. The lineup reads like an All-Star team: newly acquired free agent Dave Collins, who previously played centerfield at Cincinnati ("There sure are a lot of guys around here who know how to win"), or Bob Watson at first; Randolph at second; Bucky Dent at short; Nettles at third; Rick Cerone catching; and an outfield with Dave Winfield ("We're pretty doggone good") in left, Jerry Mumphrey in center and Griffey (.311 in 1981), or perhaps Collins, in right. The starting pitchers include lefthander Tommy John, Ron Guidry and Dave Righetti, the American League's Rookie of the Year in 1981. The right side offers newly acquired Doyle Alexander, who missed most of spring training because he was involved in a contract dispute with San Francisco, and Rick Reuschel who didn't appear in a spring training game because of a sore shoulder. Reuschel begins the season on the disabled list. When you say Goose, you've said it all for relievers, but the Yankees also have Ron Davis, and Shane Rawley, late of Seattle.
Then there are backups for backups and PHs for the DHs, which prompts Dent to observe, "Just because you can't make the Yankees doesn't mean you aren't a great player." Reserve Outfielder Oscar Gamble understands and says, "We've got two guys at every position. I like to play a lot—but I like to win even more."
Sans Reggie, the Yankees are hardly the Bronx Bombers, and any team with Nettles, Cerone, Dent, Watson and Piniella in the lineup isn't going to "steal" many wins. The rich always have problems.