Last year the Kansas City Royals hit more homers, 168, than ever before and scored fewer runs, 715, than any other American League team. "What does that tell you?" asks manager John Wathan.
It tells you that the '87 Royals could trot all right, but they weren't much for running. So, as he begins his first full year at Kansas City's helm, the 38-year-old Wathan—who, as a catcher for the Royals in 1982 and '83, stole 36 and 28 bases, respectively—is trying to get the club to return to its old running ways. Willie Wilson is flying in the leadoff spot, and Wathan has Kevin Seitzer, Kurt Stillwell and almost everyone else in the lineup ready to run—something the Royals got away from after Whitey Herzog was fired following the 1979 season.
Wathan's aggressive managing style makes sense. In recent years, Kansas City has been content to play conservative American League-style baseball in the league's only National League-style (carpeted and expansive) park. Wathan wants to establish a home-field advantage in Kansas City the way Herzog did (and has done again in St. Louis). In their first 16 games this spring, the Royals stole 28 bases.
"We have power," says Wathan, who counts on George Brett, a slimmed-down Steve Balboni, Danny Tartabull and possibly pigskin hobbyist Bo Jackson—who has worked hard to keep his job and has had a good spring—for the long ball. "But we want to establish our old aggressive style and make the big hitters all the more productive."
The Phillies have been trying desperately to trade for a shortstop now that Steve Jeltz, who had more errors (14) than RBIs (12) last year, has made seven errors in his first seven spring training games. They have been talking to Boston about rookie Jody Reed, to the Yankees about Bobby Meacham and to the White Sox about a blockbuster trade that would involve Ozzie Guillen. Philadelphia has also been pursuing lefthanded hitters, including Houston's Dennis Walling, L.A.'s Franklin Stubbs and Baltimore's Jimmy Dwyer.
The team's most immediate problem is the possibility of opening the season without Cy Young Award winner Steve Bedrosian, who was sidelined and has lost eight pounds in a battle with walking pneumonia. For the last few seasons the Phillies have made a habit of going through April and May doing what third baseman Mike Schmidt calls "our dance with .500." It looks as though they're getting ready for another dance.
The Chicago Cubs, meanwhile, would like to deal Leon Durham, with his $1.35 million salary, and give first base to rookie Mark Grace, who has batted .338 in two full minor league seasons and is described by one scout as "the latest in Don Mattingly-Wally Joyner clones." Several scouts got together last week in Arizona and agreed that Grace was the best-looking Cactus League rookie hitter, that Seattle's righthander Mike Schooler was the best new pitcher and that Oakland looked like the best team and Cleveland the worst.