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DECLINE AND FALL
When Whitey Herzog resigned as manager of the Cardinals on July 6, he told the press, "I just don't feel as if I've done the job. I think almost anybody in this room can manage this club better than I can." Now, after two weeks under interim manager Red Schoendienst and despite a four-game sweep of hapless San Diego, it's clear that the team's difficulties lie not in its manager but with its stars, many of whom may not be with the team next year. Last week even Herzog acknowledged that when he said, "I guess it wasn't me. I thought I was the cause."
Herzog recognized the Cardinals' shortcomings back in May, and he pleaded with the front office to make trades. But the Cards—National League champions in 1987 and contenders last year—did nothing and were in last place on Sunday. Worse, St. Louis could lose as many as nine free agents at the end of the season. After an ugly loss to the Dodgers on July 18, Cardinals first baseman Pedro Guerrero said of Herzog's resignation, "I probably would have quit too. It's been a long year. I can't wait till it's over."
When it is over, outfielders Vince Coleman and Willie McGee, third baseman Terry Pendleton and pitchers John Tudor and Ken Dayley, all potential free agents, may leave. When asked if he is prepared for that, general manager Dal Maxvill said, "Absolutely." He said outfielders Ray Lankford and Bernard Gilkey of Triple A Louisville "are ready to fill the shoes" of Coleman and McGee. Geronimo Pena, who missed part of Louisville's season because he had tuberculosis and broke a finger, is expected to replace Pendleton. Finding successors to Dayley and Tudor, though, won't be as easy.
Maxvill says he will listen to any free agent who wants to return, but he adds, "The money I've heard [approximately $9 million over three years for McGee, for example] is unrealistic." Maxvill cites the Expos, a team that lost four free agents during the off-season but seems the better for it. "We may be the first to follow Montreal's example," he says.
They're making big money. Why would a contender pay $600,000 for a guy for the last two months when there's no guarantee that you'll win a pennant?"
Meanwhile, St. Louis continues to be an embarrassment on the field. As of Sunday, the Cards had scored two runs or fewer in 37 games. They haven't pitched well, especially ace Joe Magrane, who after finishing 18-9 last year was 5-12 this season. They also haven't played their usual solid defense, especially McGee, who had 12 errors.
"If you want to know what happened to this team, look at the stat sheet," says Maxvill. "We're classic underachievers. There's no need to look for dissension or injuries. It all comes down to performance."
It's more than that, however. St. Louis's collapse is also about complacency. Herzog often implied this year that the Cardinals have been together too long. "You have to have hunger," says pitcher Bryn Smith. "This team has won one or two times. Maybe the hunger isn't there."