The Philadelphia clubhouse is a looser place this season and not just because of the Phillies' surprising winning record. The head prankster is reliever Roger McDowell, who has established a kangaroo court for the pitchers. The self-appointed judge, McDowell got the idea for the court from his former team, the Mets. But, he says, "ours is better."
Fines, usually a few dollars, are levied for allowing a hit on an 0-2 count, for walking the leadoff batter in an inning, for permitting a pitcher to get a hit and for not executing a successful sacrifice bunt. Pitchers can get rewards from the court for successfully executing a sacrifice bunt, for breaking an opposing hitter's bat, for getting a hit and for throwing a shutout. If a Phillie pitcher hits a homer, he receives $25. At week's end, Dennis Cook was the only one to have earned that bonus.
Fines are also administered to any pitcher who embarrasses the staff. When righthander Darrel Akerfelds entered the clubhouse one night earlier this season, coach Larry Bowa asked him if it was raining outside. Akerfelds replied, "I don't know, the tarp is on."
That answer cost Akerfelds a few dollars.
AFTER THE FALL
The reason the Cubs, 12½ games out of first as of Sunday, won't be repeating as National League East champs is that their pitching has become laughable. At week's end, Chicago was 11th in the league in ERA (4.53) and had allowed 10 or more runs seven times-one time fewer than it did all of last season. What's more, closer Mitch Williams is out for at least eight weeks with a knee injury.
In a 19-8 loss to the Mets at Wrigley Field on June 12, Chicago outfielder Doug Dascenzo pitched the ninth inning, allowing one hit and no runs. In that four-game series against New York, Cub pitchers yielded 46 earned runs over 36 innings. Dascenzo was the only Cub to pitch at least an inning and not allow a run. Asked if his teammates had kidded him, Dascenzo, who is 5'7", said, "Mitch had the best line. He said I was really a short reliever."
Dascenzo's outing was his first on the mound since the 1985 College World Series, when he made a brief appearance for Oklahoma State. "I came in with the bases loaded," he said, "walked two guys and went back to the outfield where I belonged."
Chicago's pitching got even more absurd on June 13. In the first game of a doubleheader, a 15-10 loss to the Mets, reliever Les Lancaster started the seventh by allowing four singles to the first five Mets he faced. Lancaster was then moved to leftfield. His replacement, Paul Assenmacher, faced three hitters, none of whom he retired. Lancaster came back in from leftfield and got the final two outs, but New York had already scored five runs. Of his stint in the outfield, Lancaster said, "I wanted to make a play and maybe throw someone out at home—those were my earned runs out there on the bases."
In the ninth inning of the second game, relievers Joe Kraemer and Dean Wilkins came out of the bullpen to turn a 4-3 squeaker into a comfortable 9-6 New York win. The Wrigley Field faithful were heard chanting, "We want Doug."