The Sporting News - June 21, 1980
Phils' Green Is His Own Critic
By Hal Bodley
PHILADELPHIA- Considering the numerous obstacles thrown in his way, Dallas Green has done a remarkable job as manager of the Philadelphia Phillies.
Except for Steve Carlton, who won 10 of his first 12 decisions, the pitching staff has been the source of chief concern for Green.
Green's pitching problems started when Nino Espinosa, righthanded workhorse of the staff last season, came down with a shoulder ailment last September that has kept him out of action all season.
Then Larry Christenson went on the 21-day disabled list and later underwent surgery to remove a spur from his right elbow. To bolster the mound corps, the Phils acquired Bob Walk and Dan Larson from their Oklahoma City (American Association farm).
"Sure, the pitching is scary," said Green. "We were counting on Christenson and now probably won't have him until the last month of the season. Espinosa has not pitched since last September and I honestly can't say when he will be able to take his place in the rotation. Yes, we need pitching, but you just can't go out and land an experienced arm."
Espinosa, who had a 14-12 record in 212 innings last year, still is not able to throw with any velocity and nobody knows why he still has pain in the shoulder.
Aside from pitching, Green's first full term as manager has been a smashing success. The players are pleased with his methods and Carlton has never been happier.
Mike Schmidt is off to his finest start and Greg Luzinski has forgotten the 1979 disaster. Bake McBride, included in virtually every trade rumor during the off-season, is a consistent RBI man.
But Green has had his critics, the most severe being Dallas himself. Take a game in Chicago.
The Phils blew a 3-0 lead, before losing to the Cubs, 5-4, on Scot Thompson's decisive seventh-inning single.
"That," said Green, "was a horse-manure piece of managing. The game was mine and nobody else's, but I let it get away."
Schmidt's home run had pulled the Phils even at 4-4. With Ron Reed pitching, Dave Kingman was on first base with two outs. Lefthander Kevin Saucier was warming up.
Reed's first pitch to Thompson bounced away from catcher Bob Boone, allowing the runner to go to second.
Green said he was set to replace Reed with Saucier at this point because Thompson is lefthanded. For some reason, he did not.
When Thompson hit a looper to center, Kingman scored the winning run.
"I had Saucier ready and didn't use him," said Green, second-guessing himself more than reporters have ever done. "After Reed makes the wild pitch, I had to go to Saucier, but didn't. When the count is 3-1 to Thompson, I should have walked him, but didn't do that, either."
This episode illustrates Reed's problems and how Green had labored to get the big righthander back on the track.
"As a former pitcher, I know how important it is for the manager to have confidence in you," said Green. "Maybe that's why I didn't do what I was supposed to in that game. But if Ron gets the guy out, well...."
PHILLERS: When Schmidt blasted his 17th homer, he was 11 games ahead of his 45-homer pace of 1979.... Jim Wright, who is making a comeback at Oklahoma City, still is one of the best pitching prospects in the organization despite injuries that have kept him out of action most of the last two seasons. Green, however, has insisted he is not going to rush the righthander to the varsity until he is ready.
Carlton told former catcher Tim McCarver in a TV interview he will not be able to continue pitching with three days' rest. The lefthander has worked on that schedule since Christenson went on the disabled list. "It's beginning to take its toll," said Carlton. "I am going to need that extra day sooner or later." Green immediately announced that Carlton would get four days before his next start.... The Phils had a 6-1 record against lefthanders... Attendance continued to run about 100,000 behind last year's pace at Veterans Stadium.... McBride's .330 average and Pete Rose's .320 led the Phils' regulars during May.
Super Steve: Silent Ace
By Hal Bodley
PHILADELPHIA- In a sense, Steve Carlton stepped off that merry-go-round and into the real world one February night in 1973. It was at Tampa International Airport.
The banquets were over, the television appearances had ended and the outside demands on his time were being choked off. Now it was time to get back to baseball, to torture his body, get in shape and go after those 30 victories he had set as his goal for 1973.
"You wouldn't believe the winter," Steve said as we drove to Clearwater late that night. "It has been one thing after another... Are there a lot of reporters covering spring training?"
Steve Carlton, a Gulliver in a land of Lilliputian performers in 1972, had won 27 games in a season in which the Philadelphia Phillies had only 59 victories. With that came the National League Cy Young Award and hundreds of lesser honors.
Carlton thought he could handle it. This very private man thought the intrusions into his behind-the-scenes world could be handled in the same way he handles a .300 hitter with a full count.
He was wrong. It took Carlton three agonizing summers to recover from the incredible season of 1972.
He was too proud to tell people he had walking pneumonia in 1973 when his record was a disastrous 13-20. And there was never a hint that his arm was throbbing like a toothache much of the next two summers.
But in 1976 he had a 20-7 record as the Phillies won the National League East title, their first championship of any kind since their pennant of 1950. He was 23-10 the following season and won the Cy Young Award again.
This year he is the winningest pitcher in the majors and people are again comparing everything he does to 1972. After defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates, 4-3, on June 4, Carlton had a 10-2 record and a 1.94 earned-run average. Without him, the pitching-poor Phillies would not be in the N.L. East chase. He'd started 13 games, pitched five complete games, including two shutouts, and worked 102 innings. He'd struck out 95 batters and on four occasions whiffed 11 in a game. He had 235 career victories.
On April 26, he pitched the sixth one-hitter of his career, a National League record. Ted Simmons' second-inning single was the only hit St. Louis managed in the 7-0 Philadelphia victory.
Then, on May 5, the 35-year-old veteran of 15 seasons came even closer to getting his first no-hitter. With two out in the eighth, Atlanta's Bill Nahorodny lined a fastball up the middle to end the no-hit bid. Dale Murphy's ninth-inning homer and a single by Chris Chambliss left Carlton with a three-hit, 7-1 victory.
Carlton, who came to the Phillies from St. Louis prior to the 1972 season, no longer grants interviews to the print media. His last open interview was during the N.L. Championship Series in 1978. Since then, he has talked briefly with only two reporters and that was last year.
So, it is difficult to see how he rates this outstanding season with 1972. It can be documented, however, that he did not win his 10th game in '72 until July 3, the fourth victory during his 15-game winning streak.
Carlton has altered his pitching style over the years. He no longer merely overpowers the hitters with the fastball, as he did when he struck out 19 batters in one game for the Cardinals in 1969. Instead, he mixes a hard fastball with the best slider in the majors. Then, on occasion, he throws an outstanding changeup.
"The slider has been a very good pitch for me," Carlton told me during one of those infrequent interviews last summer. "I try to make the pitch look like a strike just before it breaks down in the dirt."
"It's almost impossible to hit," said close friend and former catcher Tim McCarver, now a radio-TV broadcaster for the Phillies. "I really don't know how he throws it. The results speak for themselves. It starts out in the strike zone and the bottom falls out. It's almost like a slider-sinker. Steve's ball has a little less rotation than most sliders."
"Steve Carlton is in a class by himself among lefthanders," said Pittsburgh third baseman Bill Madlock. "The only guy in the league who has even been close was Jerry Koosman when he had those great years with the Mets. If you don't get Steve by the fifth inning, you might as well put your bats away."
"The slider is the nastiest I have ever seen," said the Cardinals' Ken Reitz. "It breaks down a foot."
"I hate to think where we would be without Lefty," said Manager Dallas Green, whose handling of Carlton is one of the reasons Steve is off to his finest start. "He goes out there every fourth day and gives us seven or eight innings. We don't have to go to the bullpen early."
So it is obvious this can be an even greater year for Stephen Norman Carlton than 1972.
Aside from being in the best physical condition of his life, Carlton is in a great frame of mind. One reason for this is the fact that Danny Ozark no longer is the manager. Carlton and Ozark did not get along, but Steve has great respect for Green, who took over last August 31 when Danny was fired.
Green, a former pitcher, had handled Carlton beautifully. In one-sided games he has taken Steve out early, knowing that anytime he can give Carlton some innings off, it will be money in the bank during the dog days of summer.
Green was openly criticized during spring training for not requiring Carlton to run sprints with the other pitchers. The manager answered the critics by pointing out that Steve works harder and longer with his own program than just about anyone else on the team.
Carlton is in his fourth year with strength and flexibility expert Gus Hoefling. The two have an uncanny rapport.
"The main thing about Steve's program is that it's as much mental as it is physical," said Green. "It requires total concentration and a total commitment. His mental preparedness for each game is a direct result of this program. And on the physical side, Steve Carlton is one of the strongest men in baseball. I'll tell you one thing. I tried the program and could not do it."
Green agrees that his arrival as manager has helped Carlton.
"Steve has a great mental attitude this year," said the manager. "And part of that is the acceptance of me as the manager. It's no secret he had little love for Danny and I'm not sure he loves me, but I know he is happier. I have allowed him to conduct his own conditioning program without constant questions as to whether he is working; I don't have to worry about Gus and Lefty."
In addition to the conditioning program, Carlton's ability to concentrate is almost scary. In two recent starts- victories at Chicago's Wrigley Field and Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Stadium, he stuffed his ears with cotton to block out distracting noises. In fact, Carlton's ability to block out distracting things, coupled with his belief in positive thinking, led to his refusal to talk with reporters.
After his 27-10, 1.98 ERA summer of '72, he was one of the most agreeable players on the team. He was a good interview and remained that way until a few seasons ago, when he began to withdraw.
When he tried to explain his philosophies on positive thinking, a few reporters took cheap shots at him when he failed. And one Philadelphia writer seemed to have a vendetta against the left-hander. Finally, Steve cut everyone off, except for radio-TV types occasionally.
"You can't let yourself get on that emotional roller coaster ride over wins and losses," he once said. "That's why you have to try to keep an even keel of intensity. It becomes harder and harder rather than easier with the years.
"There are so many deviations in this game. And there is always something else going on besides baseball. So often you just have to isolate yourself from everything else to try and keep up with your goals."
If Carlton has goals this year, no one knows them but him. In 1973, he wanted to win 30 games and lost 20 instead, leaving himself open to the reporters.
Now, he seems to enjoy the lifestyle he has molded for himself. He, his wife Beverly and their two sons have a beautiful home near St. Louis which Steve is proud of. It includes an elaborate wine cellar which is his No. 1 hobby away from the game. He can talk for hours about wine, has some classic bottles in his vast collection and last year toured the wine country of Europe.
In the clubhouse and on airplanes, he passes time by reading the heavy works of the world's great writers. He's deeply into psychology and philosophy.
"I have been very much involved in a positive approach to life," he once said. "This has worked for me, it is a good philosophy. I used to talk about this, but a lot of people (reporters) tore it apart when I was going poorly. I do not think it is necessary to air my personal wars publicly any longer. I would rather keep them to myself and everyone will be happier in the long run."
Steve Carlton lives by that philosophy and as far as the Phillies are concerned, everyone is happy.