Who said that the unexamined life is not worth living? Not the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Dodgers don't want to hear about Socrates, the laws of probability or the Cincinnati Reds right now.
They just want to play as many baseball games as possible before they wake up. If July is again destined to bring them a cup of hemlock, they don't want to know.
"If Tommy Lasorda broke a rack of pool balls," said Dodgers slugger Ron Cey of his manager, "all 15 of 'em would go in."
Tuesday night, after Don Sutton (6-0) had won again, Charlie Hough had his 10th save, both Cey and Steve Garvey had homered and Lasorda had pumped every hand in sight except his own, the Dodgers looked behind them and saw . . . nothing. Not even dust on the horizon.
"I think I heard that Cincinnati lost again," said Lasorda with devilish indifference, pretending not to know the Reds score or that his team had its biggest lead of this impossible six weeks - a dozen games.
"I'm not surprised at our lead," said Lasorda, putting himself in a minority of one. "I feel like the hyprchondriac who died and had it written on his tombstone: "They wouldn't believe me."
"Believe" is the central word in the Lasorda canon. He inherited, some say intrigued his way into, the managerial seat of a team that had won 180 games in its own previous seasons and yet had finished a combined 30 games behind the Reds. Lasorda had on his hands a talented but dispirited and intimidated troop.
Less than a month after Lasorda took office, chirping, "I've got this terrible weight problem; I can't weight to get started," the mighty Reds won their second straight world title and were widely acclaimed the best team in 50 years.
If ever a team needed a man in command who was not committed to telling the strict truth it was the Dodgers.
Lasorda, baseball's best loved hyperbolist, took charge in an avalanche of "The Dodgers shall overcome" monologues that made "The Power of Positive Thinking" sound like a suicide not.
The paunchy, garrulous, 49-year-old skipper, who threw better hooks with his fists than he did with his left pitching arm in his minor league days, started a two-front campaign to con his Dodgers into almost hypnotic self-confidence.
One attack was psychological, the other strategic.
While talking about "25 men pulling on one end of a rope," Lasorda really began building a 14-man team, built on a rigid star system.
In spring training, Lasorda gave his eight starters a separate practice field and all the batting practice imaginabe. He chose five starting pitchers he swore he would stand behind until the end of time, and he admitted he preferred a one-man bullpen - a knuckle-baller though - who might work 90 games.
Obviously, with a 22-4 start a 27-8 record now, the plan has worked almost supernatutally well.
Of the eight regulars, all except Garvey are hitting 15 to 70 points above their career averages. And Garvey has slipped from a career .301 "down" to .291 to meet Lasorda's request for more power. After 13 homers and 80 RBI last year, Garvey is now cruising at a 32-homer, 125-RBI pace.
The Dodger rotation has performed to factory specifications. Sutton, Rick Rhoden and Doug Rau are 16-1. Even enigmatic knuckle-curver Burt Hooton - 18-7 one season, 11-15 the next - now breaks his perpetual end-of-the-world frown when Laeorda calls him "Happy Hooton."
Hough, his career saved in the minors when Lasorda moved him from third to the mound and said, "This is a knuckleball," leaves his heart on the mound every night.
"His shoulder hurts, his elbow hurts," grins Lasorda, "but he'll pitch for you every night. The more the better."
"I'd be punching exacta tickets at Hialeah if it weren't for Tommy Lasorda," says Hough.
Behind these 14 Dodgers tried and true is an 11-man bench that has produced exactly one home run, one victory and one save.
If such a lopsided team leaves the Dodgers vulnerable to injures - an also leaves Lasorda open to a gigantic second guess - it also has temporarily solved the dodgers' chronic problem: a wishy-washy team personality.
Throughout the '70s when the Reds have ordered the Dodgers to roll over, the men in blue have generally asked, "How many feet shall we put up?"
The taunts and innuendoes of the cocky Reds were once met by Walter Alston's silence and his players' whines. Lasorda's Dodgers have adopted their manager's pugnacity.
When Reds manager Sparky Anderson said recently, "They come back to us every July." the Dodgers' Cey snapped back, "The Red saying we've given them the last two pennants is the most hypocritical thing I've ever heard."
Lasorda refuses to discuss the past. "Don't talk to me about 1976, 1975 or 1876," snaps Lasorda, the honey in his mouth turning to vinegar for one brief second.
"All I know is we're 12 games in front and I'd rather be there than where the rest of 'em are," he added, lumping the Reds with the lowly Astros and Braves.
Much is made of the differences between Lasorda and Alston, the man he waited nearly a decade to replace. The contrast in the man, their strate- gies and their influence on their players is almost total.
Alston seemed genuine, sincere, a fellow who would never exaggerate, never mince words, dissemble or polish the blarney stone. Some called him dumb; others said that was just the way the 1970s looked at decency.
Lasorda, with his calculated bonhommie, his practiced epigrams, his religious Dodger cheerleading - has somehow made the most blatant insincerity palatable. It has something to do with his face. You can't practice a twinkle in the eye. Lasorda just has it.
Tuesday night, Joe Kuharich, one of the most ridiculed coaches in recent NFL history, brought his son, a young college assistant coach, to the Dodger clubhouse.
Lasorda boldly introduced Kuharich to a dozen of his players with the words, "Meet one of the great coaches of our time." Somehow the Dodgers seemed to understand those Lasorda eyes that said, "This is a good lie, a gentle fib. It hurts no one and makes this fellow feel good."
If Lasorda has become a prisoner of his hyperbole, he also understands that an athlete who is relaxed, confident and alert is hard to beat.
And Lasorda demands alertness, just as he builds confidence and creates relaxation with his "one-of-the-boys" approach.
"Tommy doesn't put himself off in the closet," said catcher Steve Yeager, bringing up the most common complaint against Alston. "He's with his men. You feel like he'd give his soul to knock 20 years off his life and get out there and throw some hooks at these guys. Because of him there's no pulling against on this club, no jealousy."
A Yeager testimonial is of interest since he was thought to be the most likely player in the entire Dodger organization to resist Lasorda. Yeager still has shiny pants seats from the years that Lasorda's all-time favorite, Joe Ferguson, played ahead of him. "I may be leaving," said Yeager when Lasorda took over.
But Lasorda believes he can make anyone like him. He encouraged the Dodgers to stay out of the free-agent wars, although they had more money to spend than any other club. Instead, the gravy was spread among the Dodgers that stayed. Los Angeles has not one contract problem and not one free agent.
Lasorda says bluntly that he would not take discontented, money-hungry slugger Dave Kingman as an outright gift, "I have my team," he says.
While Lasorda the Dodger evangelist, Lasorda the teller of tall and funny tales, and Lasorda the standing rebutal to the Age of Anxiety, get most attention, it is Lasorda the tactician who gets ignored.
Alston admirers can only wince at the way Lasorda has drastically revamped his Dodger lineup.
Bill Russell, supposedly a Punch-and-Judy hitting shortstop, has been elevated to permanent No. 2 hitter behind base thief Dave Lopes. Not only has his bat control helped Lopes to 16 steals, but Russell has produced 36 runs in 35 games.
Garvey, the Dodger mainstay, has been dropped to fifth in the order. It was no demotion. Lasorda simply felt that Garvey could hit in any spot, while Reggie Smith and Cey might benefit drastrically by hitting in front of him.
Smith, seeing the choicest pitches in the order at No. 3, is batting .349, while Cey, who has been "pitched around" throughout his career at No. 5, is suddenly a terror at cleanup.
"God created the Penguin to drive in runs," says Lasorda gave Dusty Baker and Rick Monday the same orders he did Garvey: "Swing for the fences more."
The Dodgers, who were seventh in runs scored a year ago with a punchless outfield, how have 19 homers from Baken, Monday and Smith. L.A. is nearly two months ahead of its 1976 home run pace and much credit goes to Lasorda's lineup.
Ironically, while Lasorda ordered others to play long ball, he told Yeager to cut it out. Yeager, spraying liners to all fields, is hitting .310 with a dozen doubles.
So it goes, Lasorda cheering as each new idea turns to gold.
"Bill Russell is the greatest shortstop in the world," announced Lasorda today. "Not just in the major leagues, but the whole wide world."
"What about Charlie Chin?" dead-panned pinch-hitter Boog Powell, as all the Dodgers snickered to see Lasorda suddenly stopped cold.
"Charlie Chin?" roared Lasorda. "Who the devil's he?"
"Plays for the Tokyo Giants," said Powell.
"Never heard of him," said Lasorda, "but Russell's better."
Oh, for the unexamined life. If you are a Dodger, it's wonderful.