Seems only yesterday the Texas Rangers were hailing new manager Billy Hunter as Mr. Salvation, the guy who did all the things right that Frank Lucchesi did wrong. Now that the American League West race has been shaken down to Kansas City and a flock of also-rans, Hunter is discovering what he realized all along, when he turned down all the earlier managerial opportunities: life is a lot simpler, a lot more pleasant, coaching third base in Baltimore.

Hunter took over the Rangers in June and soon had them contending for the lead - briefly on top - but the downturn began with Yankee capture of a three-game series in Arlington. Ranger third baseman Toby Harrah, who used to say nothing but nice things about his elders, publicly criticized Hunter for various lineup changes. Pitcher Doyle Alexander has come on with gripes about the way he has been handled. Juan Beniquez took to base running according to his own dictates. Etc, Etc.

Reducing Hunter to lament, "It seems that when a player has a five-year contract and is making $100,000 a year he has a lot of suggestions to make." And: "Evidently some people think I'm responsible for some of our problems." And: "As long as I'm manager of the Texas Rangers, things are going to be done my way" . . . How long? So long?