Reggie Jackson can't keep from touching a sore spot.
In the wake of Billy Martin's bonus and semivote of confidence today, Jackson, after batting practice, said, "This was the perfect time to do this. It was obviously well planned. We can use it. I can see in Billy's face that he is already more relaxed. This year has really aged him. Maybe he can feel like he's 49 again now instead of 99."
Generous comments certainly from a player who just nine days ago was benched in the fifth game of the playoffs and who just five days ago was publicly told off by Martin.
But his remarks were perhaps not as generous as they seemed. Jackson's hidden point was that today's announcement was "timed, planned," in a fact a response to crisis rather than a true decision.
"I think Billy probably deserved an extension of his contract," said Jackson, subtly putting his finger where it hurt. The fact that Martin has merely been given a bonus, rather than the extension he wants, is the crucial points. And Jackson, whose $3 million contract dwarfs Martin bonus, knows it.
Meanwhile, baseball games continue to be played in between Yankee press conferences.
The somewhat hidden hero of the Series has been Thurman Munson.
"We have been very, very surprised by two things," admitted Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda. "We thought the Yankees were very susceptible to lefthanded pitchers, but they've beaten both of ours (Tommy John and Doug Rau).
"And we've been extremely surprised by Munson's arm, both its accuracy so far and his quick release."
Munson, who has hit safely in his first nine career Series games (.421), threw out four of six Dodger base stealers in the first five games.
Munson also typifies the sort of batter who does well in a Series - the natural hitter who merely seems to flip his bat at the abll but hits effortless line drives. New York's Lou Piniella (.316) and Los Angeles' Steve Garvey (.350) are two more of the smooth, all-fields sort who have the gift of covering the whole plate.
The exhaustive pre-Series scouting done in September lets teams know the latest weaknesses and adjustments of the more mechanical hitters like Bill Russell (.174) and the guess-hitters like Graig Nettles (no homers).
On the Dodger side, Dusty Baker has set a postseason record of 13 RBI - eight in the playoffs, five in the Series.
In the first five-Series games, only three errors were made. The previous all-time low was six. Pressure? What pressure?
Perhaps that lack of pressure has been this Series' one disappointment. The Yanks and Dodgers have been little too friendly for some tastes, with few high slides a la N.Y.-vs. K.C. The Yanks are largely responsible, setting a tone of relaxed friendship whenever possible. For a team that has used Martin's scrappy philosophy all season, it might even smack a bit of a con job.
The Dodgers finally got wise in Game 5 when Don Sutton knocked down Jackson and a couple of other Yanks. It was the first "chin-music" of the Series.