If the Dodgers played in New York instead of Los Angeles, they'd have to carry pooper-scoopers with them.

For the last week, from coast to coast the Bums have been leaving unsightly little messes in their wake.

Now the Dodgers have had their noses rubbed in their mistakes and been swatted with many a newspaper.

A team that was boisterously confident until its two most famous players - Steve Garvey and Don Sutton - wrestled and punched each other on the locker room floor last Sunday, is now houned by petty humiliations.

The free-spirited Sutton has had to stand in the public pillory and pray for forgiveness. Sutton, long on the record as a born-again, has called the entire incident a message from God for him to reexamine his life.

What was Sutton's sin? He told the truth in a judicious and rather carefully worded way.

Garvey, an exemplary player with a sly, needling sense of humor, has appeared on national televison - his eye blood-red, his face scratched, his pride tattered - to explain that he felt pushed past the point of endurance and that he had to answer with this fists.

Sutton and Garvey, once neighbors as well as teammates, may never look each other in the eye again - unless their bronze busts are on opposite walls of the Hall of Fame.

The Dodger millionaires with their multiyear contracts have found out how painfully men on pedestals can be chastised when they step down to fight like children.

When two school kids, tussle, a mischievous little rascal, who knows how to instigate without getting caught, often is looking on with a sophistication beyond his years.

That often is Garvey's clubhouse role - a twinkle in his eye as he washes the teacher's blackboard.

In that same recess scrap, the kid on the bottom always seems surprised, as though his tongue had carried him to deep water, then abandoned him. "What am I doing in this fight?" his eyes say. That just might be Sutton.

The entire Sutton-Garvey incident, from Sutton's first semi-innocent quote to his final abject, "I thank God for Steve Garvey" statement, has had the poignance of a schoolyard drama.

The friction between Sutton and Garvey has been longstanding, rooted as it is in their antithetical personalities. But it also has been well suppressed.

The candid, quick-with-a-quip Sutton came from the old Walter Alston era in L.A. Tommy Lasorda, with his 10-year wait in the wings to replace Alston, is a matter of feather-smoothing politics.

Sutton's frequent, unrepentant sin, was been to defend Alston's memory, and insist that Lasorda is not a saint, just another baseball manager . . . who tunneled long and hard for his job until Alston jumped into retirement before he was pushed.

Garvey is one of the Lasorda breed who played for Uncle Tommy in the minors between 1966 and 1972 when Sutton already was an Alston star.

Sutton and Garvey are only three years apart in age, but they are frm totally different baseball generations and regimes. They represent a changing of the clubhouse guard, a shifting of dugout clout.

That Garvey had gained more fame in five full seasons (126 career homers, for instance), than Sutton had in 13 200-inning seasons (and 208 wins), did not make Sutton "envious," a word Garvey had applied freely to some of his mates.

It made Sutton angry. Irony that the Sutton quotes that precipitated the fight were almost mild.

"Dont punch me," pleaded Sutton as a reporter approached last week in Philadelphia. "I don't even know Larry Bowa."

Minutes later, Sutton praised teammate Reggie Smith, emphasizing what many, including Lasorda, have said: Garvey leads the team in fame because of his all-America image, while Smith is the team's most productive player. "This nation's gets infatuated with a few names," Sutton said, criticizing the world more than Garvey.

Some time later, Sutton praised Smith for his forthright personality - "not being a facade or a Madison Avenue image."

If Sutton was thinking the words "like Garvey," he did not say them.

Two days later a Los Angeles paper condensed Sutton's quotes, spread over eight paragraphs, into ine paragraph, implying an overt linking of anti-Garvey ideas that neither Sutton nor the original story had made.

Garvey stewed over the condensed quotes for two days, showing the restraint not to confront Sutton Saturday - an afternoon when he was scheduled to pitch.

On Sunday a long history of suppressed animosity came to the surface. When Garvey asked, "Did you say this?" Sutton wasn't about to split hairs and say, "Maybe that's what I meant. But I said it more gently than that."

Perhaps a century ago a healthy fist fight between two grown men might clear the air, or even create one of those odd but genuine friendships that follow an honest blowup.

After, all any stat freak knows Sutton has been the victim of the sacred 20-win syndrome that has caused his many 17- to 19-win seasons to be looked on as near-failures.

Garvey's father, on the other hand, drove the Dodger team bus. It does not take a psychologist-biographer to understand young Garvey's drive to become the brightest star among those Dodgers that his father once chauffered. If Garvey's image-polishing was calculating, it was eminently forgiveable.

However, these are not forgiving times for wealthy athletes. Garvey, his personality built on the cornerstone of pride - in appearance, performance and team virtues - came on TV looking like the loser in a bar-room brawl.

With clenched jaw he spoke of "Mr. Sutton," his voice trembling.

Sutton tried to be himself - loose, witty, the winner.

However, by Thursday, Sutton was overcome by conscience and a meeting with Dodger President Peter O'Malley. The latter has a long history of persuasiveness.

Sutton's subsequent press conference statement was one of the most abject and painful on the baseball record.

"I've tried over and over to figure out why this had to happen," said Sutton, tears reportedly in his eyes. "The only possible reason I can find is that my life isn't being lived according to what I know, as a Christian, to be right."

"Having caused bad feelings (in Garvey) is the same as having said it," Sutton said. "Just the right word or explanation or apoligy would have solved the whole thing.

"I failed to do the right thing, and I humbly apologize."

Baseball's senior manager, Baltimore's Earl Weaver, has an axiom: "Let's leave God out of baseball. He lets us all make a living."

However the Los Angeles team wears its connection with the Big Dodger in the Sky on its corporate sleeve. In such surroundings the blithe Sutton feels it necessary to do everything but get on his knees to ask forgiveness for taking a poke at a first baseman.

While Garvey defended his pride, while Sutton beat his breast before the multitude, while Lasorda said, 'It took a big man to say what Don said, and it took God to inspire him to say it," Reggie Smith said nothing.

"I thank God for Steve Garvey and the Washington Post," Sutton said Thursday.

"I thank God for Reggie Smith," Lasorda said yesterday.

Smith, sitting on a training table getting both legs wrapped for assorted ankle and heel injuries, was asked what he did on days when the pain was too great to play.

"I sit," said Smith, "and observe."