It has become clear here that the world champion New York Yankees are moving from one era to another -- from a period of turmoil and clubhouse intrigue to one of relative peace and fellowship.
The man deliberately being left out in the cold in this transition is the Yankees' manager-in-exile, Billy Martin.
"I'm not going to talk about Billy Martin today," said Yankee owner George Steinbrenner as the champs had their first full-squad workout. "It's too nice a day for that."
In the last week what has been assumed in private for months has finally become increasingly public: Martin probably never will manage the Yankees again while Steinbrenner owns them.
"I'm not speaking specifically about Billy now, but in general," said Steinbrenner speaking as specifically about Martin as could be asked.
"I want every young ballplayer in America to think that there's only one team worth playing for -- the Yankees. That's the way it once was, and we're getting back to that again.
"To have it that way, you must establish a tone of dignity and class. Anyone who can't fit that pattern can't be tolerated.
"It goes far beyond wearing the uniform and what you do on the field... you know what I mean," declared Steinbrenner, raising an eyebrow, in case anyone missed the reference to you know who.
"You can profess to love the Yankees all you want, but you've got to live a great percentage of your life with some sort of consistency and credibility. For instance, everybody showed up on time today. That's important."
Martin, lest anyone forget, was perpetually late.
Last week, Martin passed through Fort Lauderdale like a 24-hour guilty conscience, carrying his battered Yankee cap in hand and pleading for fair play.
"I just want in writing what George promised me with a handshake... that I'll be his manager again in 1980," said Martin.
Steinbrenner didn't sign anything for the same reason that Lee Marvin didn't. Big George knew even then that he and Billy the Kid never would exchange vows again.
When Steinbrenner gave his handshake to Martin last summer, it had a dual purpose: to calm fan criticism of the Yankees and to help Martin through an emotional crisis. The Yankee boss did not want red ink or Martin's precarious health on his conscience. With one grandstand play on Old-Timers Day, he solved both problems -- temporarily. If Steinbrenner's promise was a fib, it was at least a gentle one.
Now, with placid Manager Bob Lemon as resident genius there is not a single "We want Billy" to be heard in all of Yankee Stadium. Those standing ovations, the rage of the little man in the stand, were always Martin's sword over management's head -- fire me and I'll make you look like ogres.
That leaves the issue of Martin's always-mysterious health and often bizarre behavior.
"I hear so many things about Billy that I don't know whether to believe them or not," said Steinbrenner, specifically referring to reports that Martin had arrived at an offseason banquet in a less than Yankee-like posture.
Since almost every Billy vs. George or Billy vs. Reggie or Billy-punches-somebody-in-a-bar episode has been followed by a Martin explanation or apology that he had imbibed too much, Steinbrenner hardly needs further documentation of Martin's foibles.
All Steinbrenner, a wise public relations man, needs to do is keep fresh in the public mind all those problems that have kept Martin in hot water for years.
The unkindest twist of Steinbrenner's knife was his explicit linking of Martin's future to the outcome of his latest court suit, stemming from Martin allegedly punching a Reno, Nev., sportswriter in November.
Steinbrenner made it clear that a conviction on assault charges, or even an out-of-court settlement, would be the last straw.
"It's got to be both ways," said Stenbrenner. "For me to uphold my promise to him, his conduct has to benefit the Yankees. He must be a credit to the Yankees and he must curtail some of his free spirit.
"What's the rush? I didn't want to bother him with the Reno trial on his mind. He's got my word. All he has to do is live up to his. If Billy is behaving, he will be my manager in 1980."
The better the Yankees fare on the field, the less Martin's firebrand tactics and hell-bent strategies have any purpose.
Steinbrenner sat in the Yankee dugout today in blue suede jacket, sailing shoes and a championship ring big enough to choke an agent. Everything he looked upon was good for the Yankees, and, therefore, bad for Martin.
Behind the owner were 4,000 screaming, pleading people attracted by the prospect of watching the champions play catch.
Sitting on the bench near the owner were Tommy John and Luis Tiant, the free agents with 375 career victories between them whom Steinbrenner had wanted under his Christmas tree. Just in case Santa forgot, George bought them himself.
"We don't just buy talent," said Steinbrenner. "We buy talent with character and fit it to the needs of the team."
Next to Steinbrenner on the bench was Manager Lemon, the compliant man who began the day by inviting the press into the Yankee's normally private team meeting.
"Only got two rules," said Lemon over the roar of scribbling. "Be on time. And don't wear those damn shower clogs. I hate them. They're dangerous."
Lemon has this baseball season handicapped perfectly. It takes a wise man to realize that a slippery shower floor is his worst enemy.
In front of Steinbrenner was a smiling waving Reggie Jackson -- the opposite of the beleaguered Martin -- harassed slugger of the last two springs whose only complaint this time is a reluctance to quit the outfield entirely for a role as designated hitter.
"Reggie arrived last night with a full beard," said Steinbrenner, who hates Yankees in beards. "Al we had to do was ask him politely to shave it off and he did."
Hear that Billy?
Clearly, the Yankees are going to be a lot less fun if they don't get off this rationality and common-sense kick.
"I feel like I've died and gone to baseball heaven," joked outfielder Paul Blair. "Well, you look at all these names around here. You got to be going to the Hall of Fame just to get into our clubhouse."
Even with John and Tiant, the '79 Bombers are almost certainly not one of the very best Yankee clubs in history. They are a bit short on power and they're a mite long in the tooth.
What these Yankees may be however, is the most glamorous celebrated and recongnizable club in baseball history. At the moment, the New Yorkers have 16 players who are nothing less than famous in their baseball world: Guidry, Figueroa, Gossage, Gullett, Hunter, John, Tiant, Munson, Chambliss, Dent (World Series MVP), Nettles, Randolph (AL All-Starstarter), Jackson, Piniella, Rivers, White (1,800 games.)
It has long been Steinbrenner's dream to have a "name" player at every position -- every position on the whole roster, not just the starting nine. Such a team would hardly need a manager, but would spend all its time reflecting glory directly on the owner who assembled such troops.
Such a club is getting ready to set sail here from Fort Lauderdale -- everything ship-shape and harmonious.
And there appears to be no place on this new Yankee love boat for Billy Martin: not now -- and no matter what Steinbrenner professes -- probably not ever.