It comes as no surprise to learn that Don Stanhouse -- Stan the Man Unusual -- is imbalanced.
"Yeah, but everybody in Baltimore thought it was my head," said the 29-year-old Los Angeles Dodger reliever. "It turns out it was my legs."
The former Oriole, who had 45 saves, 13 wins and a 2.86 ERA in two seasons in Baltimore, signed a $2 million, five-year free-agent deal with the Dodgers over the winter.
Now, L.A. finds out that Stanhouse, who is currently winless, saveless and on the disabled list, is imbalanced -- in the legs, that is.
Stanhouse has back spasms and bursitis in his shoulder. He has no idea when he'll pitch again, but he's pretty sure it won't be real soon. The injury doesn't come from hoisting his money bags. Or from helping stews up the steps to his new Marina del Ray beachside bachelor pad.
Stanhouse's legs are of different lengths.
"Almost three-quarters of an inch different," said the clearly upset Stanhouse. "The doctor has no idea if I've always been that way or if something has slipped. But it's got me all screwed up.
"I've never really had an arm problem before," said the 6-foot-2, 200-pounder who began his minor league-career as a shortstop with a rubber arm.
In a way, it's fortunate that Stanhouse has a good explanation for his 9.00 ERA in three appearances. Having imbalanced legs is a lot better that just not being able to get anybody out.
"By protecting my back, then my shoulder, I got my delivery all out of whack to the point where I kind of dip and push the ball to the plate."
After nearly three weeks of diagnosis, back-and-stomach strengthening exercises that have trimmed 11 pounds and a lift pad for the heel of his shoe, Stanhouse sees absolutely no progress.
"I threw for the first time today," said Stanhouse earlier this week. "It was very depressing. People around here are talking about how soon I'll be back and how much I've improved. That's bull. I was pathetic today.I didn't have anything on the ball," said the infernally slow worker who held AL batters to a miniscule average of .177 against him in 1979.
"It's driving me a little crazy," said Stanhouse, who has cultivated the mound demeanor that he is a crazy to start with. "I listen to the team's road games on the radio and I want to play so bad I feel like jumping on a plane." g
At this point, Steve Garvey walks by and with a perfect deadpan, says, "Mr. Stanhouse, it was nice of you to come by this evening. It was very nice to meet you."
"Nice to meet you, too," said Stanhouse as Garvey departs as though they really had never met before.
"The only difference between the all-American boy (Garvey) and Stan the Man Unusual," said Stanhouse, "is that Garvey is a closet crazy and I am an out-of-the-closet crazy.
"This club has a lot of sickies . . . just my kind of team," said Stanhouse. "That's what makes it worse. I really like these guys and want to feel like part of the team.
Stanhouse knows that his current problems are far from superficial. "You feel enormous pressure to come back quickly, because of all the money and the desire to prove yourself," said Stanhouse.
"I always act like I don't give a flying leap about anything.And, away from baseball, that's pretty much true," said the man who, 10 minutes before every Oriole game, went into the echo-chamber toilet and let out an interminable blood-curdling scream that was the Bird's call to arms.
"But, this is getting to me.
"I really haven't even started to be myself here."
Stanhouse gives a sly, devilish smile.
If the Dodgers try to force Stanhouse back to the bullpen before his arm is ready, even the richest organization in baseball may find someone more stubborn than they.
"They'll be in for a surprise," said Stanhouse. "There's no way I'm going back before I'm ready, despite all this talk about the progress I'm making. I'm not stupid. I'm not stupid. I'm determined not to go back until I'm ready. I want to pitch for a few more years.
Los Angeles has only seen a cleaned-up, sanitized version of the Stanhouse who drove a black hearse to the ballpark in Baltimore, and played, as his personal anthem (at maximum locker room volume) the heavy rock song, "I'm Just a Dirty White Boy" throughout the last World Series.
"I tell people that now I've got enough money to afford a haircut," said Stanhouse who, with his new perm, has gone from being marvelously ugly to blandly handsome.
"Hey, as soon as I establish myself out here," said Stanhouse out the side of his mouth, "I'll go back to the way I was. They haven't changed me."
How a few months, and a thiny change in delicate balance, can change everything in baseball. Now, the Orioles have their beaks dug into last place, and Stanhouse, $2 million richer, is quietly going stir-crazy while idling his time watching sunsets over the Pacific.
"Basically," he said, "the only significant change in that team is that I'm gone."
Once that balance is destroyed, how can it be restored?