There it is, big as Dallas Green's strident voice, plastered on the Philadelphia Phillies' clubhouse wall.
"We, Not I . . . Again," says the huge sign that hits every Phil between the eyes like a standing insult.
In baseball history, Green may be unique. The 6-foot-5, 240-pound hulk is the incarnation of the wrath of an entire organization, pent up over a century. No, make that an entire city. Last year, he was sent, like a one-man pestilence, to make life miserable for the Phillies. His assignment from a furious and fed-up front office was to punish the Phils for being themselves.
No manager ever succeeded more. Green threatened, humiliated, berated and cursed the Phillies all the way to the world championship. Whenever his players wanted a pat on the back, he gave them a kick in the rear. Whenever they wanted support, he lambasted them with sarcasm for being spoiled children. Even in the World Series, during the televised introductions, not one Phillie shook Green's hand or applauded for him.
This year, he's back. And, astonishingly, nothing has changed. Even though owner Ruly Carpenter has announced that the team is up for sale -- if he gets the right price -- the world in the Phillie locker room hasn't changed.Green sees to that. "I'm going to be as big a pain as ever," he promises. "We probably won't get along with each other any better than we did last year. My personality won't let that happen."
Perhaps only a team as accustomed to controversy, as insured to excitement as these Phillies, could react to Carpenter's announcement last Friday with a yawn. "Ruly hit us pretty hard," says Green, "but the team doesn't seem despondent, so I think we'll be okay."
The Phils, from Larry Bowa to Greg Luzinski to player-rep Bob Boone, take their owner at face value, sympathize with his suffering over high salaries. After all, who are they to complain? Their pay is the highest in the National League. What every Phillie knows is that the real power in their universe is not held by any owner but by their entrenched general manager, Paul Owens -- the pope. And Green, the ultimate organization man, is Owen's German shepard.
So the chewing goes on.
"This is the same team as last year . . . It still doesn't particularly love its manager, its fans or its press," says Green. "That doesn't bother me. This team functions better with some friction."
Friction is what the Phils lacked in the seven sleepy years under Danny Ozark. Owens and Green assembled the massive amount of talent. Ozark was the caretaker manager. And the prima donna players sulked and yawned away at least three chances to go to the Series. The Phils were the shame of the game. But no more.
"Oh, I'm on the lookout for those old telltale things . . . the complacency, the coolness. Back then," said Green, meaning just a year ago, "you'd hear that so-and-so is 'happy with their job.' Players thought, 'I'm a star. I'm famous. I own this position. 'Well, nobody owns any starting jobs anymore. They own it when they perform. 'And they stop owning it when they stop performing.
"That's what you call the 25-man concept. Last September, they finally started to understand it. You could say that we (read 'the pope and ') finally got their attention."
What Green means is that the Phils finally learned that if the manager decided to bench rich veterans like Greg Luzinski, Larry Bowa, Garry Maddox and Bob Boone, then he'd do it -- brutally, unceremoniously, without apologies.
At last, the Phils understood. Green was the broom that sweeps clean. He had full authority, full backing. They had none. He was secure; they might be gone.
Since Willie Wilson's last feeble swing for Kansas City in October, Green has not changed his policy one bit.
"Oh, I guess I'm glad for the players," he says indifferently. "But, mostly, I'm happy that we won for the organization and the fans. All winter, people came up to me and said, 'Thank you, I've waited so long for this.' One of my neighbors has been to every opening day since 1907. He said that '81, when they run the championship flag up the pole, will be the best."
Many thought that Green would not come back as manager, that, having done a dirty job well, he would simply return to his front-office career progression. They didn't know him.
"I'm an organization man," he says flatly. "When I'm assigned a job, I do it. Sure, it would have been nice to retire from managing with a record of 'one season; one world championship.' But I've never done things the safe way."
If ever a reigning champion had the perfect manager, it's the Phils now. The natural tendency is to coddle a Series winner out of gratitude. Not Green.
"They've already been told that you can become ex-champions awful damn quick. We had a few top performances from players last year (Schmidt, Carlton, McGraw), but we also had plenty of mediocre years (Rose, Bowa, Maddox), and three or four guys were downright no good (Luzinski, Boone, Larry Christensen and since-traded Randy Lerch)."
Already, Green has ruffled the feathers of some veterans. Luzinski (.228) has said he wouldn't mind a trade. Ron Reed, 38, says he doubts if he'll get a fair chance in spring training. "If Reed says he doesn't think he'll get a fair shake, then that's totally unfounded and stupid," said Green sharply. "If Reed doesn't make the squad, it will not be Dallas Green's fault."
On most teams, this would be an intrinsically traumatic spring, since at least four rookies from '80 are trying to displace vets: Keith Moreland (.314) at catcher, Lonnie Smith (.339) in left and Marty Bystrom (5-0. 1.50) and Bob Walk (11-7) in the starting rotation. Green couldn't care less about such controversy since he long ago wrote off the possiblity of being popular in his clubhouse.Instead, he is intent on aggravating everybody equally.
Perhaps only the snakebitten Phils could begin defense of their title under a black cloud. This is the year they'll be called the Phillies.
Last summer's squall over Phils using pep pills turned into a storm during the offseason. A physician testified in court that he'd prescribe 2,300 amphetamines for seven Phillies. One player, Lerch, corroborated the story as it applied to him. The judge threw the case out of court, ruling that the doctor had not prescribed the pills indiscriminately, but had prescribed them in response to specific requests by the Phillies.
There's nothing illegal, immoral or even unusual about players asking a doctor to prescribe pep pills. The problem was that the Phils refused to be candid. Instead of saying, "Who cares? Whose business is it?" they made denials or ducked the issue.
Perhaps the Phils should never have been put on the spot.
"What right did some narcotics agent have to leak that story to the press?" asks Boone, who was not involved. "It became very complicated very fast. Here come waves of people asking, 'Are you guys drug addicts?' What are you going to say? You don't know what action Uncle Bowie (Kuhn) will take. He's so image-conscious he might cut off your head."
So the Phils stuck their heads in the sand, even though it created damaging publicity for the small-town doctor who took all the heat since they wouldn't back up his story. "It get so big the state had to try to prosecute, even though there was no case (against the doctor)," says Boone. "It got laughed out of court in a preliminary hearing and never even got to trial.
"But," says Boone, "it sure left a stink."
Under normal circumstances, it would be save to term a team like the Phils -- only sixth in the majors in victories last season -- an underdog to repeat as champs of the East, let alone the National League, or all of baseball.
However, they have a unique advantage. What a defending champion often needs most is a first-class pain in the derriere.
And Dallas Green is the best.