America's crazed left-hander, Tug McGraw, asked the whacko manager, Earl Weaver, in Miami recently if he would play golf the three days of his suspension.
"Damn right," the Earl of Dispute said. "You see what Raymond Floyd did in Florida? Won himself a potload of money."
"How much?" said McGraw, last seen as the obligatory, leaping-in-the-air finishing pitcher of the World Series. Tug then put on his free-agent bandit's mask and demanded big money in a new contract. If the Phillies wouldn't pay him in '81 what they pay folks named Pete Rose, he would leave.
"Floyd got something like $350,000 for hitting golf balls two weeks," Weaver said.
"And they say we're paid too much," said McGraw, who, as you know, is still a Phil, largely because no other team -- not one -- chose him in the free-agent draft.
"Not 'we're' paid too much," Weaver said. "Just you."
If a guy clips grocery coupons out of the Thursday paper, he can struggle through four years on $1.7 million. Not even the Phillies shared McGraw's idea he is worth a Rose ransom. Yet the team was so generous -- spelled s-i-l-l-y -- that McGraw, if he works the same 92 innings this year as last, will be paid $42,500 per nine innings. At that rate, Scott McGregor's 252 innings is worth $1,-190,000.
In victory last season, as in defeat the year before, the Phillies were surly sorts.A nicer day by far is spent hanging on barbed wire than visiting this roomful of millionaires. Perhaps an innocent in Montana raised an eyebrow when Phillies names Rose and Bowa and Carlton were said to have received amphetamines in the locker room. Even McGraw's appealing boyishness at work finally was lost to the kind of greed that has moved Rose to wear Japanese spikes, Japanese gloves and Japanese shirts.
Where once it said "Louisville Slugger," Rose's bat now says, in bold letters big enough to read from his bank, "Mizuno."
The Phillies are baseball's bad example. Always good enough to win, they invented disgraceful ways to lose. Then, when at last clearly their league's best team, they jumped into the drug scandal that they later compounded by unrepentant lying. They also won the World Series, and after a moment's celebration, the owner decided he'd had enough.
For Sale, the world-champion Phillies, $30 million, MasterCard accepted.
Because class attracts class, the first prospective buyer of the Phillies was "The Gong Show".
"Could I pitch with a sack on my head and the The Unknown Fireman?" McGraw said.
Other questions come up. Can Dallas Green, the bomb disguised as a manager, work another good season with his short fuse and so many mal-contents playing with matches? Is Pete Rose, besides being 40 and too rich, also too heavy -- or is that his wallet sticking out in back? Can Steve Carlton, Sparky Lyle and Tug McGraw -- lefties all, all 36 years old -- stay good when among them they are old enough to be dead twice?
McGraw says not to worry.
"I can't see any reason we shouldn't repeat," he said. "The key to this team is that we learned how to win last year. We had a tough two-month period when we had our backs to the wall. But we found a way to win, which is something we hadn't been able to do."
McGraw didn't say so, but part of that learning to win came in the form of a series of explosions by Green, the manager. Expectations wore Mike Schmidt to a frazzle. Larry Bowa once punched an old-man sportswriter, so permanently frazzled is the shortstop. Garry Maddox didn't hit his hat size for a while. Kindly old manager Danny Ozark had given the inmates run of the asylum. Dallas Green told them, at a scream, they were crazy losers.
"The ralationship of the manager and the players," McGraw said, "should be better this year because he is learning more about us and we're learning about him. There are still adjustments to be made on both sides, but it will be better."
The Phillies are basically the familiar faces of the last two years. The trade of pitcher Bob Walk for Atlanta outfielder Gary Matthews enabled them to sell Greg Luzinski, a dud in 1980. As Matthews improves the club, so will reliever Sparky Lyle, acquired for the last 10 games of '80.
"The nucleus is the same and it's very strong," McGraw said. "Our bench is equally strong as it was last year. The problem is not talent; the problem is, which talent do you keep?
"Pitching-wise, going into the '81 season, it is stronger than it was at this point in '80. That's because our young pitchers like Walk and Marty Bystrom and Dickie Noles now have a year's experience and confidence. Dick Ruthven and Larry Christenson are healthy now, where they weren't last year. Carlton is always strong. And we'll have Sparky in the bullpen all season."
McGraw , certified a hero by working in nine of the Phils' 11 playoff/Series games, remembers the last pitch of 1980 in vivid detail.
"My knees were shaking, like after running wind sprints in the summer, and my stomack was fluttering. I was short of breath," he said.
And we thought Willie Wilson, with his ll strikeouts, had problems.
"I knew Willie was in a slump. But what I thought was, 'If there ever was a time to break out of a slump . . . ' I threw him a fast ball up and in. It probably got a little more of the plate than I wanted. But I felt pretty confident he'd be looking for a breaking ball because I'd thrown him two before. And if you're looking for a breaking ball down, it's pretty hard to come back up for a high fast ball."
McGraw, as he spoke, chewed tobacco.
"Before I threw it, I went down memory lane, remembering all the pitches I'd thrown, all the people who had helped me, all the experiences I had had. It was time to put it all to use."
And did the pitch go where he wanted it to when he wanted it to?
As punctuation, McGraw spat juice exactly in the little brown lake he had made.