The pretty strawberry blond is Krisha, whose seventh birthday is Friday. The brunet is Whitney, 5. Their daddy, Steve Garvey, made the smiling portraits of his girls, the bills of their baseball caps snapped up perkily. "Took the pictures at spring training," he said. The way he said it, so gently, almost sadly, it made spring training seem so very long ago.

It was. In this shortest of baseball seasons, Steve Garvey lived a very long time. His wife, Cyndy, left him. The girls are with their mother in New York, where the gossip columns have Cyndy in the company of the composer Marvin Hamlisch. A divorce is in the works, ending a marriage that seemed a glamor-perfect match of star baseball player and beautiful, aspiring television star.

Pete Rose, with his marriage falling apart, went on a record 44-game hitting streak. As always, Rose allowed the trouble no room in his mind. For Garvey, a thinker, no such easy solution was available, and friends say his .283 average, the lowest in a decade, is the result.

Garvey argues that. "My run production (runs scored and driven in) was as good as ever," he said. "I'll sacrifice 10-15 points off the average to produce runs anytime. I've hit .320 and we've been home by Oct. 3, too. We're in the playoffs this season."

Yet at another moment, more a father than a hitter, Garvey said, "Yes, I made it through an unusual season by making this my world."

He nodded into his locker, where the pictures of his daughters are tacked up. In another photo, the girls are in Garvey's arms, sitting on his knees. "They are all right," Garvey said later. "And they are the most important things in my life."

"Just say this," a friend of Garvey's said. "For some reason, he still loves Cyndy. The idea of divorce, because he's a devout Catholic, really bothers him. But the thing that hurts him most is being away from the girls. He said once that if the Dodgers don't want him, going to New York to play wouldn't be so bad because he'd be close to the girls."

If Bowie Kuhn put in an order for a fellow who could do the most good for baseball, the mailman would deliver Steve Garvey. This is Garvey: a .300 hitter for a decade, a Gold Glove at first base, a hustler, a slugger who hits the most when it means the most, an articulate spokesman for the glories of the game.

Steve Garvey wants to be a U.S. senator. About which, more later.

Garvey is the kind of guy, speaking of New York, that King George III might pay $2 million a year. Asked about the talk connecting him to New York because (1) his daughters live there, and (2) the proven big spender is there, Garvey said he hopes he is never anything but a Dodger.

This story will develop here all winter. Garvey's contract expires after next season. He wants a new deal with the Dodgers before next season begins because, he says, "I don't want to go into a season with it hanging. I don't think it's fair to the fans, the player or the organization."

Garvey wants to stay with the Dodgers.

"My heart is here," said Garvey, 32, who was the Dodgers' spring training batboy when he was 6. He signed with the Dodgers at 18, came to the big leagues a decade ago and has been the National League All-Star first baseman the last eight years. Those eight years, Garvey hit .311 with an average of 23 home runs and 104 runs batted in.

"I have one year left on my contract, and a possible four more years after that," he said. "The New York talk is only a resignation if the Dodgers decided they no longer wanted me to play for them . . . My whole career from the age of 6 has been with the Dodgers, so I feel a very strong part of the family and I want to finish my career here."

Will he ask for $2 million from baseball's richest organization?

"It's amazing, some of the rumors I hear, going to New York and this and that. Everything will be done to stay here . . . some of the rumors, though, put a larger smile on your face than others."

At the mention of $2 million, Steve Garvey smiled a whole bunch.

"Money is strictly my agent Jerry Kapstein's job . . . The key word will be parity. Our objective is to receive my true value as compared to others who do and perform at the same level I do. No more and no less, really."

Those numbers -- .304, 23, 104-- are not matched by the big-money folks named Reggie and Dave and Pete. For sure, Steve Garvey is worth a Dave Winfield package of $1.5 million a year.

"You as the writer would have to say that," Garvey said.

And: "But I would have to agree with you -- because of a variety of things: durability, consistency, providing power and average, defensively, postseason play, All-Star Games."

The charm of Garvey is that immodesty doesn't offend. He says, "Sometimes it's like my name has three extra words: Steve Garvey, Los Angeles Dodgers. They go hand in hand, and there have been only a a handful of players truly associated with a team who when you think of the team you think of the player and vice versa."

The immodesty charms because it's true and delivered without braggadocio, just as Garvey speaks of the U.S. Senate as a possible ambition not yet clearly defined.

"I seem to think it might be that position," Garvey said. "I'm spending as lot of time reading and studying, developing as much background as possible, trying to develop my feelings about everything from gun control and foreign policy to abortion and economics."

One thing more. Whenever the Dodgers finish work this week, Garvey will go to New York to see his birthday girl turned 7. "I wish I could be . . . " he said, and he left the sentence unfinished.