The Kansas City Royals, who are completely dead and, as we all know, have absolutely no chance to win the World Series, had their first workout in Busch Stadium today.
It's true the St. Louis Cardinals found out today that their 110-base thief, Vince Coleman, is out for the Series with "a tiny chip of bone on the outside of his knee."
It's also true the Royals have held St. Louis to a .204 team batting average so far, despite the fact that their best pitcher -- Bret Saberhagen -- will be making his first appearance of the Series Tuesday at 8:35 p.m. in Game 3 here. And, true, Saberhagen will face Joaquin Andujar, an embittered, embattled man with a 6.70 ERA in his last 11 starts.
Despite that, it's obvious all the life was drained from the ragamuffin come-from-behind Royals by their disastrous, spirit-killing collapse in the ninth inning of Game 2 in Kansas City.
If you ever wanted to see a team just waiting to roll over and die, maybe even get swept, you should have seen the Royals this afternoon.
"One more minute to hit," said coach Lee May by the batting cage.
"Who says? Whose clock?" screamed Willie Wilson.
"You're on my clock now," said May. "Last hitter."
"We're not finished yet," protested Wilson. "None of this, 'Last hitter.' "
"I'm gonna show you who's the last hitter," said May, who hit 354 home runs in his career. "Pick 'em up."
As the Royals started to gather up loose balls, Wilson turned his bat around and pretended to machine-gun May, then pulled the pin from an imaginary hand grenade and lobbed that at the coach, too.
And so the two wandered off, cursing and threatening each other, just as the old Reds, the old Yankees, the old A's always harassed each other between Series games. When May and Wilson finally had gotten all the insults out of their systems, said all the profane things that they'd been wanting to say to somebody, they left the field smiling and laughing.
When you can't tell whether a team is ahead by two games or behind by two, that's a dangerous, ornery veteran team. The Royals might not be exceptionally gifted, but they're exceptionally tough.
Manager Dick Howser was a good emblem for the whole scruffy crew this afternoon as he stood engulfed in media, explaining the decision that millions of second-guessers have decided cost the Royals Game 2.
"Very few people in this country don't know what happened last night," he said, referring to his decision not to call in superstar reliever Dan Quisenberry to pitch to Terry Pendleton with the bases loaded in the top of the ninth inning and Kansas City ahead, 2-1. Pendleton doubled home everybody to give the Cardinals a 4-2 victory.
"Three days ago, I was just covered up in complimentary letters after we came back (from a 3-1 deficit) to beat Toronto," he said. "This morning, I got a hand-delivered telegram. It wasn't too nice. In fact, it was a nasty ol' telegram. No flowers with it or anything."
Only one telegram?
"I haven't been to my hotel room," said Howser, grinning. "And I haven't checked my luggage yet."
It's much easier to discount Kansas City's chances here if you don't pay close attention. The Royals might be shy of talent. They might be in a hole no team has ever dug itself out of -- two home losses to start a Series. But they sure do have a winner's way about them.
The Royals actually seem to be having a pretty good time here.
"Tuesday will be a true Big Game," said Howser. "Hey, we were down 2-0 last week and now we're here. It's very fresh in our minds.
"I've got my No. 1 guy pitching. Don't worry about his age. Saberhagen may only be 21, but he can handle it. He's as good as we've got."
Saberhagen, who got in the habit of fielding line drives with his bones in the American League playoffs, reports that all his various swellings are down and he's feeling no pain. He's Mr. 20-6 again.
Howser has his battle plan firmly in place. Bud Black, only 10-15 but effective in recent weeks, will definitely start Game 4 against John Tudor, with Danny Jackson, Leibrandt and Saberhagen to follow, if necessary.
To his credit, Howser's not playing for respectability; he's playing to win it all. That's why he has inserted Black, thus making Saberhagen his Game 7 choice. The Cardinals aren't as tough against left-handers. If this Series somehow went seven games, St. Louis would see five southpaw starters and the gritty Saberhagen twice.
"What are they hitting so far?" asked Howser mischievously.
No matter how well the Royals whistle in the dark, any cold objective analysis would conclude that there's probably not much excitement left in store in this 82nd Series.
After all, if the Cardinals aren't allowed to claim destiny as their 10th man, then who can? In their last four games, they've had:
A sudden-death home run in the bottom of the ninth by Ozzie Smith, a man who had zero left-handed homers in 3,001 at bats.
A marvelous two-out three-run home run in the top of the ninth in Los Angeles by Jack Clark that turned a 5-4 defeat into a 7-5 victory.
And, finally, the greatest ninth-inning rally in a World Series game in 56 years when they scored four runs Sunday after being held to two hits all night.
The only particle of concrete bad news for the Cardinals was word today that leadoff man Coleman is gone. Suddenly a team of 314-steal speed is just another fast team.
Cardinals team physician Dr. Stan London reported that further tests and X-rays showed Coleman suffered "a tiny chip of bone on the outside part of the knee." The prescription for the left fielder, who was pinned under a tarpaulin eight days ago, was six weeks of rest.
Weighing against that is the fact that Coleman ended the season in a slump and was just four for 14 with one steal in three attempts in the National League Championship Series before being injured prior to Game 4.
Coleman's popular replacement, Tito Landrum, has gone 10 for 22, fielded excellently and, in a sense, has given the slightly short-handed Cardinals an excuse to band together.
Even Andujar, the only Cardinal who was booed during introductions in Kansas City, has done good work in trying to repair his image. At a news conference today, he showed his amusing side.
"We have a long way to go," said Andujar, who has only one win in two months. "We shouldn't have a big head or a big mouth."
Showing unaccustomed respect for a foe, Andujar added, "George Brett is too much for baseball, like (Dwight) Gooden. He can hit a home run any time he wants to . . . "
Andujar, who makes a million dollars a year, also pointed out that he was not given proper credit for his charity. "All they talk about is bad about me," he said, sadly. "They do not mention the $25,000 a year I give to the poor people of the Dominican Republic."
The Kansas City Royals, who, apparently, are the last to be informed that they have died, hope that Andujar's generosity extends to Busch Stadium on Tuesday night.