Bad signs, part one: A year ago, the Cleveland Indians drew 66,978 for their traditional Saturday home opener. This year, Indians President Peter Bavasi decided to make it an opening weekend, and three games with the Detroit Tigers drew a total of 60,330.
A couple of days later, a Yankees-Indians game in Cleveland drew only 3,332, the smallest crowd to see the Yankees play at home or away since April 23, 1970 -- when 1,807 showed up at RFK Stadium.
Bad signs, part two: The field at Cleveland apparently is worse than usual this season, and it's almost always worse than anyone else's. Not only is it rough, but a patchwork sodding job has left it looking like a quilt made with patches of brown and green grass.
"A 1-year-old baby could have done a better job preparing a field," Detroit's Kirk Gibson said.
GOOD IDEAS, part one: The Los Angeles Dodgers spent $30,000 on a video room for players that includes a 51-inch television, a full-time technician and cameras that can tape the batter's box from five angles.
GOOD IDEAS? Chicago White Sox General Manager Hawk Harrelson will be one of Esquire's Men of Fashion in the June issue. He was photographed wearing pleated pants, a yellow cardigan, black hat and black boots.
ALTHOUGH THEY DENY reports that he has an elbow problem, the Toronto Blue Jays are worried about pitcher Dave Stieb. This is the same team that denied that reliever Gary Lavelle had an elbow problem, and he's about to undergo surgery.
Stieb has been throwing an unusual number of offspeed pitches and his once-devastating slider has been very hittable. Toronto broadcaster Tony Kubek said flatly on the air something has to be wrong.
Forget the Blue Jays' 17-19 record in games started by Stieb last season. He pitched a quality 265 innings, and if he doesn't have his usual year, some other team will win the AL East.
CINCINNATI MANAGER Pete Rose faces a tough decision in the next week or so when he comes off the disabled list. Rose does not want to release his old buddy Tony Perez, a valuable right-handed bat and, like Rose, a first baseman. But Rose doesn't want to send any of the Reds' young outfielders to the minors, either. The betting in Cincinnati is that Perez will go.
JERRY REUSS has been replaced in the Dodgers' rotation by Dennis Powell, a 22-year-old rookie with a 92-mph fast ball and decent breaking pitch. And with the Dodgers desperate for another bat, Reuss can see the handwriting on the wall.
"There are three signs you're about to be traded," Reuss said. "One, General Manager Al Campanis says there's no trade in the making. Two, Tommy Lasorda says he loves you like a son. And three, you get your meal money one day at a time. There I am."
Reuss will make better than $1 million this year and, at 36, is the oldest starting pitcher the Dodgers ever have had.
Do the Dodgers need him? They are off to a 3-9 start, and all their games except losses Friday and Saturday in Atlanta have been one-run decisions. Their starters have been terrific, though, rolling up a 1.66 ERA, but only a 3-4 record. Their bullpen is 0-4 overall and 0-2 in save situations, so bad that Lasorda used Tom Niedenfuer for three innings twice in five days -- and then followed that up by using him in short relief after both three-inning outings. (He was shelled both times, but Lasorda had no one else he trusted.)
No one has felt the pressure to replace outfielder Pedro Guerrero (knee injury) more than outfielder Mike Marshall, who entered the weekend having struck out 11 times in his last 23 at-bats.
AND MORE on slow starts. The Chicago Cubs are worried about ace reliever Lee Smith, who allowed five walks, five hits and five earned runs in his first three games (two innings). He lost one game by allowing a home run and another with a bases-loaded walk.
The Cubs won't say it, but they appear to be concerned about Smith's continually showing up at spring training out of shape. They're also trying to use his intimidating 6-foot-6, 235-pound presence a little more. For instance, throwing some inside pitches.
"He's so big," Cubs General Manager Dallas Green said, "but he only uses the outside half of the plate, and the hitters sort of have a comfort zone."
DETROIT MANAGER Sparky Anderson plans to bench second baseman Lou Whitaker against certain left-handers this year, perhaps for as many as 25 games. Since the beginning of the 1984 season, Whitaker has hit .224 against left-handed pitching, .301 against righties.
ANDERSON'S BIGGER WORRY is his starting pitching, which went into the weekend with a league-high 5.81 ERA. Opponents were hitting .326 off the Detroit starters with a .511 slugging average.
Jack Morris, who already has allowed six homers, didn't allow No. 6 last season until June 10. Through Thursday, the Tigers had been outscored by 12-1 in the first inning.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "I don't think you should throw at anyone's head, but you ought to be able to crack some ribs. A pitcher's got to eat. Don't they have the right to move the hitter off the plate?" -- Sparky Anderson.