For the Los Angeles Dodgers, it has been a long, strange 12 months -- from their refusal to even meet with free agent Tim Raines last winter to the Al Campanis embarrassment last April to their second straight losing season (73-89).
In between, there was an almost daily soap opera involving outfielder Mike Marshall, who, according to some teammates, either faked injuries or had an incredibly low pain threshold. Then, there was the Tommy Lasorda mess.
Lasorda wanted to move to the front office to replace Campanis as general manager, and if the Dodgers didn't want that, Lasorda told friends he'd just as soon move to another organization. He denied really being interested in leaving, but his name was connected with the Chicago Cubs, Philadelphia Phillies and New York Yankees.
Not only was Lasorda passed over for promotion, new Dodgers General Manager Fred Claire wouldn't let him out of the final year of his contract, and Lasorda is back as manager. But his clout inside the organization appears to be nil, and almost no one believes he'll still be bleeding Dodger blue a year from now.
Then, just when their image was at its lowest, the Dodgers became the most active team in baseball. In one week: They got the shortstop they needed, picking up Alfredo Griffin from the Athletics. They got the bullpen help they needed, getting right-hander Jay Howell from the Athletics and left-hander Jesse Orosco from the New York Mets. They slipped in and stole free agent outfielder Mike Davis away from the Yankees, signing him to a two-year, $1.95 million contract. The Yankees had offered $1.85 million and, hours before the signing, his agent told them Davis was "98 percent" certain to be a Yankee in 1988. But when the Dodgers raised the offer, the Yankees refused to enter a bidding war . . .
The Dodgers made a strong run at free agent reliever Dave Righetti, and if the legal work is ever completed, will trade Pedro Guerrero for Detroit's Kirk Gibson. The holdup is deciding who will pay the damages when the 1985 free agent collusion ruling is finished.
If the Gibson deal is made, the Dodgers will have reshaped a bad team in a short period of time. The outfield will have Gibson in left, John Shelby (.277, 21 homers, 69 RBI) in center and Davis in right. Griffin will take over at shortstop and Marshall will move in to play first. Los Angeles no longer has Bob Welch, but with Fernando Valenzuela and Orel Hershiser, the rotation will be respectable.
Oddly, had the Dodgers opened their checkbook a year ago, they might not have had many of these problems. Raines, the game's best leadoff hitter, all but begged them for an offer, and it's likely they could have signed him for close to the $1.95 million they gave Davis. That would have improved the attitude in their clubhouse enormously and, since they lost 30 one-run games, might have kept them in contention despite other problems.
Although the Athletics are looking for an outfielder, they were less than sorry to see Davis go. He averaged 22 homers and 70 RBI the previous three seasons, but they can't forget how his bat died this season when they were finally in contention. After hitting .292 with 20 homers and 53 RBI before the all-star break, he hit .224 with two homers and 19 RBI after. His 13 errors were the most in the majors for an outfielder. Rice's Grass Time Cut
Jim Rice has told friends he realizes his days as an outfielder are about over. He'll be 35 when next season begins and recently had arthroscopic procedures performed on both knees. The plan now is for him to be a full-time designated hitter on the road and part-time left fielder in Fenway Park. His replacement is Mike Greenwell, who will be the Red Sox's fourth regular left fielder in 37 years. Pressure? The other three were Ted Williams (1950-1960), Carl Yastrzemski (1961-1972) and Rice (1975-1987). Williams and Yastrzemski are in the Hall of Fame and Rice is likely to join them. . .
The New York Yankees began the offseason saying young left-hander Al Leiter and center fielder Roberto Kelly were untouchable, and they stuck to their guns. They backed out of deals for Dave Parker, Floyd Bannister, Julio Franco and Zane Smith when they would have been forced to give up Leiter or Kelly . . .
The Yankees still are desperate for a left-handed hitter and apparently still would like to pry Fred Lynn away from the Baltimore Orioles. However, Lynn has told at least one friend he wouldn't waive his no-trade clause to play in New York. Their second choice might be Mookie Wilson of the Mets . . . The Chicago White Sox say they'll move center fielder Ken Williams to third base. A former Stanford wide receiver, Williams hasn't played third since high school, but is a first-rate athlete who might be able to adjust. The White Sox still are talking about a Jose DeLeon-for-Lance Johnson deal with the St. Louis Cardinals, and if they make it, Johnson will be their new center fielder . . . More poor etiquette: The White Sox waited until Thanksgiving to tell hitting coach Deron Johnson he wasn't being rehired. He's now without a job. They didn't tell announcer Frank Messer of his release until last week . . .
The Chicago Cubs made a formal bid for the 1990 All-Star Game, but it's contingent on the installation of lights at Wrigley Field. Late mayor Harold Washington favored lights at Wrigley, as does his successor, Eugene Sawyer. However, the city council must approve, and there's no guarantee Sawyer can organize the votes. The installation will take about six months, and the Cubs say if construction begins by March, they may play some night games in 1988 . . .
The Cubs signed free agent third baseman Vance Law last week; he's insurance in case a much-discussed Keith Moreland-for-Goose Gossage deal is made. The two sides are haggling about what other players should be included. Incidentally, Law pitched in three games each of the last two seasons for the Montreal Expos, and his 3.68 ERA is better than his father, Vern, had in 16 seasons as a pitcher (3.77) . . .
Although they finished last in their division, the San Diego Padres were the only major league team with four .300 hitters -- Tony Gwynn (.370), John Kruk (.313), Randy Ready (.309) and Benito Santiago (.300).