PITTSBURGH -- The scene in the home clubhouse at Three Rivers Stadium between games of the Pittsburgh Pirates' doubleheader sweep of the New York Mets here Wednesday was a curious -- and sloppy -- one.

The new vice of Pirates Manager Jim Leyland was clearly evident. Leyland, who quit smoking (as well as his once-rampant coffee drinking) earlier this year, has taken up tobacco chewing instead. And he obviously had not yet perfected it.

The front of his uniform was spattered with tobacco juice, and several Pirates players were urging that he change uniforms before the start of the night's second contest. But he refused. "We ain't going to the prom," he said. "Change? I may sleep in this tonight."

It has been that kind of season in Pittsburgh -- rarely pretty, sometimes tempestuous, but with a smile usually attached in the end. One of the Pirates' stars, Barry Bonds, can be as disruptive a force among teammates as he can to opponents with a bat in his hands. The team's pitching staff has been in disarray, and so has its front office.

General Manager Larry Doughty came under fire for a pair of trades, one in which he paid a price for pitcher Zane Smith he later admitted was too steep and another in which he misinterpreted the waiver rules and was forced to give two of the organization's top prospects to Philadelphia for Carmelo Martinez.

Team president Carl Barger refused recently to give a vote of confidence to Doughty, whose contract will end with the season.

But the Pirates have thrived. Last week's three-game sweep of the Mets was their first here in 12 years. They held the Mets to two runs and 11 hits in the series.

One of the big reasons for their success is the laid-back, spread-the-wealth approach of Leyland, 45, the baseball vagabond who began his bus-riding, hotel-living tour of minor-league America at age 19. He spent 18 years playing and managing in the minors, where setbacks like a star outfielder quitting because his girlfriend was pregnant taught Leyland to make certain everyone on his roster can contribute.

"There's a new hero around here every night," he said. "Bonds and {Bobby} Bonilla might have their 100 RBI, but they know they'd have gotten nowhere this year without our 22nd, 23rd, 24th man. We're a good ballclub, top to bottom."

Nineteen pitchers have won games -- one short of a major league record -- and eight have saves. Smith is 4-0 since being acquired from the Expos, and Martinez helped complete a five-run comeback against the Phillies last week with a two-run homer. "Things like that make you believe it's your year," Bonds said.

And Leyland has pledged the ride will continue to be fun. He has assured his players that there will be no more of his chalkboard-punching, buffet-overthrowing tantrums. He preaches a relax-and-enjoy philosophy. After all, he is a mellowed, settled man. He even owns a house -- for the first time in his life.

"I'm so content it scares me," he said. "My life is not supposed to be this smooth." Met Soap Opera

Times are more disconcerting for the Mets, who must worry not only about their faltering but about losing Darryl Strawberry.

He seemingly wants to remain with New York, and the Mets apparently want to keep him. But those sentiments are quickly lost amid the posturing that goes with crafting a deal.

He wants a contract similar to Jose Canseco's five-year, $23.5 million pact with the Athletics and Kevin Mitchell's four-year, $15 million agreement with the Giants.

But the Mets are taking a hard-line stance. Said Joe McIlvaine, the club's vice president of baseball operations: "What makes the latest biggest salary the going rate?"

In response, Strawberry has declared that the Mets will be his 26th choice among 26 teams when he becomes a free agent after the season.

Yet in his more candid moments, he says he knows the Mets are just playing a high-stakes game with him, that they're afraid to sign him early lest he become overly secure and his production cease.

"Chances are I'll still be with the Mets next year," he said here last week. "Down deep, that's what I'd like. I like New York. I wouldn't mind finishing my career there. But they might not let it happen." A Place in History

After being thrown out at second base by 40-year-old Seattle Mariners left fielder Ken Griffey Sr. (prompting a behind-the-glove grin from Ken Griffey Jr. in center field), Kansas City's Bo Jackson said: "I'd have been mad if anyone else had thrown me out, but it was a piece of history. Those Griffeys were messing with me." . . .

Seattle's Matt Young became the first pitcher in big-league history to wear uniform No. 1 after he yielded No. 30 to Griffey Sr. "It's my eight-month-old daughter's favorite number," Young said. . . .

The California Angels reportedly are planning to employ promising youngster Lee Stevens at first base next year, meaning Wally Joyner might be available.

Another big name who apparently will be on the market is first baseman Fred McGriff. The Blue Jays seem to believe their enigmatic club needs shaking up, and star-to-be John Olerud -- not to mention George Bell, who has been working out with a first baseman's glove lately -- can step in if anyone meets their presumably astronomical demands for McGriff. . . .

NL President Bill White said that during his dispute with the umpires' union over the conduct of Joe West he consulted Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Eddie Murray about an incident last month in which West ejected Philadelphia's Von Hayes for a comment he allegedly made about another umpire.

According to White, Murray said that West "is a good umpire, but his attitude is bad." Is that considered expert testimony? . . .

Jerry Reuss, recalled from Class AAA Buffalo to fill out Pittsburgh's expanded roster, became baseball's seventh four-decade pitcher with his first appearance with the Pirates Friday night. . . .

Words to remember for a possible A's-Boston Red Sox playoff series: Asked why the Red Sox didn't claim Willie McGee on waivers before Oakland traded for him, Boston General Manager Lou Gorman said (rather indignantly): "What would we do with Willie McGee?"