First, the Chicago Cubs served an eviction notice to 39-year-old shortstop Larry Bowa, informing him that he would have to vacate the premises for rookie Shawon Dunston--"just your average budding 22-year-old superstar," as his minor league roommate, Tony Woods, describes him.
Then, in case Bowa somehow missed the message, the Cubs really got nasty. You've heard of washing your dirty laundry in public? The Cubs might as well have run theirs up the flagpole in Ho Ho Kam park, their spring-training home in Mesa, Ariz.
Don Zimmer, the Cubs' third-base coach, responding to Bowa's public criticism of Manager Jim Frey, summoned Chicago Tribune reporter Fred Mitchell, put on his reading glasses, and began reading a prepared statement.
After pointing out that Larry Bowa is the most selfish player he has ever known, Zimmer warmed to his subject. "He is not a team player, and he cares for no one but himself. If I were (catcher) Jody Davis, I might have choked him. On throws to second that should have been stopped, Bowa made no attempt . . . "
On and on Zimmer went, accusing Bowa of not speaking to Cub star Ryne Sandberg for more than a week. "If you can't get along with Sandberg, you can't get along with your wife," Zimmer said.
He charged that when Bowa was going bad, he would hide from the media, and disputed what he said was Bowa's contention that Frey was not being up front and honest.
"Jim Frey, in the 36 years I've been in the game, is one of the most honest and up-front men I know," Zimmer said. "I'm not sticking up for the manager because he's my friend. I'm just tired of Bowa popping off and blaming Jim."
The day after Zimmer's outburst, Bowa responded.
"I went through a period when things weren't going so good and I didn't talk to my wife, my mom and dad, other teammates, nobody. As for that part about me being selfish, well, I think what I have done career-wise speaks for itself. But I don't want to get in a spitting match with a coach."
Bill James, one of baseball's foremost statisticians, recently has come out with the 1985 edition of his Baseball Abstract (Ballantine Books, $7.95). In his essay on the Dodgers, James writes about the inflated numbers produced by Dodger prospects at Albuquerque, a hitter's park in a hitter's league, and devises a formula by which he projects the major league equivalent of those numbers in Dodger Stadium, which he calls one of the four or five best pitcher's parks in baseball.
At Albuquerque, the Dukes usually score about seven runs a game and allow about six. In a pennant-winning season in Dodger Stadium, he says, the Dodgers might average just over four runs a game and allow 3 1/2.
"When you figure that the average player in moving from Albuquerque to Los Angeles will lose 18% relative to the league, and that the run environment will take another 40% cut out of a player's statistics, it takes a truly impressive performance at Albuquerque to be equivalent to solid major league production," he writes.
So, Dave Anderson's .343 average in 1982 in Albuquerque would have been equivalent to .285 with the Dodgers, James writes. That still is better than the .251 Anderson hit in Los Angeles last season.
Greg Brock's 44-homer, .310 season in '82 worked out to a 24-home run, .247 equivalent. Thus, "although regarded as a disappointment, his 1983 performance in fact bears a remarkable resemblance" to the projected figures. Brock's line in '83: 20 home runs, .224 batting average.
A sampler of other James' observations:
On Dave Anderson: "I would rather open the 1984 season with Anderson than any other shortstop in the N.L. except Ozzie (Smith) and possibly (Craig) Reynolds."
On Steve Sax: "Has Sax regressed because he was praised too highly and left nothing to prove? Has (Ryne) Sandberg come on because he has the park working for him, whereas Sax has it working against him? It could still spin back around with Sax on top, but that doesn't seem likely."
On Fernando Valenzuela: "He now has 61 career wins. At the same age, Tom Seaver had 32 wins, Steve Carlton 31, Don Sutton 34. Gaylord Perry had 3, Warren Spahn none and Lefty Grove none. Fernando is two months younger than Mark Langston, the rookie phenom of the Seattle Mariners, and two years younger than Orel Hershiser."