Tom Lasorda let an otherwise lovely afternoon be spoiled by the inability of his Dodger minor-leaguers to hold a five-run lead against the New York Mets Saturday in a 9-8 exhibition defeat.
One can only imagine the depth of Lasorda’s funk if he was in the same position as Met Manager Davey Johnson, whose leading slugger, Darryl Strawberry, spent the morning telling anyone within earshot that his days are numbered in New York one day after he was a no-show in camp and two days after he took a swing at first baseman Keith Hernandez.
Just what would Lasorda do in a similar situation--say, if Kirk Gibson announced that he’d had it with the Dodgers?
“I’d have no control over that,” Lasorda said. “I can’t comment on that. I don’t want to touch that one with a 10-foot pole.”
Although Strawberry may be a loose cannon sending everybody in Met camp diving for cover with his ultimatums, he demonstrated anew Saturday why he is perhaps the most feared power hitter in the National League with a three-run home run to dead center field that struck near the top of a 35-foot screen, 410 feet from the plate.
Without the screen, Johnson said, the ball would have carried 500 feet. The last time Dodger pitcher Tim Belcher saw a ball travel that far, he had a 5-iron in his hands. This time, he was on the mound when Strawberry unloaded in the third inning.
“He couldn’t have put that pitch any better if he had placed it on a tee,” Lasorda said.
So it goes in spring training, especially on a pitcher’s first outing, as it was for Belcher, who beat the Mets twice in the National League playoffs last season as a rookie. The more imaginative in the crowd of 6,824 saw this game--the first of five scheduled between the teams this spring--as a reprise of those playoffs.
But not only were some key principals from last fall missing--Kirk Gibson and Mike Scioscia from the Dodgers, Kevin McReynolds from the Mets--but so was any semblance of drama. Why? Hernandez offered one explanation.
“As you get older, spring training is a real drag,” Hernandez said. “And this is my 18th spring training.”
This was his first, however, when he was greeted in the player introductions with a kiss. Not by Morganna, either, but by Strawberry, the same guy who had designs on rearranging his face only 48 hours earlier.
Strawberry’s peck on the cheek was perhaps sports’ sweetest moment since . . . well, since Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas added the pregame pucker-up in the National Basketball Assn finals.
“That’s not going to be part of a pregame shtick,” said Hernandez, when asked if he expects any bussing in his future. “I’m not into kissing men. I don’t want to be at odds with anybody on this ballclub,” Hernandez said. “You can win and not get along with guys--that’s been done--but it makes it a lot easier (when you do).”
While the Mets have generated enough turmoil to satisfy the most demanding tabloid, so far the Dodgers have been the picture of domestic contentment. They just haven’t been very good--shortstop Jose Vizcaino made three errors in Friday’s 2-0 loss to Kansas City, and pitchers Chris Jones and John Wetteland, purported candidates for the 10th spot on the Dodger pitching staff--were lit up during the Mets’ five-run seventh inning.
The game-winning blow was delivered by Met outfielder Darrin Reed, a three-run home run off John Wetteland. Reed, who also homered in the Mets’ first game Friday, is a native of Ventura.
The Dodgers put the tying run on third with one out in the ninth when Franklin Stubbs tripled, but Jose Gonzalez struck out and Mike White grounded out against Met reliever Jack Savage.
Savage was in the Dodger organization until winding up with the Mets in the three-way deal that brought Jesse Orosco to the Dodgers from New York. Orosco is now with Cleveland after signing with the Indians as a free agent.
Third baseman Jeff Hamilton, goaded by Lasorda to hit with more power, homered for the Dodgers, who play their first home game of spring today against the Mets.
Orel Hershiser is scheduled to start for the Dodgers and newcomer Willie Randolph is expected to make his debut after missing the first two games while proceeding cautiously on a sore right knee.