When the Philadelphia Phillies uncoupled Pat Corrales as their manger in mid-July with the team still in first place in the National League East, nobody really understood why. But it probably stemmed from the fact that Corrales wouldn't brook any interference from Philadelphia's front office, which had begun to question too many of his moves on the field. Anyway, Pat's success with the Phillies did not go unnoticed by the owners of the Cleveland Indians, who signed him as their manager only 13 days after Philadelphia cut him loose.
Since then the last-place Indians have played well over .500 baseball for Corrales - a remarkable achievement considering that soon after Pat's arrival, General Manager Phil Seghi traded away two of the team's best players. All-Star second baseman Manny Trillo was sent to Montreal for outfielder Don Carter and cash; pitcher Len Barker to Atlanta for players to be named later.
Asked if deals like this wouldn't make the other players on the Indians wonder how serious management was about ever putting a contender on the field, Corrales replied: ''I don't know how the other players feel. Trillo was a fine second baseman, but he would have been a free agent at the end of the season. Considering the huge amount of money he was asking, we couldn't have signed him anyway. If, in a trade like the Trillo move plus the one we made with the Braves , you get people in return who are of equal value, then I think you've done a smart thing. When the time comes to look back on all this, I think people are going to say that Cleveland helped itself.''
Corrales also talked briefly about what it's like for a manager to take over a losing club in the middle of a season. ''I think it's tougher on the players who are already there than the new manager, because at least the manager knows what he wants,'' Pat said.
''The players don't really know what to expect. When a team gets into a losing pattern over a period of years, the way this club has, I think too many players come to the ballpark every day expecting to lose. It's up to the manager to change that thinking any way he can.
''So far since I've been here we've done all right,'' he continued. ''I really think coming to the ballpark now is fun for most of these guys. But if we start to lose and there are too many mistakes, everybody will be ordered to report at 3 p.m. and work on fundamentals until we start winning again. By the end of this season I'll know who to trade, what we've got in our farm system, and what we need to become contenders. I think we'll probably trade a lot during the winter. Our two priorities will be a second baseman, plus a young outfielder who can hit and run.''
Despite its problems, Cleveland has given its fans two rookies they can be excited about this year in left-hander Neal Heaton and shortstop Julio Franco. Since moving out of the bullpen and into the regular rotation, Heaton is 4-0 with an earned run average of less than 1.70 in his last six starts. Franco, classy in the field, has hit for average and has also shown some power.
A rookie with no-hitters on his mind
Outstanding is too pale a word for rookie pitcher Jose DeLeon of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who seems obsessed with pitching a no-hitter in his first major league season. Since he was recalled from the minors by Pittsburgh a little more than six weeks ago, DeLeon has four times worked into the sixth inning without giving up a base hit. In only his second major league start, against the San Diego Padres on July 27, this 22-year-old right-hander from the Dominican Republic had a no-hitter going until Alan Wiggins singled with one gone in the seventh inning. His next time out, against the New York Mets, DeLeon was only two outs away from a no-hitter when Hubie Brooks singled. In fact, in his first 76 innings this season with the Pirates, Jose (6-2) has given up only 42 hits and 20 earned runs while striking out 85 batters. Said Cincinnati Reds Manager Russ Nixon: ''In the two games he has pitched against us, DeLeon has been sensational. He keeps getting ahead of the hitters and then they have to go for his pitch or risk striking out. With the curveball that he's got, Jose is much more than just a strong thrower.''
Tidbits from around the major leagues
* From New York Yankees third base coach Don Zimmer on rookie left-hander Ray Fontenot, who has pitched well for Manager Billy Martin since being called up from the minors in midseason: ''If you can consistently get the ball over the plate with something on it, you don't have to be a power pitcher to make the big leagues. That's Fontenot - a Tommy John-type who changes speeds, keeps the ball down, and has a great slider. You can always tell when Ray is on because the batters keep hitting ground balls.''
* Despite reports that Frank Robinson will be dumped after the season as manager of the San Francisco Giants, Robbie has told writers that he knows he's safe for another year. But Frank did say that managers are limited in what they can do in handling players. ''If you threaten to release a player today because of his attitude or the fact that he doesn't hustle, he doesn't mind a bit,'' Robinson explained. ''And the reason he doesn't mind is because he knows that some other major league team will come right along and pick him up.''
* If the Atlanta Braves are smart, they'll try to make a trade for Chicago Cubs catcher Jody Davis. Jody, in 19 games against Brave pitching over the past two years, has hit eight home runs. ''I can't explain it,'' Davis said. ''But maybe it has something to do with the fact that I grew up in Gainesville, Ga. and watched so many Braves games as a kid.'' Jody now has 21 home runs for the season, the most by a Cub catcher since Gabby Hartnett hit 22 in 1934.