It's an old baseball axiom that some players need a pat on the back, some need a kick, and the trick of being a successful manager is to figure out which is which.
When Dallas Green took over the Philadelphia Phillies, he didn't have to ponder that one very hard. After spending most of the past 25 years serving the organization in one capacity or another, he knew full well which category most of his charges fell in to -- and he acted accordingly.
As one close observer put it, Green's message from the very beginning translated into something like, "Do it this year or don't let the door hit you on the way out."
At 6 ft. 5 in., 230 pounds, Green projects a drill sergeant image -- and on the baseball field he has the personality to match. Some people think this approach is no longer feasible in these days of highly paid, individualistic athletes, but the Philadelphia brass obviously felt it was the one needed when it gave up on the "nice guy" methods of Danny Ozark. And whatever other factors may have been involved, one certainly cannot deny that it has worked.
"I started in spring training talking about character," Green recalled this week as his National League champions met the Kansas City Royals in the World Series. "I felt we needed character to win. It's one thing to say you want to win and another to show it," he said. "I told them the days were over when we could out-talent the other teams in our division -- that if we were going to win we were going to have to fight and grind for it."
The Phillies, already burdened with a sorry past in which they had been demolished in their only two World Series appearances, became a modern symbol of futility by winning three straight division titles (1976, '77, '78) only to lose in the playoffs each time despite a lineup that virtually oozed talent. The feeling grew that some players were more interested in individual statistics than team success. They sulked when things went wrong and shrugged off losses. And they created a feeling that this team couldn't win the big ones.
Last year they didn't even make it to the playoffs, falling back early and appearing to plain give up. So exit Ozark and enter Green.
A Journeyman pitcher for 12 major and minor league seasons, including several with the Phillies, Green managed Philadelphia farm clubs in 1968 and '69, then moved to the front office. He bacame director of minor league operations in 1972, and held that job until persuaded to step into the breech as manager last September, then to return this year.
Dallas is thus an enigma among those who normally hold this much coveted job: he was happy in the fron office, had no ambition to manage, and despite his success doesn't expect to keep at it very long. It was just that with his knowledge of the team, his physical prescence, and his mental toughness, Green seemed to be the right man to straighten out this particular team at this particular time.
"My job was to find if these guys still wanted to play for Philadelphia and win," he says. "And my judgment was deep down they did. I wanted to give them one more year to see if they wer eas good as we thought they were. I came in here to help these guys do what they said they wanted to do -- to win a world championship for Philadelphia."
Some veterans criticized the manager both for his whip-cracking methods and for the way he played several rookies in place of such familiar stars as Greg Luzinski and Bob Boone in some crucial late-season games. It all worked, though , as the team rallied to win its division title and the playoffs. Furthermore, unlike the situation on some other clubs -- where high-salaried malcontents can sometimes undermine a manager -- the players here didn't have much leverage.
"They knew they couldn't get me fired," Green once joked. "If they tried, I could just go back upstairs and fire them."