Yankee troubles; an All-Star theory
Since change seems to be the only constant this year about the New York Yankees, look for more of it during this winter's inter-league trading period, which is the way owner George Steinbrenner likes to operate anyway.
Steinbrenner knows that the 1982 Yankees have far better personnel than their current won-lost record, and George is not the kind to keep players who don't produce or who rip him in the press. Steinbrenner may even be planning a third New York inauguration of Billy Martin as manager, if you can believe that.
In terms of possible trades, numerous players could be on the block - with the mound corps high on the list if recent history is any criterion. Since 1976 (though remember in many cases he got good value in return) Steinbrenner has dealt away pitchers Larry Gura, Scott McGregor, LaMarr Hoyt, Tim Lollar, Jim Beattie, Gene Nelson, Tippy Martinez, Bill Caudill and Ron Davis.
One of the main problems this season has been a frequent failure to come through with runners in scoring position - with Dave Winfield, Ken Griffey, and John Mayberry among the chief culprits. But as with any struggling club, it's not just one area but practically all of them where performance hasn't been up to expectations.
''Mathematically we can still win,'' one New York player who shall have to remain nameless told me. ''The talent is there, and if you look at our pitching, we're at least as good as Baltimore and better than either Milwaukee or Boston. But there are so many mental and personality problems on this club that nobody cares anymore.''
Asked if he knew why 1981 American League Rookie of the Year Dave Righetti had pitched so poorly that he had to be returned to the minors for a short period earlier this season, this same player replied:
''I don't know whether Righetti messed up what was a great natural delivery himself or had help from our pitching coaches. But once Dave reached the point where he couldn't throw strikes consistently anymore, the club had to send him down. First he'd get 'way behind in the count; then he'd come in with a fat pitch so he wouldn't lose the batter, and the result would be an extra base hit. But Dave has so much talent that he'll be a big winner again.''
Incidentally David Szen, Yankee Director of Publications, told me that Steinbrenner was misquoted by the press when he was quoted as saying: ''Dave Winfield is not a superstar like Reggie Jackson.''
Szen claims what George actually said was: ''Winfield is not the same kind of superstar as Jackson. Reggie is the sort of player who can put people in the park even when he isn't going well, and his personality lends itself much more to the needs of the media than Winfield's does.''