The feeling among practically all big league managers is that baseball's best-of-five playoffs are tougher to win and have become more important than the World Series. And unlike the regular season, as Los Angeles manager Tommy Lasorda points out, there's far less likelihood that the best team will eventually win.
According to Lasorda, whose Dodgers have been in the playoffs four times in the last eight years, a team can start poorly during the regular season, even have a couple of minor slumps later on, and still win its division. That is, assuming it is a basically sound ball club with reasonably good pitching and defense. Over a 162-game schedule the best team, barring injuries, is going to win because there is always time to atone for mistakes.
However, the playoffs are a different story, because in such a short series other factors creep in. For example, the better team can lose because of a bad bounce, because its hitters unexpectedly go flat, or because the opposition's pitchers suddenly begin throwing goose eggs. That is why Lasorda and so many others in his profession agree that the two best teams don't always make the World Series. Managerial changes in works
George Bamberger, who most general managers seem to think can make a winning pitcher out of a rubber boot, will inaugurate his second term next season as manager of the Milwaukee Brewers. Already there is speculation that fired Brewers' Manager Rene Lachemann will sign with either California, Atlanta, Montreal, or Boston. Earl Weaver is also said to be interested in piloting the Red Sox now that Ralph Houk has made his long-rumored retirement official.
Meanwhile Philadelphia, with manager Paul Owens moving back to a front office post, has decided to replace Owens with coach John Felske. And although it won't happen for two years because Dallas Green's contract with Chicago is iron clad, various sources say the Cubs' general manager is headed back to the Phillies, for whom he worked for years in various capacities including managing the 1980 world champions. Around the majors
No player finished the 1984 season in more spectacular fashion than Mike Witt of the California Angels, who threw a perfect game against the Texas Rangers, retiring all 27 batters he faced in a 1-0 victory... First baseman Don Mattingly won the AL batting championship on the final day by going 4-for-5 against the Detroit Tigers to shade his New York Yankee teammate Dave Winfield .343 to .340 ... Tony Gwynn of San Diego won the NL bat title with a .351 average, 30 points higher than runnerup Lee Lacy of Pittsburgh .. Cincinnati player-manager Pete Rose finished the season needing 95 hits to break Ty Cobb's all-time major league record of 4,191.
Had California not been seven games under .500 at home, the Angels probably would have won the AL West ... and from the July 10 All-Star break on, the Yankees (51-29) had the winningest record in either league.
Houston manager Bob Lillis thinks Mario Soto, who won 18 games for the lowly Cincinnati Reds, deserves as much consideration in the NL's Cy Young Award sweepstakes as his more publicized rivals - rookie strikeout artist Dwight Gooden of the Mets, Rick Sutcliffe (16-1) of the Cubs, and Bruce Sutter (45 saves) and Joaquin Andujar (20 wins) of the Cards. ''With Soto working every four days, you're never going to have a long losing streak,'' Lillis said. ''Mario also saves the bullpen by giving his manager so many innings pitched plus so many complete games. I just think he has some of the best stuff of any pitcher in baseball.''