One thing members of the New York Yankees have had to learn to live with, since Billy Martin replaced Yogi Berra as their manager, are the frequent changes Martin likes to make in the team's starting lineup. Billy, like former Baltimore Orioles Manager Earl Weaver, has always kept a book on what his hitters have done over the years against opposing pitchers and vice versa. For example, while a player like Dave Winfield might be hitting well on the season, Martin might still sit him down on certain days when pitchers who have a history of containing him are working. Actually these are smart percentage moves by Martin that his players can't really rail against, since the evidence is right there in Billy's dog-eared ledger.
Through the years Martin has specialized in taking losing teams and turning them into winners almost overnight. The current Yankees, of course, with hitters like Winfield, Don Mattingly, Rickey Henderson, Don Baylor, and Ken Griffey, were never that bad to begin with.
Billy's problem is right where everybody said it would be -- in a pitching staff which had only 15 complete games in 1984. Martin, who needs a stopper who can win every four days or close to it, reportedly would like to take Dave Righetti out of the bullpen and make him a starter again. But that is probably going to have to wait until next year, unless the Yankees can trade immediately for an established relief pitcher.
While most managers are content to utter the usual platitudes about a field boss being no better than his players, Martin of course disagrees.
``When you talk about a manager like myself,'' Billy once told me, ``you're talking about someone with the ability to change the outcome in anywhere from 20 to 50 games a season. I'm not the type who fills out a lineup card and then turns things over to his coaches once the game starts. Because of that I'm always going to have an edge over guys like that in the other dugout.
``The thing is I do everything myself. I'm the guy who decides when to bring the infield in; where to play outfielders; who to pinch hit; whether to steal or bunt or go for the big inning. Somebody out there on the field in a Yankee uniform is getting a signal from me before every pitch. Sure I push things. But by the same token, I also take the blame when I'm wrong.
So far this time around, Billy has been right more than wrong. The Yankees are 16-10 since he took over on April 29, and have climbed from last place into contention in the American League East. Evans on unfulfilled potential
Asked why the power-laded Boston Red Sox have played in only one World Series since 1972, the year he joined the club, outfielder Dwight (Dewey) Evans replied, ``Considering the number of great players we've had over the years, we should have grabbed three or four pennants during that period. In fact, in the mid-'70s we were the best team in baseball; good enough in my opinion to have won three World Series.
``I won't tell you why we didn't, although I know why, but it wasn't because we didn't have the right mix and that's all I'm going to say.''
Read into that anything you want, but my personal guess (reinforced from having talked with several other Red Sox players) is that what Evans was referring to was a succession of managers who might not have gotten the most from their material. Or, possibly, they didn't know how to run a pitching staff. Elsewhere in the big leagues
Moose Stubing, the California Angels' new batting coach entrusted with raising the averages of second-year players Gary Pettit and Dick Schofield, has both young men trying to hit the ball to the opposite field. It's an extension of the off-season instruction Pettis took from former National League batting champion Harry (the Hat) Walker, who often used his bat like a pool cue. Since Pettis (a fleet outfielder) and Schofield (who led all AL shortstops in fielding last year) are both terrific glove men, batting averages in the .260s would almost make them all-stars.
Most people who know him didn't think Manager Tommy Lasorda of the Los Angeles Dodgers could stop talking long enough to compose a book. However, Tom handled that problem by simply directing his remarks into a tape recorder. ``The Artful Dodger'' (Arbor House: $15.95), written by Lasorda with Dave Fisher, is full of little known baseball stories, the kind sports writers often hear in spring training but never seem to have room for in their columns.