VERO BEACH, Fla. — At the Beach News Center, a newsstand that carries papers from New York, Boston and other cities north of the Frost Belt, the man behind the counter, Ed Smith, had a question for a customer from Los Angeles.
"What are the Dodgers doing with Sid Bream?" he asked. "There's a bunch of us here from Carlisle, Pa., and we're not too happy about what's happening with Sid."
Actually, Smith and the other refugees from Carlisle, Bream's hometown, are unhappy because nothing is happening with Bream. At the moment, the first baseman exists in baseball's no-man's land. He'll be 25 in August, but it's obvious that the Dodgers have no plans for him, except to send him back to Albuquerque for another season of Triple-A ball.
There is no competition for the first base job here. Both Manager Tom Lasorda and Vice President Al Campanis have gone to great lengths to assure all that Greg Brock, a .224 hitter in 1984, is their first baseman, period. That leaves Bream nowhere, period.
It doesn't matter how many line drives Bream hits, like the one he hit on the first pitch thrown him in Tuesday's intrasquad game. He has about as much chance of sticking with the Dodgers this spring as one of his fans from Carlisle.
"Greg and I are pretty close, so it's a shame we're competing for the same position," Bream said. "But in my eyes, they've given him two years to prove himself and he hasn't done the job. You'd think at least I'd be given a chance, but they don't seem to want to. Then, when they got (Al) Oliver as the backup first baseman, that really killed me."
This isn't the first time Bream has been passed over. Last season at Albuquerque, he was hitting .417 when the call for help came down. Franklin Stubbs was sent up.
"They told me he was called up to play outfield, but the first day up, they played him at first base," Bream said. "I said, 'This can't be.' I was getting stepped on. I thought maybe because I was Mr. Nice Guy I was getting stepped on, so I had to let out some emotion."
Bream said he took out his frustration on his manager, Terry Collins, and that he now regrets it.
Eventually, he got his chance in Los Angeles, too, such as the chance was: 49 at-bats in 27 games. Combined with the 11 at-bats he had in 1983, Bream's lifetime stats in the big leagues read: 60 at-bats, 11 hits, .183 average. The numbers, especially for a man who has hit better than .300 in all four of his minor-league seasons, obviously aren't grabbers.
But neither do they give an accurate picture of what he could do if given a chance, Bream said.
"Most of my at-bats have come as a pinch-hitter," he said. "I can't go up to the plate once every game. I have to have at least two or three at-bats."
Campanis said he would be willing to trade Bream. He said he would like nothing more than for Bream to experience what happened to Steve Balboni, who was let go by the Yankees and became a slugger for the Kansas City Royals.
Campanis doesn't have to trade Bream, though, or keep him on the Dodgers' 25-man roster. Bream has one option left, which means he can be sent down to Albuquerque. That means he can do little but wait . . . and hope.