Brock hit .225 in 1984. He had six home runs and 10 RBIs in the first 25 games of the season, including home runs in four successive games against the Padres at Dodger Stadium in April. Then, on April 27, he severely sprained his right wrist, went onto the disabled list, and played only nine games in May.
"Greg was just starting to hit when he hurt his wrist," Wade said. "And whether he got back in the lineup too soon, who knows?"
Brock hit just three homers in June, and on July 2 the Dodgers sent him in tears to Albuquerque. Even then, he said, his wrist wasn't entirely healed, which made him question his demotion.
"I don't think I felt betrayed, but the wrist injury affected me more than people realized when I got sent down," he said. "I don't think it completely healed for another couple of weeks."
When Brock returned, on July 31, he did a little better, hitting .243 the rest of the way, but his one home run and five RBIs in September were a feeble return on promised thunder. By the end of the season, six Dodgers had played first base.
A winter of trade rumors followed--Brock was offered to Oakland as part of a package for outfielder Rickey Henderson--then the Dodgers made a deal for Al Oliver, a .300 hitter who plays first base.
But when spring arrived, Oliver was in left field and Brock was back at first. "I don't care what kind of spring he has," Lasorda has said. "He's my opening day first baseman."
So far, Brock is batting .240 with no home runs. His sore right elbow kept him out of the lineup recently. But he returned Saturday and was 2 for 3.
Ask Brock if he sees 1985 as a make-or-break year and he shakes his head. "I don't look at it that way," he said. "I've shown some power. My rookie season was not all that bad, and last year, because of the wrist and the demotion, I had only 270 at-bats.
"I've got a lot of things going for me if I put it all together, and I think I will. I don't think last year can be the judge."
His penchant for taking pitches has been overblown, he says. He points to his minor league walk totals--a league-high 105 in 1982--as evidence that he always has been a discriminating hitter.
"I think there's some truth to it and now, whenever I take a pitch, I think of everybody saying I should quit doing that," he said.
"But if I was taking pitches and hitting .300, I don't think anybody would be saying anything."
Mota continues to preach aggressiveness, and says Brock is responding.
"His attitude is super," Mota said. "He just needs to be more relaxed. If he hits the way he's supposed to hit, he can hit .260 to .270 with 25 to 30 home runs."
For now, Lasorda has Brock batting in the No. 7 spot in the lineup, behind catcher Mike Scioscia, which should take even more pressure off. Brock said he'd like to hit higher. "Being sandwiched between a Marshall and a Guerrero would be nice," he said. Wade predicts that it will happen if Brock starts to hit.
Unlike his first spring, when he was a media event, there are no TV cameras recording Brock's every move now, and the reporters come by singly, instead of in packs. Out of the glare, Brock has found he can drop some of his defenses.
"That first year, I probably got so sick of it, I was bombarded so much that I got a real negative attitude," he said. "And it carried over most of last year. But now I feel more comfortable and I'm not approached as much. It used to be hard. It would get to be 5 o'clock and I'd still have to go meet three or four guys (reporters). Now I can get away."
For Brock, getting away means going home to his wife, Denny, and their son, Casey, born on the couple's first wedding anniversary, Jan. 7. Not only has that changed his perspective--"Now, no matter what I do, I still have my family"--it, too, has eased the pressure.
"When I get home, she (Denny) doesn't ask me how I hit or how I'm swinging unless I open the conversation," he said. "If I don't want to talk about it, it never gets mentioned."
If Brock falters, what, then, for the Dodgers?
Sid Bream, a .300 hitter every season he has played in the minors, is challenging with a splendid spring, although the Dodgers have reservations about his power. Franklin Stubbs, rushed to the majors last season with disastrous results--63 strikeouts in 217 at-bats--probably will need time but is expected to find himself again.
"I haven't lost any respect for Franklin Stubbs as a ballplayer," Wade said. "He'll bounce back, if he's got it in him to be a good ballplayer, which I think he does.
"Look at Garvey. He had a terrible start. He couldn't play third, he couldn't play left field, he was struggling, but he overcame it. All the good players do."
The struggle now is Brock's.
"I don't think we made a mistake," Wade said. "Garvey hit seven (actually he hit eight) home runs last season. With seven home runs he wouldn't have driven in very many runs for us. He was hitting behind two guys (Alan Wiggins and Tony Gwynn) who were on base more than anybody else in the big leagues.
"And as the old saying goes, we didn't get rid of Garvey, he left."
Yes, he left, to become most valuable player of the National League playoffs and architect, with one ninth-inning home run, of the most electric moment in Padre history.
Garvey fans in Los Angeles may never give up the ghost. So far, the Dodgers haven't given up on Brock. At the moment, though, the odds favor the ghost.