The Dodgers are taking it on the chin from the national media. The June issue of Inside Sports magazine has a cover story titled, "The Boys of Slumber." And the cover of the May 26 issue of The Sporting News asks the question, "Dodgers on a Downslide?"
Stu Black, a Los Angeles free-lance writer who is the author of the Inside Sports piece, charges that Peter O'Malley isn't willing to pay what it takes to build a winner. He also quotes two respected scouts, Jim Russo of the Orioles and George Genovese of the Giants, on the shortcomings of Dodger talent.
Russo, talking about Dodger shortstop Dave Anderson: "A couple of years ago, I had to go to winter ball, and Anderson was playing down there. If you listened to what the Dodgers were saying about Anderson, you would have thought he was another Ozzie Smith. Not close. Nor is he much of a hitter.
"You have to be a little careful about the Dodgers--they are pretty good at building up their players. They will lead you to believe that everybody in their farm system is an outstanding ballplayer. . . .
"They aren't going to scare the hell out of many ballclubs. I don't think much of their division, so they may be competitive, but they won't put fear in many people."
Finger-pointing: Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda took a shot at his own organization when former big leaguer Rich Ashburn asked him what was ailing L.A. hitters.
"I don't know what's going on," Lasorda said. "I'm beginning to wonder about the hitting instruction my players are getting in the minor leagues. Nobody knows how to hit anymore."
The eyes have it: Philadelphia Manager John Felske, concerned about Mike Schmidt's prolonged slump, suggested that the Phillies' third baseman undergo an eye examination.
Schmidt, who was batting .189 and had six hits in his last 40 at-bats entering the weekend, demurred.
"That's normal," Schmidt said of Felske's concern. "My eyes are perfect. Two or three weeks ago, I was thinking about that, but I don't have any eye problems."
Schmidt has never had worse problems at the plate, according to one American League scout.
"The pitcher would almost have to guess where Mike's going to swing the bat and aim for it, the way he was swinging," the scout told Bill Conlin of the Philadelphia Daily News. "That's the only way he could make solid contact. It's the worst I've ever seen him in all the years I've followed his career. He doesn't seem to have an idea."
If hitting's contagious, a slump's a disease: Schmidt has a lot of company around the league, and not just in Los Angeles. The league's cumulative batting average of .243, should it remain at that level, would equal the lowest average since 1968, the year of the dead ball.
Statistical guru Seymour Siwoff, president of the Elias Sports Bureau, said it's too early to spot a trend.
"I haven't found any reasons, and right now, I'm not sure there are any, other than there are a lot of pretty good hitters who are hitting poorly," Siwoff said.
Short on sympathy: After Cardinal reliever Neil Allen had given up a two-run single to Houston pitcher Nolan Ryan, his first hit in 21 at-bats, St. Louis trainer Gene Gieselmann said: "Neil called the suicide hot line last night, and they hung up."
Spreading the wealth: The Atlanta Braves, who need a setup man for ace reliever Bruce Sutter, have provided plenty of relief for bullpens other than their own.
Five relievers who were once Atlanta property are now valuable contributors elsewhere. Donnie Moore has 10 saves for the Angels, Ken Dayley four for the Cardinals, Tom Waddell seven for Cleveland, Jim Acker six for Toronto and Brian Fisher two for the New York Yankees.
The trainer's room is off limits: The Braves, alarmed at the 40-error pace that Bob Horner is on, have ordered the third baseman to take infield practice. Horner, who has nine errors, previously had begged off to get treatment for his bad wrist.
Support: In the nine starts made by Joaquin Andujar, who is 7-1, the Cardinals have scored 63 runs, an average of seven runs a game.
Nonsupport: The Braves are hitting .171 with runners in scoring position. In one loss last week to the Cardinals, the Braves had 12 at-bats with runners in scoring position, and their only RBI came on a bases-loaded walk.
Sweet on Strawberry: Darryl Strawberry, who will be out at least a month with torn thumb ligaments, received more than 1,000 letters containing a copy of a New York Post cartoon that said, "Get Well Soon, Darryl."
Rogers rooters: Expo pitchers reacted with surprise when Montreal gave long-time ace Steve Rogers his unconditional release.
"I heard it on the radio and I couldn't believe it," Bill Gullickson said. "A year and a half ago, who'd have ever thought that something like this could happen?
"Steve was just in a rut. A lot of pitchers get in ruts. He could come back and win a lot of games for another team."
Grand tour: Jack Clark of the Cardinals has now hit one home run in all eight ballparks in which he's played this season. Clark has one home run in 19 games in St. Louis, seven in 20 games on the road. All he needs to complete the circuit are home runs in Cincinnati, Atlanta, Philadelphia and Chicago.