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To Err Is to Play for the Dodgers

May 28, 1985|GORDON EDES | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — A guy sitting behind the visitors' dugout in Shea Stadium threw a beer at Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda Monday night.

"He missed me," Lasorda said. "At least, I think he did."

With credentials like that, the guy could wind up playing for the Dodgers, where nobody else can throw straight, either. The Dodgers ended their four-day stay here with all the finesse of a holiday drunk trying to knock the bottles off the barrel at a Coney Island carnival toss, losing to the New York Mets, 8-1, before a crowd of 24,458.

The box score will show that the Dodgers committed only two errors, their 55th and 56th of the season. And only two of the Mets' runs were unearned, the 41st and 42nd allowed by the Dodgers in 44 games.

The giggles, guffaws, and your basic side-splitting laughter that greeted this slovenly exhibition, however, told a different story. So did the Mets' Ray Knight, who hit a ball almost as far as his wife could for a three-run home run off Jerry Reuss in the Mets' four-run third inning. Knight's wife is Nancy Lopez, the golfer.

"That defense surely is not a major league defense," said Knight, who played in the same division as the Dodgers for more than seven seasons before coming to the Mets in a trade from Houston.

"They can't win over there unless they play better defense, because they don't have a good offense, and their pitching isn't as strong as it once was."

The next time the local library is looking to throw out books that are outdated or obsolete, the first candidate should be Al Campanis' "The Dodger Way to Play Baseball." Maybe the Dodgers used to play that way, but not anymore.

This is how they played Monday:

Knight, the Mets' second batter, hit a double play ball to Pedro Guerrero at third. Guerrero bounced his throw into Steve Sax at second for the force; Sax threw the ball to the first-base railing, but Knight did not advance.

Rafael Santana led off the third with a ground ball that went under shortstop Bill Russell's glove for a hit. The next batter, Met pitcher Ron Darling, bunted to Reuss, who threw the ball past Sax into center field. Incredibly, it also eluded center fielder Ken Landreaux. Santana scored on the error, and Darling wound up on second.

Mookie Wilson, the next batter, also bunted to Reuss, and this time the Dodger pitcher fired a strike to Sax. Only Sax was standing about 20 feet behind first base, backing up Greg Brock, and everybody was safe. Wilson was credited with a hit, one of four he would have on the night.

"Jerry didn't throw that ball away," pitching coach Ron Perranoski said. "He turned quick, and threw to Saxie because he thought he was covering first base."

Perranoski, worried that Reuss might have become unhinged by his misadventures afield, hurried out to the mound to talk to the pitcher. He had barely gotten back to the dugout when Reuss grooved the first pitch to Knight, who drove it over the left-field bleachers, more than 420 feet away.

Knight acknowledged that Reuss' mind may have been elsewhere when he came to the plate. Reuss refused to acknowledge anything, responding to questions by chewing on a sandwich before saying he did not want to talk.

"I don't know what he (Reuss) was thinking," Knight said, "but I was looking to get a pitch to drive and he threw it exactly where I was looking."

There's more. Keith Hernandez followed Knight's home run with a smash to third. Guerrero made a nice back-handed stop, but instead of conceding the hit, he threw it off the tarpaulin behind first.

In the sixth, Santana's blooper to short right hit Sax--who had his back to the plate--in the glove, the ball falling for a hit.

In the seventh, Landreaux fielded Knight's double, lobbed a throw over the head of cutoff man Sax to Russell, who fired the ball over the head of catcher Mike Scioscia while Wilson scored.

And to think Lasorda had benched rookie Mariano Duncan, who had committed two errors the game before.

To find a Lasorda-managed team that was worse defensively, you'd probably have to go back to Ogden.

"I'm not going to compare any teams," said Lasorda, whose team began this trip 2 1/2 games out of first and now trail the Padres by six games after winning four out of 10.

"I know one thing: We're not playing well, that's all. You know that, I know that, and they know that."

While Lasorda wasn't up to making comparisons, Knight was.

"Since the days of the Brooklyn Dodgers and Pee Wee Reese, I don't think the Dodgers ever were outstanding defensively," he said. "They had great pitching and offense.

"When they had Davey (Lopes), Ron (Cey), Steve (Garvey) and (Bill) Russell, I don't think people thought they were great defensively. Cey didn't have much range and Davey booted some balls.

"But they had the best pitching in the league, they'd hit 160 or 170 home runs, Davey would steal 35 or 40 bases, Russell would make 25 errors, but he'd drive in 50 or 60 runs, and the third baseman and the first baseman would drive in 100 runs.

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