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Tigers Eye Comeback; Dodgers Dealt Setback : BASEBALL PREVIEW '86 : Despite Loss of Guerrero, L.A. Is Tabbed

April 06, 1986|GORDON EDES | Times Staff Writer

Showman that he is, Pete Rose would rather see Pedro Guerrero's name on a marquee than on the disabled list.

"It's just better for the game of baseball if the stars go out there and star," said Rose, whose own box-office smash, "The Hit," turned Ty Cobb into a second banana last summer.

Competitor that he is, Rose said the Dodgers should not rupture just because Guerrero's tendon did.

"The show's got to go on," Rose said. "You can't feel sorry for yourself if something like that happens.

" . . . They (the Dodgers) will stay competitive and close. Their pitching can enable them to do that."

Until Guerrero went down, however, the Dodgers weren't interested in merely being competitive. They believed, and with reason, that they would become the first National League team since the 1978 Dodgers to repeat as division champions.

"If we can get off to a good start, we could have a fantastic season," Vice President Al Campanis had said.

That was two days before Guerrero's spikes caught and tripped a fright fantastic, leaving one shattered Dominican and Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda to pick up the pieces.

"There's nothing to do," Dodger veteran Enos Cabell said, "but bow your neck and play well."

But come October, there are at least three other teams in the West who could be taking bows as division champions, foremost among them Rose's Cincinnati Reds.

In the East, the Killer Tarp has gone underground, the electric fan is unplugged, and Don Denkinger has gone back to the American League, taking Joaquin Andujar with him. And the schmoes have been cleared out of the clubhouse.

All is safe for the St. Louis Cardinals to come out again. But not for long.

The Cardinals, who probably lost the World Series last fall on the day rookie Vince Coleman disappeared under the Busch Stadium tarp roller, won't have a freak accident to blame should they fail to get to the Series again.

This time, it could be an act of nature. How else would you describe Dwight Gooden?

"He ain't God, man," Chili Davis said of the New York Mets' Cy Young Award winner last season.

But there are more believers than nonbelievers when it comes to Gooden, the first pitcher since Sandy Koufax in 1966 to lead the majors in all three major pitching categories--wins (24), strikeouts (268) and earned-run average (1.53).

And Gooden is not alone. The Mets won more games in the last two years (188) than any other team in the league, and this season, they plan on having something to show for those wins.

"We had injuries last season and won 98 games," Met Manager Davey Johnson said. "The Cardinals were injury-free.

"And my young staff (Gooden, Ron Darling, Sid Fernandez and Rick Aguilera) has grown up. They've matured in the last couple of years. They're going to be even better than they have been."

If true, that should be enough to make even the hairs in Whitey Herzog's modified crewcut stand on end.

A team-by-team forecast, by division: WESTERN DIVISION

1. Dodgers--For the first time since 1982, the Dodgers planned to start the season with a set lineup built along traditional lines--plenty of power, pitching and experience. Then they lost Guerrero. "We're too good a team to rely on one man," catcher Mike Scioscia said. It remains to be seen how dependable Greg Brock and Mike Marshall will be in Guerrero's absence, whether Franklin Stubbs is a bona fide big leaguer, whether Bill Madlock's nagging injuries in the spring (phlebitis, sore elbow) will avoid developing into anything more serious, whether the Dodgers will catch the ball when it is hit at them. The pitching, they still have, although reliever Ken Howell's ineffectiveness this spring, a carryover from the fall, remains a concern. Still the team to beat.

2. Cincinnati Reds--A team with an 89-year-old first baseman (when you combine the ages of Pete Rose and Tony Perez) came within 4 1/2 games of the division-leading Dodgers last September, slicing five games off the Dodger lead in a five-day span. Since then, the Reds have added pitching--John Denny and Bill Gullickson--to a staff that already had Mario Soto and Tom Browning, a 20-game winner as a rookie.

And they brought in a few kids, including a 20-year-old switch- hitting shortstop from Thousand Oaks, Kurt Stillwell, who may supplant Davey Concepcion by June.

The Reds are primed to make a run for the Roses (Pete and Carol), not to mention the Schotts (owner Marge and St. Bernard Schottzie). But it will be strictly dog days if Dave Parker doesn't come close to repeating his MVP-type season of a year ago.

3. San Diego Padres--It was only a month ago that Kroc's Landing was a McMess, what with owner Joan Kroc fighting publicly with General Manager Jack McKeon and team president--not to mention son-in-law--Ballard Smith over the fate of Dick Williams.

Williams, or Mr. Macho, as he was called by Padre center fielder Kevin McReynolds, is gone, replaced by courtly Steve Boros, which should make for a few less bleeps around the Padre clubhouse.

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