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For Lasorda, Dodger Woes Are Digestible : Manager Says That Despite Incidents, and Especially Injuries, Team Is Not in Turmoil

August 22, 1986|GORDON EDES | Times Staff Writer

The team's star player is convinced he's being persecuted.

The team's star pitcher blows his cool publicly for the first time in memory.

The team's most respected veteran engages in a shouting match with the team's top young slugger.

The team's foremost leader confronts the team's leading hitter.

The team's shortstop blames the media for his injury.

The team's manager calls a meeting to defend his star player, and seals off the clubhouse with the zeal of a border guard at the Berlin Wall.

The team's clubhouse is pockmarked with innuendo, finger-pointing and resentment.

The team is a half-game out of last place in the National League West, and attendance threatens to be off by more than 100,000 from last year.

So why should the team's owner, Peter O'Malley, overseeing his personal dominion from his private box in Dodger Stadium, notice anything out of sorts in Dodger blue these days?

The manager of his Dodger team, Tom Lasorda, doesn't.

Don't tell Lasorda about any problems the Dodgers might have that can be written anywhere but on the disabled list, which has contained the names of 14 Dodger players this season.

Lasorda unequivocally insists the Dodgers don't have those kind of problems.

"There are no problems on this team," he said Thursday from his home in Orange County.

"Those are not the reasons this team is not in first place. If you and the other guys (reporters) had any idea about baseball whatsoever, you guys would know that. Evidently, you don't."

In case his listener was not convinced, Lasorda also said in the course of a 30-minute telephone conversation:

--"Let God be the judge. If I'm lying, I hope I hope I don't walk out this door again, but we don't have any internal problems. None whatsoever. Believe me when I tell you that."

--"You can't tell me there's any problem on this team internally. They're playing their hearts out."

--"If there were problems like that, it would be my fault. But I can swear on my father's grave, with no reservations, that there are no problems."

Lasorda doesn't deny calling a meeting two days ago on behalf of Pedro Guerrero, who believes that at least two newspapers in town are out to get him.

The manager doesn't deny that Fernando Valenzuela threw his glove and cap in fury in Houston last week, or that Mike Scioscia had words there with Steve Sax.

Lasorda knows that Mike Marshall and Bill Russell shouted at each other last Sunday in San Francisco and that Mariano Duncan says he wouldn't have played four innings with a broken bone in his left foot except that he wanted to stop a newspaper reporter from suggesting he was dogging it.

Lasorda may interpret those events differently from the way they've been reported in the media, but he doesn't deny they happened. His response, however, is: So what?

"There's an overreaction to just about everything that's mentioned," Lasorda said.

"Are you telling me no teams ever have an argument? Not just losing teams, but winning teams, too. . . . It happens every day in baseball. It's just not written every day.

"When we had winning ballclubs, don't you think we had arguments? I think this year has been a picnic compared to others I've been through, as far as those things are concerned.

"You should have been here in the late '70s. That was an entirely different situation. That's what irritates me, because when people try to say, 'Is there a problem on this club?' it's obvious I'm talking to the wrong people."

The wrong people, Lasorda implied, just don't understand things like the Russell-Marshall exchange, which began when Russell asked Marshall why he wasn't playing. By all accounts, Marshall, who has had a bad back for nearly two months, took exception.

But in Lasorda's version, "Billy Russell kiddingly said, 'When are you going to play?' . . . Marshall thinks the world of Billy Russell. He idolizes him. . . .

"I'm sitting here, dying, thinking about the whole year, what went wrong. I'm not thinking about Russell and Marshall exchanging a couple of words."

Let the wrong people suggest that teammates and club officials privately wondered why it took Duncan so long to recover from a sprained ankle. Lasorda said he had no part of it.

"Guys say they can't play, I've got to believe them," Lasorda said. "It's like the story of the hypochondriac who died and had put on his tombstone, 'They didn't believe me.'

"Why wouldn't Mariano Duncan want to play?"

The wrong people may be hearing Guerrero's teammates offer off-the-record criticisms of Guerrero's attitude and training habits, but not Lasorda.

"Guys have overreacted about Pete," Lasorda said. "He hasn't played. He hasn't walked up to the plate. He hasn't thrown the ball. He hasn't caught the ball. . . .

"Pete's a great guy. He won us a lot of ballgames for us last year. When he was playing he didn't do anything to disrupt the ballclub. He's a tremendous guy. I love him. . . .

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