Surrounded by reporters as he sat in the visiting manager's office at Shea Stadium the other day, Pete Rose talked of the "great chemistry" on his Cincinnati Reds. He talked of Eric Davis and the young talent, and Dave Parker and the enthusiastic veterans.
He also talked about the manager.
"I can't conceive of a player not liking to play for me," he said. "I'm honest, I'm fair, I let 'em play. I don't think there's any question but that I'm offensive-minded. I turn 'em loose.
"I think I understand players better than any manager in baseball because I was still a player last year and I may be playing again next month."
Next month? Rose only meant that he will be eligible to play again Friday and hasn't given up on the idea.
For now, however, he is wrapped up in managing and says he and his team will continue to improve as the players get to know each other better and he gets to know the players better. He only asks them to report on time and give 100%.
"I don't have 15,000 rules and 83,000 signs," he said. "I'm not going to outsmart anyone. The key to managing is having the right player in the right place at the right time. Keep it simple.
"I want them to have fun, to enjoy coming to the clubhouse. Now if the clock on the wall says a quarter to eight and I've still got three or four players sitting in there watching Vanna White, then the TV's got to go. And I like Vanna White."
The Reds offer the latest proof that a team reflects its manager's personality.
Is this the new Big Red Machine?
"As a player Pete threw everything at you but the kitchen sink," Parker said. "We don't have to be told to go about it the same way.
"We have that can't-wait-to-play attitude. I like the way guys are gaining confidence, getting to the park three, four hours early. It shows they want to play. It shows they want to win, and keep winning.
"It's early, and we've got an extremely tough Western Division to beat. A lot of people say the East is better, but I don't agree. I think there's been a swing of power."
Two former Dodgers, both bargain acquisitions, are filling vital roles on the Cincinnati pitching staff.
The Reds acquired Ted Power from Albuquerque in October of 1982, then traded Rafael Landestoy to the Dodgers for John Franco in May of 1983.
Power saved 27 games for the Reds in '85, struggled through the first half of '86 and was moved into the starting rotation in midseason when Mario Soto and John Denny went down with injuries.
He lost his first start to the Chicago Cubs, 3-2, and has since gone 9-0 in 16 starts, the Reds winning 15.
What kind of feeling did he have when Rose made him a starter?
"The same feeling I had when the Dodgers told me I was going from Los Angeles to Cincinnati. A new life," Power said.
Franco saved 12 games in 1985 and 29 last year. He had 6 saves in 10 appearances through Thursday, having pitched 9 innings in which he retired 29 of 30 batters. The only batter to have reached base against him did so by error.
"It's my first no-hitter in the big leagues," he said, smiling.
Said Rose: "I've got to believe he's the best reliever in the National League. He doesn't ever give in."
It was an ugly week for the Oakland A's. Consider:
--Dennis Eckersley, who had been relegated to the bullpen since his acquisition in early April from the Chicago Cubs, started for the first time as an 11th-hour replacement for Moose Haas. Eckersley worked seven strong innings against Boston in a game that successor Steve Ontiveros eventually lost, then said:
"Spot starting (bleep). What's the big secret around here anyway? Why aren't I starting? I've been a starting pitcher for 12 years. I've got more wins than anyone starting for this (bleep) team."
Responded Manager Tony LaRussa: "If he doesn't like the way he's been handled, I'll do everything I can to get his (bleep) rear out of here. I don't like it. I don't like guys who rag."
--Ron Cey, under fire from Oakland fans because of his .160 average, 1 RBI and 13 strikeouts in 25 at-bats through Friday, saw similarities to his irregular role with the Chicago Cubs and said: "It's obvious I can't do the things they'd like me to do if I'm sitting around most of the time. This is obviously not what I planned on."
However, Cey doubled home the tying and winning runs Saturday night in an 8-7 victory over Detroit. It was his only at-bat of the game.
--General Manager Sandy Alderson, asked if he thought Joaquin Andujar is faking the arm injury that has put him on the disabled list twice this year and allowed him to pitch only one-plus inning, said:
"No, but what bothers me about Joaquin Andujar is that he thinks he's smarter than everybody else. He's the one who won't go to Tacoma on a rehabilitation assignment. He's the one who won't participate in our exercise program. He's the one who doesn't want to report to camp on time.