split wide to lrelet
Campbell going fishing ...
... with little bait
O WEEKS AGO, the Detroit Tigers started paying the price
for several years of front-office bungling.
As early as 1971, it was clear to unbiased observers that the
team was in for serious long-term trouble if it didn't take steps to
get good young talent into the system immediately. Based on the
club's track record, it was equally clear that this talent wasn't
about to come from the farm system.
This was so for two reasons: 1) Very few players emerged
from the system as bona-fide major leaguers, and 2) Those who
did, emerged on other clubs.
Elliott Maddox went to Texas in the Denny McLain deal,
and is currently a .300-hitting outfielder for the Yankees. It's
becoming more obvious every day the Tigers would have been
better keeping Maddox around, while letting Texas hold on to
Pitchers Mike Marshall, Dick Drago and Jim Rooker all slipped
away in the expansion draft, so the Tigers could protect outstand-
ing prospects like, like, like . . . well, you get the point. All three
of them would be seeing heavy action now if the Bengals had found
a way to keep them on the roster.
And pitching is almost certain to be a problem for Detroit
in the coming years. Of the team's veterans, only Mickey Lolich,
Joe Coleman and John Hiller figure to be any good from now on
out, and as for the youngsters . . . well, they ought to hand out
free suits of armor in the bleachers every time Fred Holdsworth,
Dave Lemanczyk or Bill Slayback touches the ball.
The minor league situation is almost as depressing. Evans-
ville, with all those American Association All-Stars on the field,
was a losing team-precisely because its pitching staff got
bombed with numbing regularity. Holdsworth, for all he needs
to learn, was still the only member of that staff who was able
to maintain decent personal stats over a large number of
The picture is quite a bit better at Montgomery, but as Ler-
rin Lagrow so painfully proved, there's a long distance between
burning up the Southern League, and achieving respectability in
the big leagues.
If the Bengals can't do better than this, and quickly, the
future for Detroit looks bleak indeed. Even if Ron LeFlore be-
comes the Lou Brock of the late-70s, even if Tom Veryzer starts
drawing favorable comparison with Marty Marion and Arky
Vaughan, and even if Mary Lane, Ben Oglivie, Dick Sharon and
Jim Nettles learn to hit major-league pitching consistently, the
Tigers will go nowhere until they find the young guys who can
hold the opposition down with regularity.
Should trade vets
The only way the Tigers are going to get that kind of talent
is by investing their remaining stock of valuable veterans in
trades for precisely this sort of talent. And this doesn't just mean
peddling Eddie Brinkman to the highest bidder.
Brinkman, after all, is a 32-year old, not particularly fast
shartstop with a questionable stick and an increasingly uncer-
tain future. His chief value would be to a club locked in a tight
pennant race which needs a genuinely good fielder at short
to have a solid chance of winning. Since few clubs get into
contention anyhow without a decent shortstop, that market is
pretty limited - right now, the only club fitting the descrip-
tion well is Saint Louis, and with some stretching maybe you
could add Pittsburgh.
For most of the other big league clubs, Brinkman simply does
not have the sort of skills which would really help them. True,
he's an excellent player, and deserves all the nice things Detroit
fans have said about him, but his value on the trading bloc, viewed
objectively, is not nearly as high as many people think.
Who wants them?
Then, if he wants a few laughs over the off-season, Jim Camp-
bell can try to convince someone to take any (or all) of Bill Free-
han, Gates Brown, and Mickey Stanley off his hands at anything
better than fire-sale rates.
So when you come right down to it, the only players left
for whom Campbell can expect to receive anything good in
return are Gary Sutherland and Aurelio Rodriguez. Both are
backed up by relatively promising players - Sutherland by
John Knox, and Rodriguez by Danny Meyer in Evansville-
and both have enough talent and major league life expectancy
to interest quite a few other clubs.
Rodriguez is worth the most in trade, since he does have an
outstanding glove, and at age 26 he's young enough so that whoever
owns him can wait for him to develop as a hitter. Naturally, the
Tigers have screamed vociferously whenever trading him is sug-
gested. But he's just about the only Tiger you can say would be
worth more elsewhere than he's worth in Detroit, and that makes
him precisely the player the Tigers should be most interested in
Nixon and Agnew, remember, always said they'd never re-
sign, until they finally did it. You can expect the Bengals to say
they can't afford to part with Rodriguez. But, given their des-
perate need for good young pitching talent, maybe they realize
that they can afford even less to keep him in Detroit.
The long arm of the law
FORMER MICHIGAN stand-
out _ defensive tackle Tom -
Beckman (99) swats his big
right paw in front of passes
for the Memphis Southmen
these days. Beckman missed
Detroit Wheels' quarterbackF r
Bubba Wyche's pass, but the O
Southmen went on to annihi-
late the Wheels 37-7 Wednes-
day night. Two other former
"'M" superstars Billy Taylorrg
and Cecil Pryor are among
Beckman's Memphis team-
mates. Pryor, thong injured,
has been a starting defensive
end most of the campaign.H t
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