Page 16--Thursday, June 15, 1978-The Michigan DaiI'y
Tiger's Leflore,. ..
Dowr Femcie US IN
By CUB SCHWARTZ
IT HAPPENED IN a rather unimportant game last season between the
Tigers and the Brewers. The score was tied 3-3 going into the bottom
of the ninth. Ron LeFlore led off for the Bengals, chopping a slow grounder
down the third base line. The Brewer infielder gloved the ball cleanly, but his
throw to first arrived just after the hustling LeFlore.
In steps Tito Fuentes. On the first pitch LeFlore steals second. Fuentes
with LeFlore on second fails to lay down a sacrifice bunt fair, and ends up
striking out. Rusty Staub enters the batter's box to try and send home the
winning run. Instead, the burly DH slaps a grounder to second. But LeFlore
is too quick for aplay at third and the Brewers settle for Staub at first.
In steps Jason Thompson, two outs and LeFlore at third base. The
Brewer hurler has only thrown eight pitches, and no one has hit the ball out
of the infield. But on the next toss his curve lands in the dirt in front of the
catcher. The ball skips away, not far enough for anyone to score. Unless
anyone is Ronnie LeFlore. The speedster darted for the plate, just sliding
under the tag to win the game.
I'll remember that game for a long time. So will Jim Campbell and
Ralph Houk. LeFlore represents to them the most valuable type of ball
player. He can make a run out of ground outs and sacrifice flies. He chases
down those long belts into dead center field at Tiger Stadium, transforming
potential triples into long outs.
Yes, LeFlore is a valuable player alright-valuable enough to draw aL
good offer on the trading block. And if the Tiger management was on the
ball, that's just what it would do.
Such would be the case in a deal sending LeFlore off for a good starting
pitcher-preferably a southpaw.
First take a look at LeFlore's stats. He has scored 38 runs so far this
season, easily topping the Tigers and placing him in the major league
He has hit right around the .300 mark for the past three seasons, and is
currently hitting at a respectable .270 mark. His speed is an asset either on
the basepaths or in the roaming areas of centerfield. The guy is also
somewhat of a team spark. Surely some team could make good use of
Not that the Tigers aren't, but LeFlore isn't everything some people
think he is. As a leadoff hitter he isn't the gem one might infer from his bat-
ting average and speed. He has struck out 41 times this season, more than
any other Tiger. Leadoff hitters are not supposed to strike out a lot.
Furthermore, his fielding isn't the best in the world. Although he has
only committed four errors, he has misplayed quite a few more, which have
resulted in hits instead of outs.
A look at the current problem with the Tigers on the other hand shows
just what everyone expected from before the season began; they lack a solid
Looking at the five starters, only Steve Baker has an ERA under 3.35..
And if you look at the win-loss records, the Bengals most effective starter is
Jim Slaton at 6-3. But Slaton who is chained to a 5.01 ERA is far from my idea
of a "stopper." The free agent-to-be has won games by giving up five and six
runs, while the big bats provided him with eight or nine. Granted, he has had
a couple of solid outings, but I'll bet he doesn't draw much on the open
Trading LeFlore wouldn't hurt the offensive attack that much. Whitaker
is a capable lead-off man, although he certainly won't steal as many bases or
advance around the infield as quickly as does LeFlore. And by pushing
Sweet Lou up, and dropping LeFlore's replacement down in the order, room
is made for Steve Kemp to hit second.
Kemp has indicated he would rather hit in this slot, and his performance
over the past four games in that position has been more than impressive.
And as a bonus, Kemp's ability to draw the walk (50 times this year) would
be more potent when he is standing on first with the likes of Thompson, Staub
and May at the plate.
But who would take over for LeFlore in the field? Well, Corcoran is a
good enough ballplayer to warrant full time play instead of platooning him
with Wockenfus. Manager Ralph Houk could try Wockenfus in center,
although he maybe too slow. Then there is always the aging but able Mickey
Stanley, not a great hitter, but a defensive gem.
And wouldn't it be fun to consider bonus baby Kirk Gibson in center-
field? Who knows, such an opportunity might keep the Michigan State foot-
ball star out of the Wolverines defensive backfield next season.
The makings for a trade look too good. So why hasn't it been considered?
Enter Lanar Burton and the Hollywood camera crew.
After all the rigamarole over the movie and the book detailing LeFlore's
Horatio Algier story, the Tiger management is kind of penned in. The movie
will undoubtedly make LeFlore look bigger than life and people are going to
want their kids to see this guy once the movie hits the air waves.
They just couldn't trade him now. Or could they?
From my very non-Hollywood point of view, this is the Tiger's One in a
Million Chance to Breakout.
Milwaukee's Ben Ogilvie takes out Toronto's second baseman Dave McKay during
a double play attempt in the Brewers-Blue Jays game yesterday. The Brewers
won the game 7-5, putting more distance between them and the fading Tigers.
I ~ tji~i£eatte kudig6 .
W I "ct. GB
Boston..............41 19 683 -
New York...........34 24.:586 6
Baltimore............34 25 .576 6'2
Milwaukee...........32 26 .552 8
Detroit ................ 31 26 .544 8'/2
Cleveland............26 30 .464 13
Toronto..............19 39 .333 20%1
Oakland ............... 32 28 .533 -
Texas ................. 30 27 .526 1/2
Kansas City......... 29 27 .518 1
California ............ 30 29 .508 11
Chicago.............27 30 .474 3'/2
Minnesota...........23 35 .397 8
Seattle..............19 43 .306 14
Late Games Not Included
W L Pct. GB
Chicago ............... 33 24 .579 -
Philadelphia .......... 30 24 .556 1%2
Montreal............31 28 .525 3
New York...........28 33 .459 7
Pittsburgh ............ 25 31 .446 711
St. Louis ............... 23 39 .371 12'/
San Francisco ......... 36 21 .632 -
Cincinnati...........37 25 .597 1/
Los Angeles ........... 30 27 .542 5
Houston ............... 26 30 .464 9%
San Diego...........25 33 .431 11/2
Atlanta ............... 23 34 .404 13
Royals easily ffb iehead7=
KANSAS CITY (UPI)-Amos Otis walked and Tom Poquette-knocked in
capped a four-run third inning with a
two-run homer last night to give the first run of the inning with a single,
Kansas City Royals a 7-1 victory over sending White to thtrd.
the Detroit Tigers behind the four-hit HAL McKAE bounced into a double
pitching of Paul Splittorff. play to score White and, after a walk to
SPLITTORFF STRUCK out three George Brett, Otis lofted his ninth
and walked only one in upping his - homer of the season over the leftfield
record to 8-5. The only Detroit run came wall.
when Mickey Stanley led off the fifth Sacrifice flies by Patek in the sixth
with his first home run of the season. inning and McRae and Brett in the
Fred Patek opened the third with a eighth accounted for the final three
single and took third on a wild pitch by Kansas City runs. The slumping Tigers
Detroit starter and loser Jack have now lost four of five while falling
Billingham, 5-4. Frank White then to fifth place in the AL East.
Baseball National League
American League Cincinnati3,ChicagoI
Kansas city 7, Detroit I San Francisco2, Philadelphia 1
Milwaukee 7, Toronto s Atlanta 7.st. Louis I
Boston 9. Oakland 0IMSfbl
Chicago 4, exas I DAILY LIBELS 5. Jacques Seeds 8