Soviets coy about Olympics; Parker signed by Cincinnati
The high-level Soviet government delegation that recently spent a week here with Olympic officials left the United States without announcing any decision on whether the USSR will participate in the 1984 Games.
Marat Gramov, the Soviet sports minister and chairman of his country's Olympic Committee, claims there are still a number of problems that have to be resolved, yet refused to say at a press conference what the problems are. There's still plenty of time to work out any difficulties, though, since the deadline for making a decision doesn't come until June 2.
If the Soviets for any reason did stay home, it's possible that other Eastern bloc countries would follow their lead. This leaves the L.A. Olympic Organizing Committee in the position of having to plan for approximately 2,500 athletes who conceivably could fail to show up. However, most observers consider it highly unlikely that the Soviets, who have always looked upon the Olympics as a giant propaganda stage for their way of life, would stay away. Now playing for Cincinnati
In 1978 outfielder Dave Parker of the Pittsburgh Pirates may well have been the best all-around player in the majors. That was the year Parker was voted the National League's Most Valuable Player; batted .334 to win his second consecutive batting title; hit 32 doubles and 30 homers; stole 20 bases (unusual for a 230-lb. slugger); and drove in 117 runs. Dave was also awarded his first Gold Glove that year, partly on the strength of an outstanding throwing arm that led all outfielders in assists with 26.
Last week, during baseball's winter meetings, free-agent Parker signed a two-year contract with the Cincinnati Reds, who finished 17 games behind the division-leading Los Angeles Dodgers in last season's National League West race. One reason Pittsburgh chose not to retain Parker, an 11-year veteran who helped power the team to a World Series triumph in 1979, was that he has been slowed by a number of physical problems in the last few years.
Injuries caused Dave to miss 95 games in 1981 and 89 in 1982. His power had also short-circuited to the point where he hit only nine home runs in '81; six in '82. Coupled with this dropoff in production has been what the Pirates' management believes to be an attitude problem it no longer wants to deal with.
But the Reds, who were the poorest hitting team in the National League last season and who usually make a habit of ignoring free agents, evidently still saw something in Parker that made them want to sign him. Maybe it was because Dave drove in more runs last year (69) than anyone the Reds already have on their roster. Or maybe they were simply embracing an ancient baseball theory that a change in uniforms can often work wonders for a veteran, especially if he once had superstar credentials.
This year's baseball meetings also saw the Dodgers try to trade outfielder Dusty Baker to the Oakland A's for two minor league players, a deal that Baker sabotaged by invoking the no-trade clause in his contract. The California Angels also surprised some people by sending regular shortstop Tim Foli to the New York Yankees for Curt Kaufman, a right-handed relief pitcher who was an International League all-star his last two seasons. Among several other deals made during the week, the Cleveland Indians traded outfielder Gorman Thomas and infielder Jack Perconte to the Seattle Mariners for second baseman Tony Bernazard, and the Boston Red Sox dealt their top pitcher of last year, left-hander John Tudor, to Pittsburgh for Mike Easler, a strong left-handed batter who is expected to fill the designated hitter spot. NBA's Cavaliers making headway
Maybe this is an oversimplification, but when Coach Tom Nissalke has had the ''horses,'' he has done well in pro basketball. Twice, for example, his Houston Rocket teams won 47 and 49 games. And now the rebuilding job he is doing this season with the Cleveland Cavaliers could make him NBA Coach of the Year.
No, Cleveland doesn't have a great won-lost record, but the Cavaliers have become pretty tough at home, where at one point this season they won five games in a row.
Nissalke could use more help on the boards, judging by the fact that forward Cliff Robinson is currently the team's best rebounder. The Cavs do have an experienced floor leader in World B. Free, whose high scoring often obscures the fact that he also plays a fine all-around game.
''For us to win on the road, we have to get a lot more consistency from our veterans than we have so far,'' Nissalke said in assessing his club's overall prospects. But even with all the growing up they have to do, the Cavaliers have currently allowed fewer points per game than more established teams like Boston, Portland, and Los Angeles.