Heart, not managerial wrecking ball, scares Giants' Craig

May 24, 1991|By Nick Peters | Nick Peters,McClatchy News Service

CINCINNATI -- While the San Francisco Giants' loss total soars, so does manager Roger Craig's cholesterol level, and that along with tightness in his chest and fear of heart trouble has him remotely hinting of an early retirement.

Speaking with remarkable candor before a 6-2 loss last night against the Cincinnati Reds, Craig said that only health factors would influence his decision to step down before his contract expires after next season.

"If it affects your health, you have to think about it, and this has affected my health," Craig said of San Francisco's 12-28 record, the worst 40-game mark in the Giants' 109-year history.

"This is the first year I've felt stress," he said. "My cholesterol is going up. Everyone says that I look great and that I've lost weight, but I'm not trying to lose weight. I'm on a [low-cholesterol] diet now, and I'm taking a treadmill exam when I get home.

"I feel a lot better now than I did on the homestand, but a lot of times, I get a tightness in my chest in the middle of a game. Sometimes, the tightness won't go away until I go home and go to bed.

"Cholesterol can get high from stress, too. My wife [Carolyn] says I need a couple of weeks off, but managers can't go on the disabled list. I also have a contract to think about. If I make it through 1992, I'll be set the rest of my life." (Craig makes approximately $500,000 per year.)

Craig's concern about potential heart trouble stems from his family history. Two sisters died of heart attacks at ages 47 and 56. His mother died of a heart attack. A sister and a brother had bypass surgery over the winter.

"They weren't even in their 60s, and I'm 61," Craig said. "But I'm no quitter. I asked my coaches if it would help if I resigned, and they said it would be worse and that the players depend on you."

The subject came up when Frank Robinson was fired by the Orioles, joining Don Zimmer and John Wathan as ex-managers within a span of three days. Craig reiterated that he didn't believe his job was on the line.

"I've talked with [owner] Bob Lurie," Craig said. "He understands. He invited me to dinner June 2. This stuff runs in cycles. Clubs put out all that money, and some owners who don't know the business feel they've got to do something."

General manager Al Rosen also came through with another vote of confidence despite a six-game losing streak -- matching the Giants' longest under Craig -- and a 4-16 May record that is threatening the worst month in San Francisco history, a 7-20 June in 1974.

"I don't know if there's a domino effect or not to all these firings, but it doesn't influence me one bit," Rosen said. "I'm committed to the manager of this team. Given our talent, this is terribly hard to understand."

Will Clark echoed those sentiments after hitting four long outs in Reds righthander Jack Armstrong's four-hit victory. It was the Giants' 19th game in which they've scored two runs or fewer.

"I was 2-for-12 in this series, and I hit line drives," Clark said, shaking his head in disbelief. "You just have to go up there and keep swinging. What else can you do? This is unbelievable.

"Roger has tried to put his finger on it. Everyone's tried. I've had a few sleepless nights wondering, too, and I can't figure it out for the life of me.

"If it's something physical you could see, you could correct it. Evidently, it's not something physical. There are too many guys who want to win, and too many guys who have won before."

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