Billy's gone and Mike Schmidt, Gary Carter and Fernando Valenzuela could be going fast.

Home runs are way down and so are squawks about balks. Arguments with umpires, however, are up.The Chicago White Sox are staying home and the Minnesota Twins are winning on the road. The Baltimore Orioles may not be the worst team in history - but they do a good imitation. And the Chicago Cubs will soon be seen in a new light.

Another big story at the All-Star break? Lively arms, not lively balls. Greg Maddux, 22, is tied for the major league lead with 14 victories. He went 6-14 for the Cubs last year.

Roger Clemens, Dwight Gooden and World Series MVP Frank Viola are doing well, as expected. So are David Cone, Greg Swindell, John Smiley and John Farrell, all of them 25 and under.

Cone is also among 17 pitchers to take no-hitters into the seventh inning. Ron Robinson, Nolan Ryan, Mike Scott, Doug Drabek, Odell Jones and Tom Browning are in the more exclusive Close Call Club - they've come within three outs of Cooperstown.

No pitcher has gotten his no-hitter yet. A lot of pitchers, however, have been stopped for not stopping.

There have been 622 balks, compared to last year's record total of 356, under newly enforced regulations that require pitchers to come to a "discernable" stop in the set position.

The pitchers, though, have been at least partly responsible for a discernable stop in balls leaving the ballpark.

In a startling drop - almost as stunning as last season's increase - home runs are off 24 percent. At this point last year, 17 teams had hit at least 80 homers. Nine clubs had reached 100, led by Baltimore's 113. This year, only three teams have gotten to 80, topped by Minnesota's 85.

Some say weather has had an effect. There were more rainouts in the first 11/2 months than there were all last season, and damp weather tends to deaden the ball.

Carter has heard all the theories. A 10-time All-Star, Carter is in the longest homerless drought of his career. He has gone 149 at-bats without his 300th home run and is batting .212 since April.

Schmidt, 38, has been bothered by nagging injuries and is batting just .234 with six home runs. Murphy, 32, is hitting .220 with 13 homers.

Also in a rut is Valenzuela. His 5-6 record and 4.19 earned run average includes a first-inning knockout, the earliest exit of his career.

Montreal's Floyd Youmans, once a promising young pitcher, was suspended indefinitely by Commissioner Peter Ueberroth for violating terms of his drug rehabilitation program.

No telling when Youmans will be back; Ueberroth, meanwhile, reiterated he will not seek a second term when his contract ends on Dec. 31, 1989. Ueberroth said he will stay through a transition period but not beyond 1990.

Billy Martin is one of five managers who have already lost their jobs. It was the fifth time Martin was fired by New York Yankes owner George Steinbrenner.

Steinbrenner at least waited until the Yankees fell out of first place. Martin, despite his squabble with umpires and scrap at a topless Texas bar, managed to overcome key injuries and keep the Yankees in the American League East lead for most of the season.

At 60, Martin may have finally worn out his welcome in the dugout. His off-the-field behavior, plus his reputation for burning out pitching staffs, may have caught up with him.

Dick Williams was fired by Seattle. Larry Bowa was sliced by San Diego.

Atlanta chopped Chuck Tanner and Baltimore bid goodbye to Cal Ripken Sr. Ripken left after the Orioles lost their first six games; replacement Frank Robinson saw Baltimore lose the next 15 and set a major league record with an 0-21 start.