Here's a rundown on 10 of the finest prospects in the June 6-8 draft of high school and college players. Three are catchers: Robbie Wine of Oklahoma State, son of Bobby, the Phillies' former shortstop and current coach; Terry Bell of Old Dominion; and Matt Stark, a Los Altos, Calif. high-schooler. The best shortstop is American League umpire Bill Kunkel's son, Jeff, who hit .399 at Rider College this season. Of the four top-rated pitchers, one is a lefthander—North Carolina State's Dan Plesac. Tim Belcher of Mt. Vernon (Ohio) Nazarene College has had his fastball clocked at slightly more than 90 mph. The other two, both of whom have lots of stuff on the ball, are BYU's Scott Nielsen, who's 25 years old, and the University of Michigan's Rich Stoll. Also likely to be drafted in the Top 10 are Third Basemen Eddie Williams, a San Diego high-schooler, and Chris Sabo, another Wolverine.
From the start of the 1970 season through last Sunday, 49.9% of all major league games were settled by no more than two runs. Of the 25,963 games played, 8,255 (31.8%) were decided by one run and 4,698 (18.1%) by two.
There are four reasons why Oakland's Rickey Henderson, who swiped a record 130 bases last season, was only fourth in the American League at week's end with 14 steals: 1) the A's are winning without his being constantly on the run; 2) in an effort to improve his batting average, which was .267 last year and .271 through last Sunday, Henderson is learning to hit the marginal pitches he would have taken in the hope of walking in '82; 3) his right shoulder, bruised last season, still bothers Henderson, who on several of his steal attempts this year has forsaken his favorite headfirst slide and gone in feet first; and 4) the man batting behind leadoff man Henderson is Mike Davis, who is more of a contact hitter than Dwayne Murphy, who batted second a year ago. "Murph would swing at and miss a lot of balls when I'd be stealing," says Henderson, who several times this year has been running but hasn't gotten a steal because Davis hit the ball.
It turns out that Cesar Cede√±o of the Reds was up in the air about more than the coach-class ticket the club gave him and other reserves for a team flight from Chicago to Cincinnati. (The regulars flew first class.) After Cede√±o, who had been a starting outfielder until nine days before the trip, tore up his boarding pass and refused to board the plane, he was initially suspended for three days but later fined instead.
"Obviously, [Manager Russ Nixon] doesn't believe I'm hurting," said Cede√±o, who had removed himself from the lineup because of a sore shoulder. "He wants to punish me."
"I thought I'd have to show most of my patience with young players," Nixon said. "I'll be damned if I'll do it with one who's been around a few years and who should show some responsibility. It seems the more I gave him, the more he took advantage."
Toronto and Boston were tied for the lead in the American League East last week when they began the first significant series of this season. It was a major test for the Blue Jays, who, in their first six years, never finished higher than sixth and had never led later than May 10. Surprisingly, Toronto was able to hold on to its share of the lead without getting a win from its three best starters—Dave Stieb, who lost 7-2 on Thursday, Jim Clancy, who lost 2-0 on Friday, and Luis Leal, who gave up four runs in only 1‚Öî innings on Saturday. The man who brought Toronto back was Centerfielder Lloyd Moseby, a major disappointment his first three seasons with a .233 average. On Saturday, Moseby got two hits, scored three runs and drove in the game winner in a 9-5 come-from-behind victory. On Sunday, he drove in three more runs with two homers in a 6-1 win that was shortened to six innings by rain. The second game of the doubleheader was postponed. Moseby finished the week with a .306 batting average, and the Blue Jays had proved they might be serious contenders.
Angel Shortstop Rick Burleson, who hasn't played since undergoing surgery for a torn rotator cuff 13 months ago, expects to return to action on June 10. That's when Burleson will begin his rehabilitation program with California's farm team in Edmonton. If things go well, Burleson will rejoin the Angels after the All-Star break.
If any Met rookie figured to do well, it was Outfielder Darryl Strawberry, not Shortstop José Oquendo. Strawberry, 21, hit 34 homers last year and was the MVP of the Double A Texas League. Oquendo, 19 and the youngest player in the majors, batted .214 in the Triple A International League in '82. At the end of last week, though, Strawberry had been in 18 games, had hit three homers, was batting .167 and had struck out 26 times. Oquendo, who recently abandoned switch-hitting to concentrate on swinging from the right side, was batting .280.
Furthermore, Oquendo has teamed with Second Baseman Brian Giles, 23, to give the Mets a superb double-play combination. Both have exceptional range and strong arms, especially Oquendo. Last week Oquendo received such a long roar of appreciation from Mets fans in the eighth inning of a game against San Francisco that he came out of the dugout to acknowledge the tribute. Oquendo drew those cheers when, after breaking to cover second on an impending steal, he deftly doubled back to the spot he'd vacated, gloved a hard-hit grounder and threw out the runner.
Andre Thornton's .342 batting average isn't the only thing that has the Cleveland slugger up there among the leaders. He's also challenging some heavy hitters of another sort, authors Robert Ludlum and Louis L'Amour. According to an SI survey of major-leaguers' book-reading tastes, Ludlum and L'Amour rank first and second in popularity. Third is Thornton, who with Al Janssen wrote Triumph Born of Tragedy. Among the players who have read Thornton's autobiography are San Diego's Dave Dravecky and Baltimore's Storm Davis. As for Cub Pitcher Dickie Noles, who is trying to kick a drinking problem, he says, "I've been reading Alcoholics Anonymous manuals."
Lefthand-hitting Darrell Evans of the Giants, who entered this season with a 14-year career average of .251, was second in the National League through Sunday with a .329 mark. What has happened? Well, Evans is standing closer to the plate, the way Manager Frank Robinson had wanted him to and the way Robby did when he played.
"They've been pitching outside to Evans, and he's been reaching," says Robinson. "He has fast enough hands to handle an inside pitch when he's standing closer, but now he can also handle that sweeping slider from lefthanders, or pitches that tail away."
On May 21, 1982 Kansas City Pitcher Dennis Leonard, 5-3 at the time, was struck on the right hand by a line drive and missed seven weeks. On May 28, 1983 Leonard, 6-3 at the time, tore a tendon below his left knee while pitching to Baltimore's Cal Ripken. Surgery was performed the next day, and he's expected to miss at least two months. In 1982, the absence of Leonard, the major's winningest righthanded pitcher since 1975, was a big reason why the Royals failed to win the American League West title. In 1983...?
Former big league Pitcher Jim Bunning, a Republican senator in the Kentucky legislature, has won the party's gubernatorial primary. The general election figures to be tough going for Bunning, because Democrats outnumber Republicans 2 to 1 in Kentucky. In his campaign commercials, Bunning will use film clips from the perfect game he pitched in 1964 against the Mets. If elected, he intends to continue his work as an agent for 11 major-leaguers, including Outfielder Lonnie Smith of the Cardinals.
White Sox President Eddie Einhorn is right in thinking his team needs some help on the left side of the infield, but he's wrong if he really believes "it would put us over the top." A trade for Minnesota Infielder John Castino would have helped the sagging Sox, but it fell through. Meanwhile, Manager Tony LaRussa is considering other options to perk up his offense. At the end of last week, Chicago was 23rd in the majors with a .242 average. LaRussa is toying with using righthand-hitting Catcher Carlton Fisk at first base against lefty pitchers. He'd then put Marc Hill behind the plate, move Tom Paciorek from first to right, shift Harold Baines from right to center and bench Rudy Law.
PLAY IT AGAIN
"Once when I was playing minor league ball in Joplin [Mo.], I claimed I was hit by a pitch even though I wasn't," recalls Boston Manager Ralph Houk. "While everyone was arguing, I bit myself on the arm, and sure enough, the umpire gave me the base."
A THOUSAND PARDONS
EXCUSE ME: Milwaukee lost a game to Oakland last week after Pitcher Jamie Easterly forgot the signs in the eighth inning and threw a slider when Catcher Ned Yost expected a fastball. The ball got past Yost, allowing the decisive run to score in an 8-7 loss.... EXCUSE ME, PLEASE: Following the Rangers' fourth loss in a row, Manager Doug Rader had a flying fit in his office. When it was over, one bystander had been hit in the head by a towel and clothes hanger, and another was wearing the manager's uniform pants on his head. "Sorry," said Rader in a feeble voice.... WELL, I SAID "EXCUSE ME": Umpire Dave Phillips gave Minnesota's John Castino a walk on what was actually ball three in a 12-4 win over Baltimore. "I feel real bad about it," Phillips said afterward.
BALL PARK FIGURES
In response to an SI poll, big league pitchers ranked the following as the game's best bad-ball hitters:
1. Tony Pena, Pirates
2. Steve Garvey, Padres
3. Pedro Guerrero, Dodgers
4. Bill Madlock, Pirates
5. Andre Dawson, Expos
1. Reggie Jackson, Angels
2. Dave Winfield, Yankees
3. George Brett, Royals
4. Amos Otis, Royals
5. Cecil Cooper, Brewers
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
FERNANDO VALENZUELA: The Dodger lefty threw two complete-game shutouts, beating the Phillies 2-0 on four hits and the Giants 5-0 on two. He struck out 12 and batted 3 for 7 with one RBI.