BASEBALL

August 24, 1986

THE UPCOMING FREE-AGENT CROP

Jack Morris's rush to overtake Roger Clemens for the American League Cy Young Award should come as no surprise. Morris has been the most dominant pitcher of the '80s, a workhorse who leads the majors in the decade in victories, starts, innings and complete games.

His recent performance underscores just how valuable a property Morris is. "He's one of those rare guys you build a staff around," says Sparky Anderson. "Never underestimate the importance of that great Number 1 starter." After a slow start, Morris became the league's second 15-game winner by winning 8 of 9 decisions. In that streak, he had four shutouts and a 1.50 ERA. When the Tigers lost three straight to the Red Sox in Detroit, he kept them alive with a 5-0 shutout. A week later, the day after Clemens won his 18th in Boston, Morris came back and beat the Red Sox again.

The question, though, is how long will Morris continue to pitch for Detroit? The 31-year-old righthander will be a free agent at the end of the season. Last winter the owners stayed together and forced free agents back to their original clubs, but Morris, teammate Lance Parrish, Expo Tim Raines and Red Sox catcher Rich Gedman will sorely tempt a deep-pockets owner desperate to win. Don't think the Yankees couldn't use either Morris to front their woeful starting staff or Parrish to catch and bat cleanup. Wouldn't the Phillies like Gedman? Tim Raines is one of the best all-around players in the game, and only 26 years old. Would Ted Turner, whose Goodwill Team is sagging in the ratings, hold the line with Raines on the market? Would the Cubs? The White Sox? The Orioles?

This free-agent season will be different because aggressive agents Tom Reich (Parrish, Raines) and Dick Moss (Morris, Andre Dawson) are handling the key players. Neither will be afraid to test management's resolve—they will probably let the January deadline for signing with original clubs slip by, which means the players cannot be re-signed until May 1, assuming they are still available. Total lack of interest in these outstanding players could provide further evidence for the players' collusion grievance and send Moss or Reich into court to challenge baseball's antitrust exemption.

Morris, Parrish and Raines seem certain to go the free-agent route. Medical reports now say that Parrish's back problems should not have a lasting restriction on his ability to catch. Raines is not enamored of Montreal, where he has no major endorsement deals and gets little publicity. He cannot be happy that his close friend Andre Dawson is being given short shrift by the Expos' management, which refuses to offer him a guarantee of more than one year on his next contract.

Here is a roster of the major prospective free agents:

Starting pitchers: Morris, Detroit; Doyle Alexander, Atlanta; Ron Guidry, Yankees; Jim Clancy, Toronto; Bob Welch, Los Angeles; Bob Forsch, St. Louis; Bruce Berenyi, Mets; Vida Blue, San Francisco; Moose Haas, Oakland.

Relief pitchers: Sammy Stewart, Boston; Joe Price, Cincinnati; Terry Forster, California; Rod Scurry, Yankees.

Catchers: Parrish, Detroit; Gedman, Boston; Charlie Moore and Rick Cerone, Milwaukee; Alan Ashby, Houston; Bob Boone, California; Ernie Whitt and Buck Martinez, Toronto; Bob Kearney, Seattle.

Infielders: Bob Horner, Atlanta; Willie Randolph, Yankees; Bobby Grich, Rick Burleson and Doug DeCinces, California; Ray Knight, Mets; Glenn Hoffman, Boston; Bill Russell, Los Angeles; Jack Clark, St. Louis.

Outfielders: Robin Yount, Milwaukee; Raines and Dawson, Montreal; Rudy Law, Kansas City; Gary Ward, Texas; Brian Downing and Reggie Jackson, California; Davey Lopes, Houston.

HOWSER VISIT BUOYS ROYALS

Royals manager Dick Howser visited the team on Aug. 12. It was the first time he had been in the clubhouse to see his players since undergoing surgery for a malignant brain tumor on July 22. Howser, wearing a floppy golf hat, had a closed-door meeting with interim manager Mike Ferraro, whom he had not seen since the Ail-Star Game. "Knowing Dick, this was probably a tough day for him," Ferraro said. "It broke the ice. Everybody having seen him, it makes it easier for him to come around regularly, and I hope he does. It lifts me to see how good he looks, to hear him crack jokes and get on people. He got on me. He said, 'You'd better be good tonight.' He's lost weight. Other than that, you would never know he had an operation. The way Dick was today was the Dick I've known for 20 years. I'm happy to see him looking as good as he's looking and feeling as good as he's feeling."...

Pirates manager Jim Leyland is comparing Barry Bonds with Kirk Gibson, whom he managed two years in the minors. "Bonds is crude, just like Gibson was," Leyland says. "They are both made out of the same mold. When they fall into a slump, they will figure a way to get out of it."...

The Astros may have broken open the National League West race. The final act was acquiring pitcher Danny Darwin from Milwaukee. Darwin steps in as the fifth starter after Houston's previous No. 5 starters went 2-12. Dodgerphiles can wait all they want for Dodger pitching to put the team back in the race, but the truth is that Houston's staff is stronger, top to bottom, than the Dodgers'....

As expected, when Pirate general manager Syd Thrift tried to get waivers on Rick Rhoden, six clubs claimed him and blocked him....

The Red Sox did very well in trading pitchers Mike Trujillo and Mike Brown, shortstop Rey Quinones and a player to be named to Seattle for shortstop Spike Owen and outfielder Dave Henderson. Owen gives the Sox their best shortstop since Rick Burleson, and Henderson should push Tony Armas out of centerfield.

IS REGGIE, REGGIE GOING, GOING?

Reggie Jackson has begun hedging on whether he will retire next season—his average dropped from .303 on July 4 to .255 on Aug. 16. "It depends on how I finish. I still want to play [in '87], unless I keep swinging the way I have the last six, eight weeks. I haven't been happy with my swing at all." Right after he said that, he hit a three-run homer to beat the A's....

The Angels seem only mildly concerned with the pesky pursuit by the Texas Rangers. "I like our pitching," says Gene Mauch, "and I like our chances against a team that has to score nine runs a game to win." Mauch's Big Four of Mike Witt, Kirk McCaskill, John Candelaria and Don Sutton are 24-11 with a 2.70 ERA since mid-June. But give the Rangers credit. They went 10-4 in one stretch in which not one starter lasted seven innings and in which they outscored the opposition only 95-91....

Valentine is trying to use the Texas heat to his advantage. Asked about the digital display of the temperature on the scoreboard, Valentine said he considered having it turned off, "but I think it has more of an impact on them," he said, pointing to the visitors' dugout, which has a great view of the temperature readings. In the last home stand, the innovative Rangers began wearing new batting practice uniforms: white gym shorts and T-shirts....

In the team's first 70 years, the Yankees retired six uniform numbers. In George Steinbrenner's 13½ seasons, another six have been retired, with Billy Martin's No. 1 now among the monuments of Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, et al. That's quite an honor for a .257 lifetime hitter who, as a manager, was fired four times by the Yankees and won one world championship—as many as Joe Altobelli and one fewer than Ralph Houk. The press release announcing Martin's ascendancy referred to his monument as "the plague in centerfield."

NOW HE'S THE TALK OF CHICAGO

Steve Carlton's White Sox debut was so bad that he threw 31 pitches before a Tiger swung and missed, but manager Jim Fregosi and pitching consultant-announcer Don Drysdale are so convinced that Lefty can come back that they were in the bullpen working with him 42 hours later. Ken Harrelson wanted a veteran to buy him time while some of his young pitchers develop in the minors, and he took a chance on the 41-year-old, claiming him on waivers from the Giants. "Here we are again, every 10 years," Carlton said, opening a 22½-minute press conference after he made his first start for the Sox. Sunday he won his first AL game, going 7‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√±‚àö¬® innings and giving up three hits and four earned runs. When Carlton joined the Sox, he had more victories and strikeouts than the other nine Sox pitchers combined. The rest of the staff had 301 victories and 3,578 strikeouts....

In early August the White Sox were promoting themselves as the youngest team in the American League. Now they've added Carlton, 37-year-old George Foster and 33-year-old Ron Hassey....

When the Twins and Cubs made their five-player deal involving George Frazier, Ray Fontenot and Ron Davis, one general manager quipped, "That goes to show that you can trade anyone if you try hard enough." The Cubs were desperately seeking takers for Fontenot and Frazier; the latter got a standing ovation in Wrigley Field Aug. 11 for getting an out after coming into a game the Cubs led 5-0 and giving up a single, a two-run homer, a walk and another single. As for Davis's departure, the Twins were similarly ecstatic. Davis walked through the clubhouse shaking hands and slapping backs. After he had gone, his ex-teammates did the same.

PHOTOJERRY WACHTERMorris and his agent will probably make a sales pitch at the end of this season. PHOTORONALD C. MODRAThe Expos might have a harder time getting Raines to sign than these fans did. PHOTOMIKE MAPLEThe visiting Howser was all smiles. PHOTO© TOPPS CHEWING GUM INC.Happy 40th birthday, Rollie Fingers.

BETWEEN THE LINES

SHOWS OF SENTIMENT

On July 23, the Angels had a night for 300-game winner Don Sutton. It drew 27,809. On Aug. 12, they had a night for Rod Carew. It drew 29,094.

The average for California's first 59 home dates is 32,718.

•Tim Lollar's pinch single on Aug. 12 was the first hit by a Boston pitcher since Bill Lee singled in the seventh game of the 1975 World Series, and Boston's first regular-season hit since Luis Tiant singled on Oct. 3, 1972—BDH.

THE BOBBY WITT WATCH
Witt's combined four starts against Milwaukee:

W-L

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

2-0

22‚Öì

13

8

6

20

37

BALLPARK FIGURES
Here are the records of all the major league teams in games started against lefthanders, which just goes to show 1) that you should teach your son to be a southpaw and 2) why there will always be a place in baseball for Mark Thurmond:

AMERICAN LEAGUE

EASTERN DIVISION

W

L

PCT.

WESTERN DIVISION

W

L

PCT.

Baltimore

19

15

.559

Texas

19

14

.575

Boston

19

14

.576

Oakland

19

19

.500

Cleveland

17

16

.515

California

15

21

.417

Detroit

17

20

.459

Chicago

16

24

.400

Milwaukee

13

17

.433

Minnesota

14

20

.412

New York

13

22

.371

Kansas City

11

19

.367

Toronto

10

17

.370

Seattle

10

18

.357

Totals

108

121

.472

104

135

.435

NATIONAL LEAGUE

EASTERN DIVISION

W

L

PCT.

WESTERN DIVISION

W

L

PCT.

New York

24

17

.585

Houston

25

23

.520

Chicago

19

15

.559

San Diego

22

22

.500

Philadelphia

20

17

.540

Cincinnati

18

19

.486

Montreal

19

21

.475

Los Angeles

22

25

.468

Pittsburgh

14

23

.378

San Francisco

19

23

.452

St. Louis

16

27

.372

Atlanta

18

25

.419

Totals

112

120

.483

124

137

.475

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)