TOM TO THE RESCUE
A year ago Tom Seaver stepped in to shore up a Red Sox pitching staff that had two starters injured (Bruce Hurst, Al Nipper) and a third (Oil Can Boyd) beset by personal problems. "We got him to insure the pennant, and that is exactly what he did," said Boston manager John McNamara. Last week Seaver, 42, joined the Mets for the third time in his 20-year career, to help a pitching staff that has three starters injured (Bobby Ojeda, Rick Aguilera and David Cone) and a fourth working his way back from drug rehabilitation (Dwight Gooden). Seaver has set his timetable for a June 20 start.
There has not been unanimous cheering among the Mets on Seaver's signing. "Why don't we sign Pedro Borbon? He's been out of baseball for six years," said Rafael Santana. Other Mets recall that in Seaver's last New York stint, in 1983, he was not well liked by the younger pitchers, one of whom called Seaver a snob.
Manager Davey Johnson felt he needed a veteran pitcher in his rotation along with Gooden; Ron Darling, who is struggling to regain his 1986 control; Sid Fernandez; and rookie John Mitchell. (In his first start of the season on Friday night, Gooden beat the Pirates 5-1 before a packed house—who may or may not have been there for a pregame promotion that had comic-book hero Spider-Man marrying longtime girlfriend Mary Jane Watson.) Frank Cashen settled for Seaver, who has not pitched since last September 19, when the Mets' general manager realized he couldn't get a quality pitcher for what he had to offer: Howard Johnson and Mookie Wilson.
Can Seaver help the Mets the way he helped the Red Sox before injuring his knee in late September? Yes, but only if he can 1) cut his traditionally long conditioning period to two weeks, and 2) stay healthy. It is no coincidence that the four other pitchers over the age of 40 are in the American League, where they don't have to run the bases. Seaver replaces his long-ago Met teammate Nolan Ryan, 40, as the oldest man in the NL. Seaver pitched far better in '86 than his 7-13 record suggests. He received the weakest support of any Red Sox starter, gave the club quality starts 60% of the time (his quality-start percentage with the White Sox in '85 was the highest in the AL) and his three-year AL ERA of 3.69 was more than respectable when you consider that he was pitching in home run parks. On the day he returned to the Mets, they trailed the Cardinals in the NL East by five games. With Gooden back and Darling certain to settle down, the Mets know that they can still win, and the way they can win is with pitching.
REGGIE'S LAST ROUNDUP
While Seaver is on his way back, is another future Hall of Famer on his way out? Reggie Jackson admits that he has given thought to retiring at the Ail-Star Game in Oakland. With gnat Luis Polonia hitting .340, Dwayne Murphy coming off the disabled list and Reggie going homerless since April, it might be time. "I've tried everything," says Jackson. "If I don't get it back, I've got to jump on the Greyhound bus and take a ride to...what's that place in the desert?...Death Valley."
...The first sign of Yankee panic came early last week when, with the team three games up on Toronto in the AL East, there were more hitting coaches (three) than hitters (two) at an early afternoon workout. By week's end, the Blue Jays had fewer losses than New York, Don Mat-tingly was sidelined with what could be a serious disk problem, Rickey Henderson was disabled by a pulled hamstring, Joe Niekro was traded to the Twins for left-handed-hitting catcher Mark Salas (Niekro had had one bad start after five good outings) and Dan Pasqua was being offered around for more pitching. One pitcher the Yankees turned down was Atlanta's Rick Mahler, 26-40, 4.51 since his 7-0 start in 1985....
George Steinbrenner sure must be happy about Giovanni Tolon, an 18-year-old pitcher signed last winter by the Blue Jays. Tolon went to spring training this year at Toronto's minor league complex in Dunedin, Fla., but since his regular season in Medicine Hat, Alberta, in the Pioneer League wasn't to begin until June 15, he was supposedly sent home to Puerto Rico for eight weeks. But then the Jays learned that Tolon was in Sarasota, Fla., pitching in the extended spring training program for the Yankees. New York had signed him to a contract, not realizing that he already belonged to Toronto. Since his transportation, room, board and expenses were being paid for by the Yankees, the Jays let him stay there, then on June 5 they reclaimed their pitcher and sent him to Medicine Hat....
The Giants have been saved by the stellar performance of Jeffrey Leonard (second in the league with a .350 average) and by what one NL manager calls "the best bench in baseball." They have had to use the disabled list a league-high eight times. They have used 15 infielders, all of whom have started. By position, they've had five different first basemen, six second basemen, eight third basemen and four shortstops. They have also been shopping Chili Davis in search of a starting pitcher....
Tommy Lasorda got a scare last week when his best pitcher, Orel Hershiser, sprained his forearm delivering a pitch. The injury is not thought to be serious, though, and the pitcher probably won't miss a turn. Hershiser is the Dodgers' best at the moment because Fernando Valenzuela isn't throwing the way he used to. One Dodger official recently asked of Valenzuela, "Is that all there is?" and a coach replied, "He hasn't even thrown an average fastball all season. All those screwballs may have caught up to him."
When the Expos traded Jeff Reardon to Minnesota during the off-season, the move was taken by critics as further evidence—along with management's tough stance on free agency—that they weren't really interested in winning. Well, in their first 50 games, the Expos had exactly the same 27-23 record as a year ago and had two more saves (17-15). As for the players who came to the Expos in the trade, Neal Heaton is 7-2 and pitching prospects Yorkis Perez and Al Cardwood are a combined 9-1 at West Palm Beach, Fla. And poor Reardon is reliving Ron Davis's Minnesota nightmares. Reardon blew 5-4 and 6-4 leads in Boston last week, thus failing to cash in on 6 of 16 save opportunities, and the Twins were on a pace to surpass their 1986 mark of 27 losses in games in which they were tied or leading after the sixth. "It's been the same thing for the last four or five years, and I'm sick of it," said Kent Hrbek of the club's bullpen woes. "A team can't win when that keeps happening."
...Despite the success of the Kal Daniels-Tracy Jones leftfield platoon, the Reds offered Daniels to the Padres for reliever Lance McCullers (which would enable Cincy to start Ron Robinson). Daniels is unhappy with his role and about sometimes having to hit fifth rather than in his accustomed leadoff spot. Says Reds manager Pete Rose, "We're playing this game for the Cincinnati Reds, not Kal Daniels. If I'm not mistaken, we're in first place. And I'm still making out the lineup cards."
...There was also grumbling in the basement of the NL West. Padres rookie catcher Benito Santiago, who has 8 passed balls and 14 errors, told Tom Friend of the Los Angeles Times that the team's pitching "stinks," exempting only Rich Gossage, Ed Whitson and Andy Hawkins from that observation. "I think we've got guys [pitchers] who are afraid," Gossage added. "They're afraid to screw up. They know who they are. And they [the Padres' front office] ought to release them because they're worthless. Trade 'em. Do whatever they want with them." Santiago went on to say that Eric Show and Dave Dravecky have ignored him when he has gone to the mound and that so many other pitchers have crossed him up that he has put tape on his fingers to be certain that they could see the signs....
Three years ago, the Blue Jays died with their bullpen, or lack of it. So they committed more than $6 million in signing Bill Caudill and traded for Gary Lavelle, neither of whom panned out. Now they have the American League's best bullpen, with under-appreciated Tom Henke (9 saves in 10 opportunities), Mark Eichhorn, the comebacking Lavelle and Jeff Musselman. And by signing catcher Charlie Moore to go with Rick Leach, Garth Iorg and Rance Mulliniks, they now have a quality bench with experienced role players for the first time.
BETWEEN THE LINES
I'M WALKIN', YES INDEED
Alfredo Griffin walked four times in a game on June 3. In 1984 he walked four times in 441 plate appearances.
THE DAVIS FILE
•Eric Davis suffered an 0-for-17 slump last week, but he still won two games for the Reds by leaping above the fence to rob Jack Clark of two-run homers on consecutive nights. Davis broke out of the hitting slump with his 20th home run, against the Dodgers.
•Eric and Jody Davis are 8 for 29 with 4 homers and 10 RBIs against Pittsburgh pitching.
•The Padres offered Storm Davis to the Giants for Mark Davis, but the Giants said no.
•Oakland's Mike Davis read in the Elias Baseball Analyst that he was 0 for 12 lifetime against Baltimore's Scott McGregor. "I read that he loves to face me, and it made me intense," said Davis. So in the first inning on June 1, Davis hit a two-run single off McGregor.
HEART TO HART
After addressing the Advertising Club of New York last week, former White House spokesman Larry Speakes was asked how he would like to be George Steinbrenner's p.r. man.
Replied Speakes: "I'd rather be Gary Hart's."
INJURY OF THE WEEK
The White Sox' Donnie Hill was disabled after he contracted conjunctivitis and could no longer wear contact lenses. Not only will he have to play with glasses, but also he'll have to go to the minors while he gets used to them. "The doctor said it could take me a year," says Hill.
THAT AINGE NEVER COULD HIT
During the June 3 Blue Jays-Mariners game, the scoreboard in Toronto's Exhibition Stadium flashed: "At the end of the first period, Celtics 0, Lakers 0."
Hot goaltenders, eh?
QUOTES OF THE WEEK
After being placed on the 15-day disabled list for a tender elbow, Cardinals rookie Joe Magrane said, "I knew I was in trouble when the guy was clocking me with a sundial." As to when he might return, he added, "I'll be back in a fortnight." This guy may be the media's favorite rookie lefthander since current presidential candidate (of the Rhinoceros Party) Bill Lee touched down in 1969.
•Lt. Col. Oliver North was spotted in the private box of his attorney, Orioles owner Edward Bennett Williams, on June 2.
•The Astros allowed seven grand slams—two short of the major league season record set by the 1950 St. Louis Browns—in their first 52 games. Julio Solano allowed three in his first 20 innings.
•The Cubs, who hammered the Astros 22-7 last Wednesday, are now 2-1 in games in the last 10 years in which they've scored 22 or more runs. In 1979 they lost 23-22 to the Phillies.
•In the past three seasons, Ivan DeJesus has been under contract to the Phillies, the Cardinals, the Expos, the Yankees, the Reds, the Cardinals (again) and the Giants.
•Bret Saberhagen won his 10th game on June 4, two days earlier than Roger Clemens won his 10th in 1986 and nine days earlier than Denny McLain won his 10th in 1968, the year McLain was 31-6. Saberhagen had more wins than '86 Cy Young Award winners Clemens (4) and Mike Scott (5) combined.
•Bill Madlock, acquired from the Dodgers, became the 28th first baseman and, two days later, 26th third baseman used by Sparky Anderson since he took over the Tigers on June 14, 1979.
•The Cardinals, batting .284 as a team, could be the first NL club to lead the majors in hitting since the '76 Reds. They are also on their way to becoming the first team to ever fall from first in a league in runs ('85) to last ('86) and rise to first again in consecutive seasons.
•The Cubs might wish to note that the Yankees' Charles Hudson is 19-7 in daylight, 19-37 at night.
•Cubs outfielder Brian Dayette has the maximum possible slugging percentage, 4.000, against Bob Knepper—three at bats, three home runs.
•Never have more than two teams hit 200 homers in the same season, but six AL and three NL clubs are presently on a pace to top 200.
Some people suspect that the pressure to hire a black manager is the reason managers of unsuccessful clubs—like the Padres' Larry Bowa (14-43), the Indians' Pat Corrales (19-36) and the White Sox' Jim Fregosi (22-30)—haven't been fired. Not since 1976 has a season gone this far (54 games) without a manager being fired. In those 11 years, 18 managers have been sacked within the first 54 games.
Joe Frazier, Mets
John McNamara, S.D.
Jack McKeon, Oakland
Vern Rapp, St. Louis
Bobby Winkles, Oakland
Dave Garcia, California
Les Moss, Detroit
Ken Boyer, St. Louis
Maury Wills, Seattle
John Goryl, Minnesota
Jim Fregosi, California
Bob Lemon, Yankees
Buck Rodgers, Milwaukee
George Bamberger, Mets
Steve Boros, Oakland
Yogi Berra, Yankees
Doug Rader, Texas
Chuck Cottier, Seattle