LET'S MAKE A DEAL
You don't have to be another Branch Rickey to figure out that all four of the division races could be won by the contenders that make the best trades for a starter. The Giants are shopping, as are the Reds, who last week released Jerry (0-5) Reuss. The Mets hoped to solve their troubles by signing Tom Seaver but will probably get back in the market. The Yankees and Blue Jays are looking, too, although the Yankees gave the Twins a much-needed starter in Joe Niekro. In one scout's opinion, Niekro "is throwing as well as when he won 20 games in Houston [in 1980]."
The Home Shopping Network doesn't carry pitchers, so here is our buyer's guide to available starters:
1) Richard Dotson, White Sox righty. "Almost all the way back from his '85 shoulder operation," says one scout, "and he'll be as good as new next year." Dotson is an extraordinary athlete and a potential No. 1 starter. He has a high price tag, though, beyond his $1.1 million salary for 1987 and 1988. To get him, the Yankees may part with lefty pitching prospects Al Leiter and Rich Scheid.
2) Mike Moore, Mariners righty. None of the Seattle brass can figure out how Moore could win 17 games in 1985 and be in such a rut now (2-8, 5.17 ERA). He may never be a stopper, but he throws 90 mph and is a 250-inning horse who could develop outside the Kingdome.
3) Floyd Bannister, White Sox lefty. O.K, he's 18 games under .500 for his career, but he has a great curve. "He pitches to the level of his team," says one baseball man. "If the team's good, he'll pitch well; if the team stinks, so does he." Bannister has the right to reject a trade, and he said no when the White Sox asked if he would go to the Giants last week. So the price may be more than his $930,000 contract.
4) Rick Reuschel, Pirates righty. His 4-3 record is deceptive; six times he has left games with ties or leads that didn't hold. The Pirates have seven players under the age of 27 to show for the Tony Pena, Bill Madlock and Rick Rhoden deals, and G.M. Syd Thrift is counting on adding two or three more building blocks in exchange for Reuschel and/or veteran reliever Don Robinson, who is also available.
5) Dave Dravecky, Padres lefty. To start with, San Diego can't really be this bad. Even though he has lost a little zip, Dravecky has the most value of the four available San Diego pitchers because he's lefthanded and can relieve. Trader Jack McKeon's job is apparently safe with new club president Chub Feeney, and he is trying to get some power and young pitchers to join Benito Santiago, Shane Mack, Randy Byers, Shawn Abner, Sandy Alomar Jr. and the rest of the Padre prospects, who should be blossoming by the end of next year. McKeon has offered Dravecky to the Yankees (for Dan Pasqua) and to the Reds (for Kal Daniels and Nick Esasky), but so far has been rebuffed.
6) Eric Show, Padres righty. A solid No. 3 starter, who could use a change in his environment.
7) Bob Knepper, Astros lefty. When he throws his fastball inside, he breaks more bats than any lefthander with the possible exception of Kansas City's Charlie Leibrandt. He also wins. This year, he's throwing breaking balls and pitching away—and has been crushed.
8) Andy Hawkins, Padres righty. He may not be a star, but he hasn't missed a start in four years.
9) Storm Davis, Padres righty. He doesn't throw as hard as he did when he was a prodigy in 1983, but he's not as bad as he has pitched this year. The whole Padre mess has intimidated him. The Mets, Red Sox and several other clubs are interested, but players like Howard Johnson and Al Nipper don't interest McKeon.
10) Rick Mahler, Braves righty. Mahler is a breaking-ball pitcher who has stopped coming inside, but a change of leagues might do wonders for him. Gene Mauch believes that when a veteran pitcher changes leagues, "the newness factor" will get him through the league once with considerable success.
NOT THE LAST STRAW
He flopped and sulked in the World Series, drew a fine for missing workouts in spring training, and still the Mets forgave Darryl Strawberry. They believed he was finally growing up when he claimed the Dwight Gooden affair had touched him. But last week, when he left a Chicago disco at 4 a.m. and was late to the ballpark for the second straight day, Strawberry gave every indication that he is still an indulged child. After being benched for two games and fined by manager Davey Johnson (his 1987 fines already total $1,750), Strawberry threatened to boycott an exhibition game in Tidewater (he did play that night and went 0 for 3) and continued feuding with his manager through the press. "What does being late have to do with wanting to play?" Strawberry said to a reporter. "I can understand being benched. But for a couple of days? I've been busting my butt all year. I'm not like some of the crybabies on this team who say they're hurt. Davey's always ready to bury me in the papers."
Weight was always a problem for George (Boomer) Scott during his playing days, but in his retirement he has grown to resemble a small continent. At a recent old-timers' game in Milwaukee, former Brewer Kurt Bevacqua cracked, "Hey, George, did you hear all those people yelling for you when you were out there? I thought they were fans. I turned around and it was the concessionaires. They wanted to make sure you knew where they were." Replied Scott, "I may not do anything else good, but I eat good." ...If Floyd Youmans were the stopper he should be, the Expos would be serious contenders. But Youmans reported to spring training overweight, and last week went on the disabled list with a bad back and was ordered to go on a diet.
A NEW RICE DIET
Jim Rice is having such hard times that on four occasions in one week opposing pitchers intentionally walked Wade Boggs to pitch to him. Once, it even happened in the first inning. Said Sox manager John McNamara, "In my lifetime I have seen very few guys—if any—walked intentionally in the first inning with the cleanup hitter coming up." Of course, Boggs is hitting .393 since being moved to the third spot on May 5 and is tied for the team lead in homers. In Rice's defense, his left elbow has bothered him since it was twice hit by pitches within one week in April. But he has so shortened his swing that one pitching coach said, "He looks like a little shortstop who can't drive the ball." May was Rice's first homer-less month since September 1974, his first full month in the majors.... The Expos used their first two picks in the draft to take a couple of big-time point guards. In the first round they chose Seaford, Del. shortstop Delino DeShields, who plans to play basketball at Villanova. In the second, they got Golden Valley J.C. outfielder Tyrone Kingwood who is transferring to UNLV from Cleveland State.
A few weeks back Pedro Guerrero complained to a broadcaster that the Dodgers "always ask me to play hurt but never say anything about [Mike] Marshall." Marshall was out of the lineup again June 11, and the Astros pitched around Guerrero in all his at bats of a 1-0 loss. After the game, Guerrero had words with Marshall in the trainers' room and had to be pulled away by a teammate....
The Giants and Reds have developed a spicy little rivalry in the NL West. When the Reds rallied from a 6-0 deficit to win the opener of their three-game series in Cincinnati last week, Reds G.M. Bill Bergesch burbled, "What a finish, what a finish! Not only does that put us up in the clouds, you don't know what heartbreak that causes them, how demoralizing it is to lose that way." The Giants won the next two games 10-2 and 9-4. "My players' hearts were really broken, weren't they?" said Giants manager Roger Craig....
With the exception of Andre Dawson and Tim Raines, it seems last winter's free-agent experience made everyone unhappy. "Next year," says Bob Boone, one of those who sat until May 1 without receiving an offer from any team except the Angels, "you'll see all the potential free agents accept arbitration and stay with their clubs." Rich Gedman has been depressed and struggling—in one five-game stretch he had five passed balls—since returning to boos in Boston, and Lance Parrish, who left Detroit for the Phillies, is far from thrilled by the boos he has heard in the Vet. He is sending his family home to California before the All-Star break. Meanwhile, the Phil-lie pitchers' inability to hold runners on is driving him crazy. After the Cardinals stole nine bases in three games, he said, "I'd like to meet the guy who can throw anyone out with this staff."
BETWEEN THE LINES
The Tigers are 10-3 in games started by Jack Morris this season and 22-24 in games started by their other pitchers. Since the beginning of the 1985 season, the Tigers have been 54-29 (.651) in games Morris started and 149-150 (.498) in all others. Yet the Yankees, Phillies, Twins and Angels didn't need him when he was available as a free agent this winter.
Padres outfielder Marvel Wynne got hurt taking a walk. He routinely pulled away from a fourth ball from Houston's Danny Darwin on June 9, felt pain in his back, walked gingerly off the field and was taken to the hospital on a stretcher. That's typical of San Diego's season. Wynne became the ninth Padre player to be put on the disabled list this season. In contrast, San Diego made only nine DL transactions in the 1984, '85 and '86 seasons combined.
SHAKEN, RATTLED AND ROLLED
An earthquake registering a five on the Richter scale in Detroit occurred during Len Barker's five-batter, five-hit first inning against the Tigers on June 10. Barker's inning went double, single, quake, triple, single, single, exit.
Two days later he was placed on the disabled list with a sore forearm.
Six years ago, the Mariners' Lenny Randle was immortalized in highlight films by getting on his knees and blowing a slow-rolling ball into foul territory in the Kingdome. Last week, Royals third baseman Kevin Seitzer tried to do the same to Dan Gladden's bunt in Minnesota's Metrodome. "It almost worked," Seitzer said. "It started rolling, but then the umpire told me I couldn't do that. I didn't know. So when he told me that, I said, 'You mean I look like an idiot for nothing.' He said, 'Yep.' "
Texas slugger Pete Incaviglia leads the American League in strikeouts and recently whiffed in 23 of 25 games. Last week, manager Bobby Valentine said, "The road to the Hall of Fame is lined with guys who led the league in strikeouts." If one counts Reggie Jackson and Mike Schmidt—certain inductees to Cooperstown—13 Hall of Famers have led a league in strikeouts 40 times since 1910: Jimmie Foxx (7), Reggie Jackson (5), Mickey Mantle (5), Babe Ruth (5), Mike Schmidt (5), Hack Wilson (5), Duke Snider (3), Hank Greenberg (1), Gabby Hartnett (1), George Kelly (1), Harmon Killebrew (1), Ralph Kiner (1) and Eddie Mathews (1).
•Cardinals reserve Tito Landrum struck out 10 times in succession over a two-month period. He ended the streak by bunting into a double play.
•Boston's Al Nipper has made 91 major league starts without pitching a shutout. Only five other pitchers since 1900 have started more games without ever throwing one.
•Vince Coleman successfully stole 41 bases in a row against the Phillies before he was caught trying to steal home on a quick pitch by Kevin Gross on June 10. Gross appeared to balk on the quick pitch, but it wasn't called.
•Speaking of balks, the umpiring crew of Bob Davidson, Terry Tata, Harry Wendelstedt and Jerry Crawford called 38 of the 89 balks in the National League through June 3. Those four had called more than all seven AL crews, who had 34.
•Neal Heaton, who didn't bat at the University of Miami, in the minors or in the American League, is hitting .289 for the Expos. Heaton, incidentally, is tied with the Dodgers' Bob Welch for the NL lead in stopping losing streaks. Starting after his team has lost, each has won five times.
•The Orioles had been swept in a series only nine times in the nine years before June 1986. Since then, they've been swept in nine more.
•San Francisco's outfield of Jeff Leonard, Candy Maldonado and Chili Davis has been hitless in two games all season.
•Scott McGregor, Bob Stanley, Jerry Reuss, Neil Allen, Joaquin Andujar, Len Barker, Larry McWilliams and Mike Flanagan were a combined 7-28 through last weekend. They are earning a total of $8.03 million this season.
•Ken Landreaux expressed surprise that the Dodgers were reportedly thinking of releasing him after they signed free agent Danny Heep. Landreaux is 2 for 17 as a pinch hitter and 1 for 17 with runners in scoring position.