One scenario has the American League expanding from 14 to 16 teams and the National League staying with 12. Another has both leagues adding two teams, and yet another speculates that a plan is in the works that will fatten the major leagues to 32 teams by the year 2000.
"The truth is that we have no plan at all," says a member of the owners' long-range planning committee. "What is encouraging is that we finally have stopped getting ahead of ourselves and have gone back to point zero. Now we're evaluating all the options to determine which one causes the least problems." Whichever plan is adopted, one obvious problem will be scheduling. Already, AL teams idiotically play more games against teams outside their own division (84) than inside (78), while NL teams play 90 games inside their division, 72 outside. A 16-team league would probably have to return to a 154-game schedule. Such a development would almost certainly force upon us yet another round of postseason playoffs. But what happens during the years, say, from 1995 to 2000, when the AL would have 16 teams and the NL 14? Confusion is what.
"It usually takes a decade for a league to recover from expansion," says the planning committeeman. One serious problem is the shakiness of the franchises in Seattle, Pittsburgh and the Bay Area. Whatever happens, the committee does not expect to have a viable expansion scheme in place for at least another year.
At the moment the four favorite markets for new teams are Tampa, the Miami area, Phoenix and Denver. That may come as stunning news to St. Petersburg, which seems to be so certain of its major league future that it has already begun building a publicly funded stadium that may end up as a $66 million home for tractor pulls. The good people of Washington, D.C., may also be disappointed, but, says one committee member, "Washington just isn't a good enough market to risk killing Baltimore." And competition from the capital certainly would do great damage in Baltimore. More than 20% of the Orioles' attendance comes from the District.
The group representing Phoenix, incidentally, has recently announced that it has discovered a way to beat the heat, in the not-too-likely event that the team ends up playing in an open-air stadium: a high-tech misting procedure that can lower the air temperature 15° in just 20 minutes.
Now all baseball needs is the technology to come up with enough big league pitchers to stock 32 big league teams—which would be something of a miracle because it hasn't yet figured out how to do it for 26.
On June 4 the Padres were in last place, 14 games out of fifth in the NL West. On Aug. 16 they were still in the cellar, but they were 13½ games out of first, and had the best record in the division since their dismal 12-42 start. Rookie centerfielder Stanley Jefferson has begun to emerge as an outstanding player, catcher Benito Santiago may be Rookie of the Year, and young pitchers Jimmy Jones, Eric Notle and Mark Grant have shown signs of turning the staff around. Larry Bowa has now managed one season in Las Vegas and three quarters of one in San Diego, and both his teams improved as the seasons wore on. So new San Diego president Chub Feeney has no choice but to give Bowa a new contract.
Back in May, Sparky Anderson said he needed two right-handed hitters and another pitcher to contend. Well, Tiger G.M. Bill Lajoie gave him precisely that in Bill Mad-lock, Jim Morrison and now Doyle Alexander, who was acquired Aug. 12 from Atlanta for fireballing prospect John Smolz (ranked with the Yanks' Al Leiter as one of the two best pitching prospects in the Eastern League). "We didn't want to wait until the market prices got prohibitive," said Lajoie. Alexander has had a September record of 10-3 the last three years and could end up facing the Blue Jays the final two weekends of the season. In 1985 the much-traveled Alexander pitched the division-clincher for the Jays against another of his former clubs, the Yankees. The acquisition of Alexander also gives Lajoie the luxury of pursuing a deal for his fifth starter, Dan Petry, who will be a free agent at the end of the season. So will Jack Morris—again—but he says, "I told Bill [Lajoie] I have no intention of going anywhere." ...One AL club recently gathered its scouts and front office people to answer this question: "If we had to trade one of our two best everyday players, which American League pitchers would we consider trading them for?" The consensus: Roger Clemens, Bret Saberhagen, Bruce Hurst, Frank Viola, with a split decision on Texas's Bobby Witt....
How can Boston have a 4.87 staff ERA with two of the league's best pitchers? If you remember the '48 Braves' cry of "Spahn and Sain and pray for rain," you'll appreciate these for the Red Sox: "Clemens, Hurst or expect the worst" and "Hurst and Clemens and the rest are lemons." After those two (combined record: 26-13, 3.52), the rest of the staff is 30-48, 5.68, and the league is hitting .301 against them. The bullpen is 14-19, 5.63, with nine saves and a whopping 55 homers. Steve (Doorknobs) Crawford has allowed seven multirun homers in 24 appearances, and he calls himself a sinkerballer.
The Tigers' shrewd moves have sent Toronto and the Yankees scurrying for pitching help. The main object of their interest is Atlanta's David Palmer, who has also attracted glances from Oakland and Minnesota. The A's had turned down Doyle Alexander and reliever Gene Garber for Jose Rijo arid Eric Plunk. Toronto's hope of getting Richard Dotson was killed for the season, because when the White Sox put Dotson on waivers, the Twins blocked them by putting in a claim. That was Minnesota G.M. Andy MacPhail's payback to Chicago G.M. Larry Himes. Back in June, MacPhail thought he had a deal—Tom Brunansky for Dotson—but at the last second Himes scuttled it all by trying to get another player thrown in....
And the Reds still haven't improved their starting pitching. Their 4.43 ERA is one of the worst in the league. Pete Rose wants to trade but, says one exec, "Pete doesn't have the power he thought he had." One owner asked Marge Schott at last December's baseball meetings who makes the decisions and she replied, "Bill Bergesch." ...The Dodgers aren't going to get Eddie Murray from the Orioles, but don't be surprised if they pry Rickey Henderson away from the Yankees at season's end.
In the National League the MVP battle is a glamorous one among Andre Dawson, Eric Davis and the Clarks (Jack's out front with Will moving up on the outside), but in the AL it is a much quieter affair that seems certain to hinge on the outcome of the pennant races. Right now Toronto's George Bell and Detroit shortstop Alan Trammell are the front-runners. Trammell has played hurt and is still on a 100-run, 100-RBI pace. He has not been called out on strikes since June 20 and did not K at all from July 10 through last weekend....
Will Clark hit eight homers for the Giants in an 11-game stretch and has begun making the gossip columns for dating Cheryl Hernandez-Harrington, Miss San Francisco....
Both Cy Young Award contests are wide open, with last years' winners, Mike Scott and Roger Clemens, very much in contention. So much for the Cy Young Jinx. (In 31 seasons, only Sandy Koufax, Jim Palmer and Denny McLain have won the award in successive years.) ...An additional factor in the home run barrage is the trend toward lighter bats. While traditional sluggers used 36-and 38-ounce bats, Jack Clark dropped from a 34-to a 32-ounce model and Dwight Evans dropped to a 31. "Bat speed is the name of the game," says Clark.
The Pirates' pitching staff of Mike Dunne, Brian Fisher, Doug Drabek and relievers Brett Gideon and John Smiley ("The best arm I've seen all year," says one NL scout) has the potential to be one of the ablest in the NL. Pitching coach Ray Miller thinks a key to his pitchers' development is catcher Mike LaValliere. "He's the best defensive catcher I've ever seen," says Miller....
The steal of the big Giants-Padres deal last month has turned out to be third baseman Kevin Mitchell, who had eight homers and 23 RBIs in his first 33 games after moving up the coast....
Whitey Herzog called Bart Giamatti last week to talk about scuffed balls and stuffed bats. Asked about the conversation, Herzog replied, "We talked about everything—Yale, the English language. It's between me and Mr. Giamatti."
BETWEEN THE LINES
Philadelphia second baseman Juan Samuel is:
1) The first player to reach double figures in homers, doubles, triples and stolen bases in each of his first four seasons;
2) Within reach of becoming the first infielder to have 30 homers, 30 steals and 100 RBIs in a season;
3) Also in double figures in caught stealings, grounded into double plays and errors.
THE JUNIOR CIRCUIT
In contrast to the big noise made by AL rookie stars Mark McGwire, Kevin Seitzer, Devon White, Mike Greenwell et al., San Diego's Benito Santiago quietly leads NL rookies in homers (11), RBIs (53) and extra-base hits (31), while Pittsburgh pitchers Mike Dunne and John Smiley lead in wins and saves with seven and four, respectively.
Dan Quisenberry, five times Fireman of the Year, has made only three appearances for the Royals since July 19.
THE MAN IS FATHER TO THE FRANCHISE
The newest Blue Jay, Phil Niekro, had pitched 2,762⅖ innings before Toronto played its first game, in 1977, and it took the Jays until their fourth year, 1980, to catch Niekro in victories.
SO THIS IS THE BIG TIME
Luis Isaac spent 22 years in the Indians' minor league system as a player, instructor, coach and manager. Last month, when Doc Edwards replaced Pat Corrales as the manager during a road trip, Isaac was promoted to bullpen coach with the big club. When the Indians returned home, it was the first time Isaac had ever been to Cleveland.
•Dwight Gooden failed to hold a 5-0 lead against the Cubs in Wrigley Field on Aug. 13. His career record in day games is now 17-13, 3.55. He is 50-10, 1.87 under the lights.
•Walt Terrell is 27-7, 3.00 at Tiger Stadium; 12-25, 5.72 in all other AL parks.
•In his first 13 starts, Ron Guidry allowed 17 first-inning runs. In the other 67‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√±‚àö¬® innings in those starts, he allowed 18 runs.
•In the Aug. 11 game between the Orioles and Indians—the two worst teams in the AL East—the two eighth-place hitters, Cory Snyder and Larry Sheets, combined for three home runs and a double. At the time, they had 50 homers between them.
•Houston shortstop Craig Reynolds has four homers—three of them off San Francisco's Mike LaCoss.
•Oakland has made 17 disabled-list transactions with 11 different players, and Joaquin Andujar has been on the DL four times. The Twins have had to use the disabled list only three times.
•When the Pirates shut out St. Louis 11-0 on Aug. 12, it was the Cardinals' first shutout loss in 113 games. Last year they were shut out 12 times in their first 113 games.
•The next night the Cardinal outfielders stood idle for 13 innings, not making a single putout in a 4-2 loss to the Phillies. The last time that happened was in 1909.
•How desperate are teams for pitching? When the Mariners released journeyman Roy Thomas, his agent was contacted by 12 clubs; when the Phillies released Tom Hume, he got seven serious offers.
•Bob Boone, the 39-year-old Angel catcher, has thrown out 26 of the last 40 runners who have tried to steal against him.
•Despite their mediocre season, the Red Sox have played to 86.2% capacity in Fenway Park this season, 96.7% since the All-Star break.
•Toronto's Dave Stieb often used to suffer from weak offensive support, but in his 12 wins this season, his teammates have scored in double figures six times, outscoring the opposition 114-36 overall.
According to a poll of the 26 general managers, St. Louis has the best organization in baseball, followed by Toronto, the Mets, Cincinnati, Boston and Kansas City. The worst, from the bottom, are those of the White Sox, Cleveland, Seattle, Los Angeles and Atlanta. But by one measure, opinion doesn V seem to jibe with fact. The Dodgers' organization has produced more current major leaguers than any other, while the Blue Jays' is one of two that have produced the fewest. Here are the best and the worst, based on the number of major leaguers produced:
1. Blue Jays, White Sox
4. Red Sox
4. Astros, Cubs, Orioles
5. Expos, Mariners, Indians