BASEBALL

September 13, 1987

TOO GOOD TO IGNORE

However one may feel about the drug problems that sent Dwight Gooden to a rehabilitation clinic for a month in the spring, the fact remains that Gooden's season began 11 starts late, and still he has pitched brilliantly enough that he must be considered for the Cy Young Award. Not only that, but his pitching has been the most important factor in the Mets' run at the Cardinals.

Through last weekend only four NL pitchers, Philadelphia's Shane Rawley, Chicago's Rick Sutcliffe, Atlanta's Zane Smith and Houston's Mike Scott, had more wins than Gooden's 13 (against 4 losses; New York is 14-4 in his starts), and only Orel Hershiser's and Nolan Ryan's ERAs (2.68 and 2.79. respectively) were lower than Gooden's 2.87. Considering the riffraff the Dodgers have lined up behind him, Hershiser has probably been the best pitcher in the league, but Gooden will prove he's better if he wins five or six more games down the stretch and pitches the Mets past the Cards.

Though the Cy Young is supposed to reward a pitcher's performance, some voters will no doubt consider Gooden's involvement with drugs before filling out their ballots. If they do, they should also consider the pressure that has been brought to bear on Gooden by the New York fans and media: An infamous New York Post headline before his first start urged fans to STAND UP AND BOO. That pressure makes Gooden's season all the more remarkable.

PENNANT-RACE PICKUP

The Blue Jays made a terrific move when they sent pitching prospects Jose Mesa and Oswald Peraza to Baltimore for Mike Flanagan. At 35, Flanagan has rediscovered his old delivery; his fastball has been clocked at 90 mph in the last three weeks. He gives the Jays another left arm to throw at the tough lefthanded hitting lineups of Detroit and New York, and his presence will allow the Blue Jays' swingman supreme, John Cerutti (10-3), to spend more time in the bullpen to take some pressure off arm-weary Jeff Musselman....

Question: Who was the last player to sign a contract for more than three years? Answer: Ken Oberkfell of the Braves, who signed for four years in 1986. How else can one explain why a third baseman can stay in the majors for 10 seasons without ever knocking in 50 runs?

THE O'S DON'T HAVE IT
Things are bad in Baltimore. The Oriole brass talks proudly about its young pitchers, but the Orioles are 16-27 in games started by rookies; Ray Knight has played enough to get his contract for 1988 guaranteed (and has batted .217 since June 17); the fans have booed Cal Ripken, who has hit .230 in his last 106 games. There's more: The annual cruise for Oriole fans aboard the QEII sails on Friday the 13th (of November), and two of the players scheduled to go along are Alan Wiggins, currently under suspension for improper conduct, and Mike Flanagan, now with the Blue Jays.

FUTURE STARS

These are the most talked about minor leaguers not called up before Aug. 31, with comments drawn from major league scouting reports:

1) Gregg Jefferies, 20, infield, Mets (.367, 20 HRs, 101 RBIs, Class AA). "A great switch hitter with a Pete Rose approach and speed." The Mets organization is so deep in infielders, Jefferies could end up in left.

2) Gary Sheffield, 19, SS, Brewers (.277, 17 HRs, 105 RBIs, A). "Exceptional production possibilities. Will make jump to majors quickly and has convinced everyone in the organization he can play short."

3) Hensley (Bam Bam) Meulens, 20, 3B, Yankees (.300, 28 HRs, 103 RBIs, A). "The greatest player ever out of Curaçao. Has Pedro Guerrero build with 50 home-run power."

4) Kevin Elster, 23, SS, Mets (.310, 8 HRs, 74 RBIs, AAA). "The Mets' shortstop for years to come—his offense this year caught up to his defense."

5) Brady Anderson, 23, OF, Red Sox (.294 in AA, .380 in AAA). "Outstanding centerfielder with speed, power and aggressiveness. A Von Hayes type."

6) Jay Buhner, 23, OF, Yankees (.279, 31 HRs, 85 RBIs, AAA). "Hitch in [righthanded] swing makes power to right center, but very aggressive player with power and above-average defensive skills."

7) Mike Devereaux, 24, OF, Dodgers (.301, 26 HRs, 91 RBIs, AA). "In college [Arizona State] was considered a defensive liability in shadow of teammates Barry Bonds and Oddibe McDowell, but made great strides. Best the Dodgers have."

8) Eddie Williams, 22, 3B, Indians (.291, 22 HRs, 85 RBIs, AAA). "Unlimited power potential. [Lack of] motivation and desire are all that can keep him from stardom."

9) Sandy Alomar Jr., 21, C, Padres (.307, 8 HRs, 65 RBIs, AA). "Has more tools than Benito Santiago," San Diego's fine rookie catcher.

10) Roberto Alomar, 19, SS, Padres (.319, 12 HRs, 68 RBIs, 43 SBs, AA). "Can do everything. Oh, that the father [San Diego coach and former major leaguer Sandy Sr.] had these tools."

LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON

Two more scouting reports we stumbled upon:

Brian McRae (son of Hal), 20, 2B, Royals, A. "As intense as anyone I've ever seen. Highly intelligent, loves to play and will make himself a hitter."

Pete Rose Jr., 17, IB, Oak Hills High School, Cincinnati. Missed much of school season because of academic trouble. "Not a lot of ability, but desire is so unique that it makes him a potential high pick next June."

MISCELLANEOUS
The Royals have long yearned for Reds shortstop Barry Larkin, so before the August trading deadline Cincinnati inquired about a Larkin-for-Danny Jackson deal. But Kansas City wouldn't trade the lefthander, despite his 8-16 record....

Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog thinks the MVP award should go to the most outstanding player, not the best player on a first-place club. "If you're going to have the Cy Young Award for most outstanding pitcher, then you ought to have a Most Outstanding Player Award," says Whitey. "The Cubs are fifth with Andre Dawson. Without him, they might be in the American Association. I don't mean that to be derogatory, but that's how great a year he has had."...Texas's 21-year-old Ruben Sierra had 27 homers and 96 RBIs through last week. He's aiming to become the first player under the age of 22 to hit 30 home runs or more in a season since Boston's Tony Conigliaro hit 32 in 1965, and the first to drive in 100 runs since Detroit's Al Kaline had 128 RBIs in 1956. If Sierra reaches both milestones, he will be only the fifth player to do so before his 22nd birthday. The fabulous four: Mel Ott (Giants, 1929), Jimmie Foxx (Athletics, 1929), Hal Trosky (Indians, 1934) and Eddie Mathews (Braves, 1953)....

In case you missed it, Sept. 9 marked the 10th anniversary of the double debut of the Tigers' Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker, who have played together longer than any double-play duo ever.

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PHOTOMANNY MILLANDespite having missed the first two months, Gooden has since pitched well enough to earn Cy Young consideration. PHOTO©TOPPS CHEWING GUM INC.Happy 51st to a September hero. PHOTOBILL SMITH

BALLPARK FIGURES

The Cards' Willie McGee (above) could reach triple figures in RBIs before reaching double figures in home runs. Here are the top 10 RBI men among players who have fewer than 10 homers:

PLAYER

RBIs

HRs

PLAYER

RBIs

HRs

Willie McGee, S.L.

94

9

Scott Fletcher, Texas

55

5

Tom Herr, S.L.

71

2

B.J. Surhoff, Mil.

53

6

Ozzie Smith, S.L.

69

0

Alfredo Griffin, Oak.

53

3

Tony Fernandez, Tor.

58

5

Tony Gwynn, S.D.

49

6

Bill Buckner, Calif.

58

4

Willie Randolph, Yanks

49

4

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)