HOW THE MIGHTY HAVE FALLEN
This is an article from the May 2, 1988 issue
The St. Louis Cardinals have again sunk into a post-World Series stupor. After they won the Series in 1982, their record plummeted to 79-83 the next season. Then, in '85, they lost the Series to the Kansas City Royals and finished 79-82 the following year. So where were the '87 National League pennant winners at the end of last week? That's right—in last place in their division, with a 5-12 record.
"I wish it were as simple to explain as having some pitchers hurt, and missing Jack Clark [who signed as a free agent with the New York Yankees], but it isn't," says manager Whitey Herzog. "Sure, it's not the same lineup without Clark, but the fact remains that if our six switch-hitters [Jose Oquendo, Terry Pendleton, Ozzie Smith, Vince Coleman, Willie McGee and rookie Luis Alicea] don't hit around .300, we don't score runs. We had a game in Pittsburgh in which we had seven hits, four stolen bases and eight runners in scoring position, and we still got shut out. [Pitcher] Joe Magrane homered on Opening Day, and it took more than two weeks for someone to get two and pass him for the team lead."
To shake things up, last week St. Louis traded second baseman Tommy Herr, who is 32 and will be a free agent at season's end, to the Minnesota Twins for rightfielder Tom Brunansky, who has averaged 27 homers a year since coming to the majors in 1982. Brunansky, 27, who's also a solid fielder, should be a major improvement over Jim Lindeman, a converted infielder who has been put on the disabled list with a back injury. Alicea will replace Herr at second.
Unlike in previous years, Herzog hasn't been able to rely on his pitchers to keep the Cards in the race until his hitters started producing. Ace lefthander John Tudor is still recovering from off-season shoulder surgery, Magrane tore a rib-cage muscle on April 16 and was put on the disabled list, and reliever Ken Dayley has hurt his back and will be sidelined for at least six weeks.
Meanwhile, the world champion Twins haven't fared any better than the Cards. When the Herr-Brunansky trade was made late Friday night, Minnesota was 4-10 and in last place in the American League East. Herr should have a steadying influence on the team, but it's going to take a lot more than one player to cure the Twins' many ills.
Looking back, general manager Andy MacPhail admits that going into the season with three over-the-hill pitchers—Steve Carlton, Tippy Martinez and Joe Niekro—was a mistake. In two games against the New York Yankees, on April 18 and 19, that threesome gave up 19 hits and 20 runs in 4⅖ innings. The Twins lost the games by scores of 18-5 and 7-6.
Three of the pitchers MacPhail is thinking about bringing up—Mark Portugal, Karl Best and Jim Winn—may not be much of an improvement: Their combined major league record is 24-39. And there don't seem to be too many other prospects waiting in the wings. While Minnesota was being pummeled by the Yankees on April 18, its top two farm teams, the Portland Beavers (Triple A) and the Orlando Twins (Double A), were giving up a total of 25 runs. The night before, Orlando had gone into the ninth with an 18-5 lead over the Huntsville (Ala.) Stars and had barely held on to win 18-17.
A ROSE IS A ROSE
Pete Rose's son is hitting better than .400 for Cincinnati's Oak Hills High and is eagerly awaiting the draft in June. A 6'1", 170-pound lefthanded-hitting third baseman, Pete Jr. recently got a rating of 44 (out of a possible 80) by the Major League Scouting Bureau. That grade should make him about a fifth-round draft pick. Mark Lewis, a 6'1", 175-pound shortstop from rival Hamilton High who has 11 home runs and 50 RBIs and is batting .600 in 21 games, got a 60 rating, possibly the best score for a schoolboy player so far this year.
Pete Jr. got seven (out of eight) points for both instinct and aggressiveness, and one scout said his "bloodline" was a plus. All of this indicates that he may go before the fifth round. As his father says, "His being my son should count for something."
ANYBODY REMEMBER CHRIS BROWN?
The season wasn't three weeks old when San Diego Padres manager Larry Bowa brought up second baseman Roberto Alomar, moved Randy Ready from second to third and benched Chris Brown, who was supposed to become one of the premier third basemen in the National League. Even though Brown has a history of minor injuries, some members of the Padres organization had difficulty understanding why Bowa wasn't willing to give him half a season to prove himself. After all, Bowa fought hard to get Brown in San Diego's seven-player deal with the San Francisco Giants in July.
The Red Sox may have the hardest-throwing pitching staff since the 1968 Cleveland Indians, which included Luis Tiant, Steve Hargan, Sam McDowell, Sonny Siebert and Stan Williams and is the only staff in history to finish with more strikeouts than hits allowed. Boston has two pitchers, Jeff Sellers and Roger Clemens, whose fastballs have been clocked at 95 mph, and another, Steve Ellsworth, who has hit 90 mph. At week's end the starters had more strikeouts (100) than hits allowed (87). At their current pace, the Red Sox pitchers will end up with 1,013 strikeouts. The American League record is 1,189, set by the Indians in 1967.
BRAVE NEW WORLD
The tension between Atlanta Braves manager Chuck Tanner and G.M. Bobby Cox continued to mount last week when Cox brought in minor league hitting instructor Clarence Jones to help the struggling team. Tanner defended his own hitting coaches, Bob Skinner and Willie Stargell, and then, on April 20, he made a gaffe in a game against the Houston Astros. When Glenn Davis came to bat in the fourth inning, Tanner shifted second baseman Ron Gant behind the bag to load the left side of the infield. Davis hit a ground ball where Gant was supposed to be, setting up the only run of the game. Asked why he had ordered the shift, Tanner said, "Davis hasn't hit a ball the other way in two years." When a reporter reminded him that Davis had hit two singles to the right the previous night, Tanner ignored the question.
EVERY WAY, JOSE
Oakland Athletics slugger Jose Canseco, who was leading the majors with seven homers at week's end, is turning himself into an all-around player. Not only has he stolen seven bases, but he has also come into his own as a fielder, now that manager Tony La Russa has switched him from leftfield to right. "Rightfield is a better showcase for his talents because it's less restrictive," says La Russa. "We talked about putting him in center. He could play it, easily, but we want his arm in right."
THE METS ARE SET
Dwight Gooden, who was 4-0 through Sunday, appears to have bounced all the way back from his troubles of last season, when he missed 25 games while undergoing treatment for drugs. His fastball was clocked at 95 mph last week—the hardest he has thrown in two years....
Another Met making a successful comeback is Gary Carter, who, after hitting just .235 in 1987, had six homers, 13 RBIs and a .321 average. The key to his rebound is off-season knee surgery and rehabilitation, which have allowed him to get back his quick swing....
Don't worry about the Mets missing reliever Jesse Orosco, whom they traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers. According to Philadelphia Phillies manager Lee Elia, Orosco's replacement, Randy Myers, "is the hardest-throwing lefthander in the National League."
BETWEEN THE LINES
IN THE BAMBINO'S FOOTSTEPS
Mark McGwire of the Oakland Athletics has hit 56 homers in his first 188 games, or one every 3.4 games. By comparison, Babe Ruth hit one every 3.5 games in his career, and Henry Aaron had one every 4.4.
A BALKWARD STRATEGY
Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Bob Walk isn't afraid to balk with a runner on first base. "If you've got an 8-out-of-10 guy on, why not balk?" says Walk. "He's probably going to steal anyway. And if you balk him to second, it makes him mad because he doesn't get a stolen base."
WHAT PUTS THE GOOD IN GOODEN
New York Mets ace Dwight Gooden has reached double figures in strikeouts in 28.9% of his career starts. The Houston Astros' Nolan Ryan has done it 28.5% of the time, and the Boston Red Sox' Roger Clemens 22.0%.
WATCH OUT, DENVER
Buffalo is looking more attractive as an expansion city. The Buffalo Bisons (Triple A) drew a total of 82,833 fans for their first five home dates. One of them was an 11 a.m. game on April 19. How cold was it? "Admiral Byrd threw out the first pitch," said manager Rocky Bridges.
OUT OF THEIR LEAGUE
On April 7 the Osceola Astros (Class A) of the Florida State League scored nine runs in an exhibition game against Houston's Jim Deshaies, who was rehabilitating his arm before returning to the majors. In his next outing, he promptly shut out the Atlanta Braves. Then, last week, Osceola faced another rehab project, Red Sox veteran Bob Stanley, who is temporarily playing for Winter Haven (Class A). This time the Astros put only eight runs on the board. Stanley looked like a major leaguer, though. In five innings he committed five balks.
PLAY OF THE WEEK
On April 18, Mike Schmidt of the Philadelphia Phillies scored from first base against the Mets on a wild pitch. New York's David Cone threw a fastball that sailed past catcher Gary Carter, ricocheted off the backstop and rolled along the top step of the Phillies' dugout. Carter pursued the ball but fell as he neared the dugout, and by the time he got to the ball, Schmidt was already at third. Carter looked up to throw—only to find that no one was covering the plate. Schmidt, having made a similar observation, dashed homeward and scored unchallenged.
•An exhibition game between Houston and Texas A & M at College Station, Texas, drew 6,421 fans. The week before, a total of 5,748 spectators showed up for a two-game series between the Astros and the Braves in Atlanta.
•Don Mattingly was hitting .253 through the weekend. Fear not. His career average for April and May is .286. From June through October it's .346.
•Bret Saberhagen was 15-3 at last year's All-Star break. Including last week's loss to the Toronto Blue Jays, he has gone 5-9 since then.
•Brian Fisher is the first Pirate pitcher since Dock Ellis in 1973 to win his first three decisions of the season.
•Dodger pitcher Timothy (Doc) Leary is 16-1 since last season—11-1 in the Mexican League, 3-0 in spring training and 2-0 for L.A. in the regular season through Sunday.
•When Boston's Steve Ellsworth beat the Detroit Tigers 11-3 on April 21, he and his father, Dick, became the first father-son combination to win games for the Red Sox. Joe Frank Wood pitched for Boston in 1944, but unlike his father. Smoky Joe, he never won a game. Allen Ripley had a 5-6 record for the Sox in 1978 and '79, but his dad, Walter, was 0-0 for Boston in 1935.
1. Dave Winfield, Yankees
2. Mel Hall, Indians
3. Marty Barrett, Red Sox
4. Glenn Braggs, Brewer
5. Ernie Whitt, Blue Jays
Gene Larkin, Twins
1. Billy Hatcher, Astros
2. Mike Marshall, Dodgers
3. Glenn Davis, Astros
4. Andres Galarraga, Expos
5. Bill Doran, Astros
SOURCE: STATS, INC.