Baseball

July 10, 1988

WHITEMAIL

Despite reports to the contrary, the Chicago White Sox could still end up in St. Petersburg, Fla. In an 11th-hour effort to keep the Sox in Chicago, the Illinois state legislature narrowly passed a bill on June 30 to build a stadium across the street from the team's current home, Comiskey Park. The Sox then agreed to stay put, but they could still leave if the city fails to take over the commercial property and 80% of the residential land on the new site by Oct. 15—the first of many deadlines built into the deal.

By the time the fate of the White Sox is finally decided, a lot of politicians will have learned an expensive lesson. Chicago had originally promised, in December 1986, that it would build the Sox a new park. But while the legislators procrastinated, not only did the estimated cost of building the stadium go from $120 million to $150 million, but also the legislators were forced—because of the appeal to the Sox of St. Petersburg's still undivulged offer—to throw in guarantees, rent breaks and other goodies that could raise the final outlay considerably.

Ever since Al Davis won the right in court to move the NFL Raiders from Oakland to Los Angeles without league approval, the gun has been in the owners' hands. In addition, several cities like St. Petersburg want major league teams so badly that they are willing to build stadiums first and try to find tenants later. Buffalo has a new stadium and is making a big push for a major league baseball team, and Martin Stone, owner of the Triple A Phoenix Firebirds, is trying to get his city to pursue the build-first strategy as well. In May, Baltimore, faced with circumstances similar to those encountered by Chicago, essentially gave the Orioles everything they wanted—including a new stadium that is expected to be ready by 1992—because other cities had made the O's offers.

The press in Chicago has characterized White Sox owners Jerry Reinsdorf and Eddie Einhorn as mercenaries, but they should be given credit for turning down a far better deal from St. Petersburg to remain second bananas in a two-team market. The Sox are hardly a glamorous franchise, and Comiskey, which at 78 is the oldest park in the majors, isn't Wrigley Field by a long shot. Says one team owner, "If Reinsdorf and Einhorn had wanted the money, they'd have never given Chicago a second thought."

NEW TRICKS
Jeff Reardon, the Minnesota Twins' ace reliever who has had 20 or more saves in each of the six previous seasons, may be having his most dominant year ever. As of Sunday he had failed in only three of 23 save opportunities and, at one point, had accumulated 15 straight scoreless outings. "I'm pitching differently this season," says Reardon. "I'd always just been a power pitcher. But I've gone back to using my curveball—which was a good pitch for me when I was 15-4 as a starter in Double A—and started using a straight change after watching [reliever] Doug Jones of the Indians. Before my career is over, I think I could go back and be effective as a starter."

NO SOTO POP

The Cincinnati Reds released pitcher Mario Soto on June 19 because his shoulder had failed to recover since surgery two years ago. His fastball had been clocked at 82 mph in spring training and didn't improve, making his changeup, which is his strikeout pitch, ineffective. But when the Los Angeles Dodgers' physical therapist, Pat Screnar, examined Soto on June 28, Soto told him that the Reds had never put him on a closely supervised rehabilitation program, and Screnar concluded that with the use of Cybex muscle-strengthening machines, Soto might get his fastball back. So the Dodgers, who are looking for starting pitchers, decided to sign Soto, who is second on the Reds alltime strikeout list and a three-time All-Star, then promptly put him on the 21-day disabled list. Even though Soto may not be that useful this year, the Dodgers feel he is worth the gamble because reliever Alejandro Pena had a similar injury three years ago and is now emerging as one of the aces of the bullpen.

Los Angeles is worried that Fernando Valenzuela may have more pain in his arm than he is letting on and that 43-year-old Don Sutton's first stint on the disabled list in his career—he will be out until at least July 19—is an indication that he may finally be breaking down. On the bright side, the Dodgers are convinced that 26-year-old righthander Tim Belcher, who on June 24 and 26 struck out the side in each of his first two outings since being reassigned to the bullpen, can be a formidable short reliever. But as soon as reliever Jay Howell returns from the disabled list in about two weeks, the Dodgers plan to put Belcher back into the starting rotation.

CANADA BOUND?

In hopes of putting some clout in the middle of their infield, the Montreal Expos were interested in trading for Minnesota second baseman Tommy Herr, but when pitcher Floyd Youmans was suspended for failing a drug test June 25, the Expos felt they couldn't deal veteran pitcher Bryn Smith quite yet. However, now that Montreal has righthanders John Dopson and Brian Holman in the rotation and minor league pitchers Randy Johnson, Sergio Valdez and Jeff Fischer close to being ready at Indianapolis, the Expos should be able to deal Smith before the Aug. 1 trading deadline.

Whether Herr, who becomes a free agent at the end of the season, would be willing to sign a long-term contract with Montreal—and that would likely be a precondition of a deal with the Twins—is another story. It's not easy getting players to move north of the border, mainly because Canada has stiff taxes and an unfavorable exchange rate. St. Louis Cardinals pitcher John Tudor, for instance, has a clause in his contract that guarantees him an extra $50,000 on top of his $1.3 million salary if he is traded to a Canadian club. That sort of arrangement is fairly common these days.

TRADE RUMORS

If the Chicago Cubs seem to be out of contention in the National League East late in the season, look for them to deal pitcher Rick Sutcliffe....

Baltimore manager Frank Robinson has told the front office that he thinks the team would be making a big mistake if it traded or failed to resign shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. and pitcher Mike Boddicker, who he believes are the foundation of the Orioles' rebuilding program....

New Philadelphia Phillies general manager Lee Thomas is shopping outfielder Phil Bradley, who has been one of the year's biggest flops (he was hitting .227 with three home runs and 21 RBIs at week's end), and pitchers Don Carman and Shane Rawley. Thomas made his support for manager Lee Elia clear when he reprimanded first baseman Von Hayes on June 26 after Hayes flung his helmet in the dugout and struck Elia. It was the fourth time in two weeks that Elia, who stands near the helmet rack, had been pelted by a flying helmet....

The New York Yankees would love to trade outfielder Rickey Henderson, but he will make $1.95 million next year, has a no-trade clause in his contract and last month had three different leg ailments that kept him out of the lineup....

Dwight Gooden's 19-year-old nephew, Gary Sheffield, is tearing up the Texas League. Last month he hit six homers in nine days, and at week's end he was batting .306 with 18 home runs and 62 RBIs. But the Milwaukee Brewers are resisting the urge to bring up Sheffield, a shortstop, to the majors in part because of all the problems that have befallen other players from his Tampa neighborhood, like Gooden, Youmans and minor leaguer Vance Lovelace....

The three players the White Sox have used at third base this year—Kenny Williams, Donnie Hill and Steve Lyons—have together made 27 errors....

The California Angels' radar gun recently recorded Milwaukee reliever Dan Plesac's fastball at 98 mph. The Angels' next highest reading this season was 94 mph by Boston Red Sox starter Roger Clemens.

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PHOTOJ. RETTALIATA/FOCUS WESTEvery time Incaviglia hit in 1987, his bats alone cost Texas $13.41. PHOTOSTEPHEN GREENIllinois lawmakers delighted Sox fans but learned an expensive lesson. PHOTO©THE TOPPS COMPANY, INC.Happy 54th to the '63 runs leader. CHARTJOHN GRIMWADE

BETWEEN THE LINES

THE NUMBERS GAME
Last Tuesday, New York Yankee designated hitter Jack Clark switched his uniform number from 33 to 6, the number worn earlier this year by, first, catcher Rick Cerone, who was picked up by the Boston Red Sox on April 14, and then, coach Clete Boyer, who was relieved of his job as coach on June 23. Number 6 has special meaning for the Yankees because numbers 1 (Billy Martin), 3 (Babe Ruth), 4 (Lou Gehrig), 5 (Joe DiMaggio), 7 (Mickey Mantle), 8 (Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey), 9 (Roger Maris) and 10 (Phil Rizzuto) have been retired. As for number 2, reserve infielder Wayne Tolleson wears it.

MA BELL PLAYER OF THE WEEK
On June 25 the first pitch of a game in Anaheim, Calif., between the Milwaukee Brewers and the California Angels was delivered while Angel centerfielder Devon White was still in the clubhouse, reportedly talking on the telephone. The Brewers' leadoff hitter, Jim Gantner, took a called strike before the umpires realized the Angels had only eight players on the field. The pitch was nullified, and after White took the field, the game was restarted and Gantner singled to center.

GOING BATTY
Last year, diligent Texas Rangers outfielder Pete Incaviglia, who likes to take extra batting practice, used 37 dozen bats, all paid for by the team. At $17 per bat, Incaviglia's wood cost the club $7,548, or $13.41 per plate appearance. So far this season, the Rangers have ordered him another 18 dozen.

IS ANYBODY WATCHING OUT THERE?
Players constantly complain about the fans' All-Star voting, but when USA Today asked the players to select a team of major league MVPs, the pros made the Kansas City Royals' George Brett their sixth choice at third base, even though Brett has been playing first all season.

PINCH PITCHERS

The five nonpitchers who had taken the mound through Sunday—leftfielder Dan Gladden of the Minnesota Twins, utilityman Jose Oquendo of the St. Louis Cardinals, infielder Dave Concepcion of the Cincinnati Reds, utilityman Jim Morrison of the Atlanta Braves and outfielder John Cangelosi of the Pittsburgh Pirates—had given up only two earned runs and 10 hits in 10⅖ innings for a 1.69 ERA. Oquendo, who got nicked for a pair of runs by the Braves on May 14, is the only part-timer who has been scored on, and those runs came in his fourth inning of work.

NEXT YEAR, THE WORLD
When San Francisco Giants infielder Harry Spilman, who got his first stolen base just last year, hit his first triple on June 28, after 749 career at bats, manager Roger Craig quipped, "Harry's hot, a stolen base and triple in back-to-back seasons." The hit came off the aforementioned Morrison, who went 844 consecutive at bats without a triple in 1979 and '80.

A MAJOR LEAGUER
When Cincinnati owner Marge Schott went to Rome last week, she brought along a gift for the Pope, a Reds warmup jacket with JOHN PAUL 2 inscribed on the back.

MISCELLANEOUS

•Through Sunday, Boston second baseman Marty Barrett led all American League infielders—including first basemen—in runs produced, with 90.

•The Cleveland Indians' ace reliever, Doug Jones, whose ERA was 1.93 at week's end, has been scored on in only three of his 24 appearances.

•On June 29 Indians rightfielder Cory Snyder made contact against Red Sox pitcher Roger Clemens for the first time in his career—he flied out twice before striking out. Snyder is now 0 for 12 against Clemens with 10 strikeouts.

TO HOOK OR NOT TO HOOK

It's often said that if you don't get to a good pitcher early, you won't get to him at all, because he'll get stronger as the game goes on. Here are the major league starters who this season best exemplify that dictum--and those who are the worst fizzlers.

PITCHERS WHO GET WEAKER

PITCHERS WHO GET STRONGER

INNINGS 1-6

BEYOND 6TH

INNINGS 1-6

BEYOND 6TH

Dave LaPoint

1.94*

Mike Witt

4.98

White Sox

7.71

Angels

1.40

Bob Ojeda

2.63

Jack Morris

5.36

Mets

8.22

Tigers

2.45

John Farrell

2.76

Rick Sutcliffe

4.98

Indians

7.30

Cubs

2.25

SOURCE: STATS INC.

* ERA through July 2

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)