THE PIRATES' SHOPPING LIST
This is an article from the Aug. 22, 1988 issue
Though they lost both of their most recent series with the Mets three games to one, the Pirates learned a valuable lesson. "We knew we weren't great, yet," says manager Jim Leyland, "but we found out we're damn close. And the Mets learned that we sure as hell aren't going away."
The Pirates are convinced that their three young stars—third baseman Bobby Bonilla, centerfielder Andy Van Slyke and leftfielder Barry Bonds—are as good as or better than their counterparts on the Mets, and that newly acquired outfielder Glenn Wilson will drive in 80 to 90 runs next season, as he has done in the past. The Pirates also believe that: Righthander Doug Drabek (11-5, with a 3.29 ERA) has blossomed into one of the league's best starters; lefthander John Smiley (9-8, 3.31 ERA) is on the brink of stardom; and reliever Jim Gott, whose fastball has been clocked at 97 mph, is a legitimate closer.
What the Pirates need, according to everybody from the coaches to the general manager, are:
1) A shortstop. Rafael Belliard, when he's rested, can field as well as Ozzie Smith, but the Pirates could use a shortstop who can bat second behind Bonds—perhaps Seattle's Rey Quinones, Texas's Scott Fletcher or California's Dick Schofield. That would allow second baseman Jose Lind to bat eighth instead of second and strengthen the bottom of the order.
2) A stronger bench. Mets manager Davey Johnson can roll out Tim Teufel, Lee Mazzilli, Mackey Sasser, Dave Magadan and Mookie Wilson. But Leyland has to rely on a bunch of no-names such as Tom Prince, Al Pedrique R.J. Reynolds, Orestes Des-trade and John Cangelosi.
3) Variety in the rotation. The Mets still have the toughest staff in a short series because their starters have such different styles. The Pirates' acquisition on Saturday of changeup specialist lefthander Dave LaPoint from the White Sox for reliever Barry Jones gives them a pitcher in the mold of Bob Ojeda and should add depth to a rotation made up primarily of fireballers.
"We're in a position where we're looking for pieces, not a foundation," says Pirates general manager Syd Thrift. That's a long way from where the Pirates, in second on Sunday, were at this time last year: dead last.
In the hope of shoring up their beleaguered pitching staff, the Yankees brought in Clyde King on Aug. 9 to replace Stan Williams as pitching coach. But by now it should be apparent that it's not the coaching that is the problem, but the person making the pitching-personnel decisions. Consider some recent Yankee blunders:
•Last month they traded one of their most marketable players (outfielder Jay Buhner) for a designated hitter (Ken Phelps), when the Cubs wanted to discuss trading righthander Rick Sutcliffe for Buhner and the Orioles were offering righty Mike Boddicker.
•The Yanks released pitchers Doyle Alexander and Rick Reuschel, who have 26 wins between them this year, within 10 days in 1983.
•They traded with the White Sox in 1985 for lefthander Britt Burns, who retired before throwing another inning.
•They traded pitchers Shane Rawley, Ed Whitson, Dennis Rasmussen and Jim Deshaies—who have a combined 34 wins this season—for four pitchers who have since departed: Marty Bystrom, Tim Stoddard, Bill Gullickson and Joe Niekro.
•They passed on pitchers Alexander, Reuschel, Jack Morris, Mike Flanagan, Dennis Eckersley and Dave LaPoint in 1987 and instead traded for the erratic Steve Trout.
Compare that record to the work done by Oakland general manager Sandy Alderson. In less than one year, Alderson acquired a first-class stopper in Bob Welch, a closer with 30-plus saves in Eckersley, a quality starter in Storm Davis and a solid left-handed reliever in Rick Honeycutt—all without giving up anyone who would have played a significant role for the Athletics this season.
A WEALTH OF CATCHERS
The Padres are sifting through offers for one of their two outstanding young catchers: Benito Santiago, the 1987 NL Rookie of the Year, and Sandy Alomar Jr., who is currently hitting .297 at Las Vegas. "We'd prefer to keep them both for at least a year," says San Diego manager-general manager Jack McKeon. "But we'll listen." The Mets, who need a catcher to replace Gary Carter, expressed interest in Alomar. In fact, Alomar is already getting fan mail from Mets fans. But, to the Mets' surprise, McKeon said he wouldn't rule out the possibility of trading Santiago. Of course, McKeon may have simply been trying to put a fire under Santiago. If so, it worked. Last week Santiago hit three homers in back-to-back wins against the Braves, then crowed, "You think they will trade me now?"
Meanwhile, Cub catcher Jody Davis, whose contract is up at the end of the season, finds it hard to believe that general manager Jim Frey has told the media that no club wants the 31-year-old catcher. The Cubs have been shopping him, with some interest expressed by a number of teams (especially the Astros), but Frey claims no one has made an offer. "When they don't play him [Davis], you get afraid that he's lost his catching skills overnight the way Ernie Whitt did in Toronto. Jim Sundberg did in Kansas City and Terry Kennedy has in Baltimore," says another general manager. "All of a sudden, guys get old and suddenly can't catch hard throwers, and it messes up your whole staff."
There are so many first-rate former players, including seven Hall of Famers, working in broadcast booths this season, SI has decided to put together an all-star team of commentators, based on their playing statistics, not necessarily their gift for gab. Here's the lineup, with the broadcasters' current teams in parentheses: C, Johnny Bench (Reds); 1B, Harmon Killebrew (Twins); 2B, Joe Morgan (Giants); 3B, Brooks Robinson (Orioles); SS, Phil Rizzuto (Yankees); LF, Ralph Kiner (Mets); CF, Mickey Mantle (Yankees); RF, Al Kaline (Tigers); DH, Joe Torre (Angels); RHP, Don Drysdale (Dodgers); LHP, Jim Kaat (Twins); RP, Al Hrabosky (Cardinals).
Rather than complain about balks, Giants manager Roger Craig is making all his pitchers go into their stretches like Rick Reuschel, who looks for the sign with one hand on either thigh, then draws his hands together at the waist before going into his motion. Many balks occur, according to Craig, when a pitcher draws his hands to his chest, then drops them to his waist for the stretch. Craig also wants his pitchers to get rid of the ball faster and recently sent a memo to the Giants' minor league teams warning pitchers that they won't be called up to the majors until they can get the ball to the plate in 1.3 seconds or less.
PIGSKIN ON THE BRAIN
The Royals are increasingly concerned that outfielder-running back Bo Jackson may not have a long enough attention span to make it through the whole baseball season. Last year Jackson went into a batting slump when the NFL training camps opened, and this year he has hit .203 since July 2. His cumulative batting average for the first half of the season over the last two years has been .286, but through Sunday his second-half average was .190. To make matters worse, last week Bo handed out L.A. Raiders caps and T-shirts to his Kansas City teammates....
Despite his blistering fastball, Red Sox reliever Lee Smith isn't particularly intimidating, because he seldom pitches inside on batters. Believe it or not, he has hit only three batters in six seasons....
When purists criticized Wrigley's new lights for ruining tradition, Frey responded, "Would someone tell me when tradition starts? What do they want us to do, play without gloves because they didn't use them in the 19th century?"
BETWEEN THE LINES
IT BEATS BURNING TWIGS
Oakland second baseman Glenn Hubbard had played through Aug. 7 without hitting a single home run. Then he borrowed rightfielder Jose Canseco's bat and pitcher Dave Stewart's pants and hit homers in three consecutive games. "It's the pants that did it," quipped Stewart, after he learned that Hubbard had hit only one of the dingers with Canseco's bat.
Expos pitcher Pascual Perez recently bet his brother Me-lido of the White Sox a cow that he would win 15 games this season. As of Sunday, Pasqual still had six to go.
THE 90% SOLUTION
The Tigers replaced leadoff hitter Gary Pettis, who had a minuscule .295 on-base percentage, with Lou Whitaker, who hasn't attempted a steal all season. That's all right. In the 21-game stretch before their series with the Red Sox last week, the Tigers' ERA was lower (2.14) than their batting average (.224).
THE FEAR OF GOD
On July 27, George Culver, manager of the Triple A Maine Phillies, told talented but erratic righthander Marvin Freeman, who had a 3-5 record with a 5.61 ERA, that he would be released in 30 days if he didn't get his act together. Freeman responded by pitching a seven-inning no-hitter and a six-inning two-hitter in his next two starts. Then he was called up to the Phillies and threw another seven scoreless innings before being replaced by Steve Bedrosian.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
Former Canadian national treasure Wayne Gretzky was introduced to his new wife, Janet Jones, by ex-Phillie pitcher Larry Christenson.
QUOTES OF THE WEEK
•Sometimes butterfingered Oriole second baseman Billy Ripken: "Errors are a part of the game, but Abner Double-day was a jerk for inventing them."
•Dodgers manager Tom Lasorda, on his not-so-speedy catcher, Mike Scoscia: "If he raced his pregnant wife, he'd finish third."
COULD IT BE THAT EASY?
When San Diego reliever Dave Leiper singled in the fifth run in the 16th inning of a 5-4 victory over the Braves, not only was it the first hit of his seven-year pro career, it was also his first at bat.
THE PEOPLE'S CHOICE
Oakland catcher Terry Steinbach, who was the All-Star Game MVP despite his controversial selection to the team by the fans, is hitting .325 and has thrown out 7 of 11 attempted base stealers since the game.
•Last season the Cardinals weren't shut out until Aug. 12. But when they lost 1-0 to the Phillies last Thursday, it was the 14th time they have been blanked this season.
•The Blue Jays went 16 games and 41 at bats without an RBI from the cleanup position before leftfielder George Bell singled in a run against the Yankees on Aug. 10.
•Minnesota's Kent Hrbek has 21 homers against Eastern Division teams and none against the West. On Aug. 10 Hrbek hit his 98th homer indoors, breaking a record held by former Astro Jimmy Wynn.
•The Boston Red Sox lead American League hitters in most walks and fewest strikeouts. Only one other team has done this since divisional play began in 1969—the '82 Indians, who finished in sixth place in the AL East.
•Through Sunday, Detroit's opponents had balked home 14 runs; the Tigers' pitchers, only one.
•Texas's Bobby Witt set a record by failing to complete any of his first 55 major league starts. Since returning from Oklahoma City in July, he has had seven consecutive complete games.
OVER BEFORE IT'S OVER
When the seventh-inning stretch rolls around, Yankee fans can start heading home because, so far this season, their team has been unable to win a game in which it trailed going into the eighth inning. (The come-from-behind 6-4 win over the Twins Friday doesn 7 count because New York was ahead 3-2 after seven.) Here are the teams with the best and worst late-innings records.
WINS WHEN BEHIND AFTER SEVEN
LOSSES WHEN AHEAD AFTER SEVEN
New York Yankees
St. Louis Cardinals
San Diego Padres
New York Mets
Through Aug. 13
SOURCE: STATS, INC.