WHO WANTS WADE?
For six months the Red Sox have tried to trade third baseman Wade Boggs. One of the teams they have been talking to is Atlanta, but last week two general managers from other National League teams said that if they were working for the Braves, they wouldn't trade lefthander Tom Glavine, one of the pitchers mentioned as trade bait, for Boggs. Are they serious? Last year Glavine was 7-17 with a 4.56 ERA!
Boggs, of course, is one of the premier hitters of all time. He has a .355 lifetime batting average, fourth behind Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby and Shoeless Joe Jackson, and he has led the American League in batting and on-base average in five of the last six years. Yet his trade value isn't what the Red Sox thought it would be; his lack of power hitting (five homers in '88) has left him, in Boggs's words, "without the respect I'd like to believe I've earned." One American League coach says, "Get Boggs out of Fenway, where he uses the short foul territory and the Wall so well, and he's a 30-year-old .320 singles hitter who can't run."
Last week SI asked 12 American League managers to compare Boggs with other superstars in the league. Here's how they responded.
1. Who is the best third baseman in the league?
All but two managers chose Minnesota's Gary Gaetti. The Brewers' Paul Molitor got one vote, and Boggs and Gaetti split the other one.
2. Would you take Boggs over the following players?
Gaetti. One vote for Boggs.
Molitor. Six for Molitor, five for Boggs, one draw.
Cal Ripken. Two for Boggs.
Mark McGwire. An even split.
Danny Tartabull. Seven for Tartabull, three for Boggs, two draws.
Joe Carter. One for Boggs, one draw.
3. If the Red Sox folded, which players would you want, in order of preference: Boggs, Roger Clemens, Mike Greenwell or Ellis Burks?
Clemens came out first, Burks second, Greenwell third and Boggs fourth. Only four managers ranked Boggs higher than fourth.
Not surprisingly, Boston's Joe Morgan is more enthusiastic about Boggs than his peers are. "We've got a monster lineup, but it sure would be different without him getting on base 340 times," he says. "We'd have to get a great pitcher to make up for what we'd lose—offensively and defensively. I don't care what others think. I manage him, and I know he's great. "
Before the start of the season, most prognosticators figured that the Athletics, the Royals and the Twins would be better than any team in the American League East. Some even picked the Rangers to get hot (page 16). But who could have guessed that the Angels would be playing better than anyone in the East except for Baltimore after the first three weeks? As Oakland manager Tony La Russa puts it, the Angels (9-9 through Sunday) are "a very dangerous team."
California's pitching fell apart last year, and the Angels finished with a 4.32 team ERA, the second-highest in the league. But at week's end the staff had lowered its ERA to 2.91. Pitching coach Marcel Lachemann credits two new catchers, Lance Parrish and Bill Schroeder, for the turnaround. "We have some guys who needed to rediscover that they have good enough stuff to be power pitchers," says Lachemann. "We've also got guys with outstanding breaking balls, but they were afraid to throw their best ones with runners on. Our catchers have done a great job getting the pitchers to let the ball fly, working inside and picking up curve-balls in the dirt."
The feeling in the Angels organization is that former California catcher Bob Boone may have stayed around too long for the staffs good. Indeed, one coach refers to Lachemann's work as a "de-Boone-izing" process. "Boone developed three problems," the coach says. "First, he called every pitch, and he tended to work off hitters' weaknesses, not his pitchers' stuff. Second, he stopped working hitters inside because he became convinced our pitchers couldn't get inside. And, finally, as he hit 40, he had trouble getting the tough curveballs in the dirt."
Righthander Mike Witt, who had been declining steadily since 1986, was Lachemann's first project. "He's got great power," says Lachemann. "He just has to rediscover his self-confidence in that stuff and throw that great curveball." Witt's first three starts were rocky, but he gave up only two runs and no walks in his fourth, a 7-2 win over the White Sox. Meanwhile, righthander Kirk McCaskill (3-1, 0.99 ERA) has been impressive from the beginning, allowing only one run in his first three outings. Righthander Bert Blyleven (2-1, 2.03 ERA) and lefty Chuck Finley (2-2, 3.04 ERA) are also off to good starts. And Lachemann is confident that rookie lefthander Jim Abbott (0-2, 4.22 ERA) will come around. The big question is whether Parrish, who has been plagued with lower back problems, will be able to make it through the season. If he does, the Angels could be in the running come September.
Milwaukee general manager Harry Dalton has been under pressure to find another starting pitcher. Ace lefthander Ted Higuera is due to return from back surgery this week, and lefthander Juan Nieves has yet to regain his form after a torn rotator cuff last year. But Dalton says he would rather get a veteran setup man. Why? Because 1) he knows no team in the AL East is capable of opening up a big lead, and 2) he is waiting for manager Tom Trebelhorn to set his lineup.
The Brewers were criticized two years ago for drafting Bill Spiers out of Clemson because they already had two top shortstops in the organization, Gary Sheffield and Dale Sveum. But Spiers has been so impressive at short this season that Trebelhorn may leave Sheffield at third, use Molitor as the designated hitter and move Sveum over to first when he completes rehabilitation for his broken left leg. If that happens, the Brewers' lineup will include five No. 1 picks who were drafted as shortstops: Spiers ('87), Sheffield ('86), Sveum ('82), Molitor (77) and centerfielder Robin Yount ('73). In addition, second baseman Jim Gantner and catcher B.J. Surhoff were originally drafted as shortstops.
"The shortstop is usually the best athlete on the team," says Boston scouting director Eddie Kasko. "Someone said we need to draft second basemen. You can't. With rare exceptions, a kid playing second in high school or college isn't a good enough athlete to be a prospect."
JACK BE QUICK
The Tiger front office is sick of hearing righthander Jack Morris's complaints about recent trades of veteran players, but it's even more concerned about Morris's 0-4 start. After his third loss, to the Texas Rangers April 16, manager Sparky Anderson told reporters, "He's 21-23 with nine no-decisions in 53 starts since the All-Star break in 1987." Before the break, Morris was 156-98. Even more telling is Morris's drop-off in tight situations. Through 1987, batters facing him had a paltry .201 batting average with two outs and runners in scoring position; in '88, his opponents hit .266 in the same situation. "He fools around too much with his changeup, which is a mediocre pitch," says one Tiger official. "Instead of using his fastball, throwing strikes, letting hitters put the ball in play and using his fielders, he still wants to show batters up, and lie can't."
Consider this: On Opening Day there were more players age 28 or older on Triple A rosters than there were players under 25. "The minor leagues have become a profitable business," says Detroit general manager Bill Lajoie. "So operators want to win, which means they demand veteran players. But it's at the expense of the development of young players. Its tough on organizations like the Red Sox, which insist on development only. It's paid off for them, however, when you consider that Boston [whose minor league teams had the worst combined record of all 26 clubs in '88] has developed more current major leaguers than any other team in the American League." ...Last season, when the Pirates were threatening the Mets for the National League East title, Syd Thrift, then the general manager, was hailed for having "stolen" righthander Mike Dunne from the Cardinals. But last week, with Thrift gone to the Yankees, the Pirates traded Dunne, top prospect Mark Merchant and highly regarded righthander Mike Walker to Seattle for shortstop Rey Quinones and lefthanded reliever Bill Wilkinson. "We had to get some offense at shortstop," says Pirate manager Jim Leyland. The bottom third of Pittsburgh's order hit a total of four homers last year, eight fewer than Quinones did. The Bucs' brain trust felt that Dunne, who was 7-11 in '88 after a 13-6 rookie year, had fooled hitters in '87 with sinkers and forkballs out of the strike zone, but then they started taking pitches, and he couldn't adjust.... The Mets are worried about righthander Ron Darling, who was 0-3 with a 8.20 ERA at week's end. Darling says he's not hurting, but his fastball has been clocked in the low 80's, which some feel is a result of having thrown too many split-fingered fastballs over the last four years. Says one Philadelphia hitter, "He has that scared look and seems reluctant to throw the ball over the plate."...The Cardinals' starting rotation has three pitchers who before this season had won a total of two games: Cris Carpenter, Ken Hill and Don Heinkel. That's why the Cardinals are willing to part with centerfielder Willie McGee in a three-way deal that would send McGee to Toronto, Blue Jay rightfielder Jesse Barfield to Houston and Astro lefthander Bob Knepper to St. Louis. The Jays have put the deal on hold, however, while they try to work out a trade with Atlanta for righthander Peter Smith.... Watching Jack Murphy Stadium workers install thicker seat pads in the home dugout, Padres manager Jack McKeon said, "I told you we'd improve our bench."
BETWEEN THE LINES
THREE IN ONE
How can a catcher get two putouts and an assist on a triple play if the ball is not hit? Todd Hundley of the Class A Columbia (S.C.) Mets found out on April 6, in the first inning of the Mets' opener against Augusta. The first batter, Glenn McNabb, walked, and the second, Darwin Pennye, moved McNabb over to third with a single. Then Pennye took off for second with the count at 3-2 on the third batter, Chris Estep. But when Estep whiffed, Hundley threw to second to nail Pennye and then made the putout on McNabb as he tried to steal home.
T-SHIRT OF THE WEEK
Three former Cubs who now play for the Rangers—Rafael Palmeiro, Jim Sundberg and Jamie Moyer—have been sporting T-shirts bearing the slogan I WAS FREY-ED AND ZIMMER-ED, referring to Chicago's general manager Jim Frey and manager Don Zimmer. When Zimmer was told about the shirts, he wasn't amused. "It's unprofessional," he said. "If I held a grudge against everyone who traded me or fired me, I wouldn't have any friends in baseball."
THE BEST-LAID PLANS
At the start of last season, the Blue Jays moved centerfielder Lloyd Moseby to left and made leftfielder George Bell the DH. That plan lasted 10 games. So it didn't surprise anyone when, after 14 games, the Jays abandoned this year's strategy of using four lefthanded starters. On April 19, they sent lefty Jeff Musselman (0-1, 10.29 ERA) to Syracuse and put righty Todd Stottlemyre in the rotation. They later moved Musselman to the 21-day disabled list.
IT SURE BEATS GLENS FALLS
Former Cleveland pitcher Rick Waits, now pitcher-manager for the Rimini Pirates in Italy, has led them to two national championships. Among his perks are a villa overlooking the Adriatic Sea and a well-stocked wine cellar.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
Mets reliever Don Aase, on making yet another successful comeback: "I'm like a whale. Every once in a while, I resurface."
When Kansas City second baseman Frank White was charged with an error on a bad-hop grounder in a game against Baltimore on April 20, it was his first nonthrowing error since Sept. 22, 1987. But after the game, the official scorer changed the call to a hit, which kept White's 171-game streak alive.
JUSTICE IS BLIND
When Yankee pitcher Dave LaPoint was asked why 45-year-old lefthander Tommy John was put in charge of the team's kangaroo court, he replied, "He's the only guy we had who looked like Judge Wapner."
•The A's Dave Stewart, off to a 4-0 start in his quest to become the only pitcher to win 20 games in 1987, '88 and '89, has already beaten Seattle's Mark Langston twice.
•Four of Pirate third baseman Bobby Bonilla's first seven errors came on balls hit by the Expos' Tim Wallach.
•When the Cardinals lost to the Pirates 4-3 on April 18, it marked their first loss at home since June 29, 1986, in a game in which they led after eight innings.
•It took 14 games for a Mariner pitcher to set the side down in order in the first inning. Oddly, it was lefthander Steve Trout (1-1, 9.24 ERA) who finally did it.
•Jeff Ballard is the first Oriole pitcher to win his first three starts in April since Dave McNally did it in 1973.
•When the Dodgers' Fernando Valenzuela threw five shutout innings against Cincinnati April 17, his fastest pitch was clocked at 78 mph.
TWO DOWN! HEADS UP!
On April 17 the Brewers not only broke Texas's eight-game winning streak with an 8-1 romp but also scored all their runs with two out. Unusual? Not for the Brewers, who through Saturday had scored 67% of their runs with two down. Here are the teams with the highest and lowest percentage of runs this season in two-out situations.
Through April 22
SOURCE: STATS, INC.