A HALL PREVIEW
The Baseball Hall of Fame inducted two greats—pitcher Jim Palmer and second baseman Joe Morgan—on Aug. 6 in Cooperstown, N.Y. They will be joined eventually by a number of active players who can now be seen at ballparks across America. Here are 15 who will someday merit serious consideration for the Hall, with one man's scorecard on their chances for enshrinement. (In order to avoid statistical projections for younger players, only those who have been playing at least 12 seasons have been considered.)
•Nolan Ryan, Rangers. A first-ballot inductee. No supporting statistics are necessary, but here's one more from Craig R. Wright of Stats, Inc.: Ryan has had the major leagues' lowest hits-per-inning ratio in 10 different seasons. No one else has had the best ratio in more than five.
•George Brett, Royals. His totals in runs, hits, home runs, RBIs and batting average are equaled or surpassed by only seven players, all of whom are in the Hall: Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig, Rogers Hornsby, Stan Musial, Babe Ruth, Al Simmons and Ted Williams.
•Carlton Fisk, White Sox. He's two home runs short of passing Johnny Bench (327) for the most homers ever by a catcher. Fisk, 42, has played more games at catcher than anyone except Bob Boone.
•Rickey Henderson, Athletics. The greatest leadoff man ever. By year's end he will be the alltime leader in stolen bases, and he's still only 31 years old. His speed, power and on-base average have made him the American League's most destructive offensive player for 12 years.
•Ozzie Smith, Cardinals. The greatest defensive shortstop in history. O.K., so he's only a lifetime .259 hitter, but he was a vital offensive player (451 career steals, as of Sunday) for the Cards as they won three pennants (1982, '85, '87).
ON THE DOORSTEP
•Robin Yount, Brewers. An MVP at two crucial defensive positions: shortstop and centerfield. He has 2,698 career hits. Age 34, body of 24; 3,000 hits seems a sure thing and will make him a certain inductee.
•Gary Carter, Giants. His offensive numbers—.266 average, 312 homers and 1,165 RBIs—almost rival Fisk's. He has caught more games than anyone else in National League history.
•Dave Winfield, Angels. This one may raise eyebrows, but compare his numbers with those of Hall of Famer Billy Williams. Winfield: .286 average, 371 homers, 1,480 RBIs in 16½ seasons. Williams: .290 average, 426 homers, 1,475 RBIs in 18 seasons. Winfield has had seven 100-RBI seasons. Williams had three; Willie Stargell and Willie McCovey, who are also in the Hall, had five and four, respectively. Winfield has also been a standout defensive player.
•Dwight Evans, Red Sox. Now in his 19th season, he's a career .272 hitter with 376 homers and 1,331 RBIs. He was the American League's top defensive rightfielder for some 15 years. He has three straight 100-RBI seasons. A strong finish is key, but does he have a few more good seasons left?
•Eddie Murray, Dodgers. The leading RBI man (996) in the 1980s, he was perhaps the game's most feared hitter from 1978 to '87. If he plays next year the way he's playing now and hits 29 more homers, for 400, he has a shot.
•Alan Trammell, Tigers. If Ozzie is a lock, Trammell can't be far behind. His career average is 28 points higher, and he has 127 more homers. Steve Hirdt of the Elias Sports Bureau notes that if Trammell bats .300 this year—he was hitting .305 at week's end—he will join Luke Appling, Honus Wagner, Joe Sewell, Joe Cronin and Arky Vaughan as the only shortstops who have hit .300 six times. Those five are in the Hall.
•Bert Blyleven, Angels. Another player whose numbers are a surprise. He has 279 wins and a career ERA of 3.28, which compare favorably with Robin Roberts's career stats of 286 wins and a 3.41 ERA. But Blyleven will probably need 300 wins to make it.
•Andre Dawson, Cubs. Four more steals and he will join Willie Mays as the only players in history to have 300 homers, 300 steals and 2,000 hits. He has been a very good player for 15 years, but people don't mention him when they talk about the great ones.
•Dave Parker, Brewers. Unfortunately, his onetime involvement with drugs will keep him out, as has happened to Orlando Cepeda, whose career numbers are better than Parker's. Also, Parker's knee injuries made him a one-dimensional player years ago.
•Dale Murphy, Phillies. Has 371 homers, five 100-RBI seasons and back-to-back MVP awards, but playing in a small park helped. His sub-.270 average isn't Hall material.
YOUTH IS SERVED
Credit the White Sox for sticking with their plan to sink or swim with their young players, a pennant race notwithstanding. On Aug. 2 they called up their No. 1 pick in the 1989 draft, 22-year-old Frank Thomas, from Double A Birmingham, and started platooning him at first base with Carlos Martinez. The same day, they also brought up righthander Alex Fernandez, their top pick in the 1990 draft, and that night he made his major league pitching debut despite having only eight appearances in the minor leagues.
"We know if this doesn't work, people will say, Why did you mess with a club that was doing well?" says White Sox manager Jeff Torborg. "Our philosophy when we left spring training was to develop our young players, let them get their feet wet and see who could handle it. It's tough to blend development and winning, but we've done it." On the night the rookies arrived, the Sox ended a four-game slide, and they won their next five after that.
Too often teams panic during the stretch run and deal a young player for a veteran. White Sox general manager Larry Himes wanted no part of that. "It's a young man's game for me," he says. "These are very confident guys. They're not your average 20-and 22-year-olds."
Their confidence shows. Thomas, who is 6'5" tall and weighs 240 pounds, got his first hit last Friday, a two-run triple that sparked a 6-2 win over the Brewers. Asked what he thought of being called up in the heat of a pennant race, he said, "It's ideal if you're a gamer. And I am a gamer." Fernandez allowed five "hits and two runs in his seven-inning debut but had to settle for a no-decision. "I know I can get people out," he says. "I did have some jitters tonight, but it's not like I ever had any doubt."
Reggie Jackson was Mr. October. Dave Winfield is Mr. May, according to George Steinbrenner. Mr. July has to be Bobby Witt of the Rangers.
As much as anyone else, Witt has sparked a resurgence of the Rangers. Between June 6 and August 5, when Texas went from 11 games under .500 to five games over, Witt was 8-1. He was 5-0 in July, but success in that month is nothing new for Witt. Going back to 1987, Witt is 13-4 with a 2.52 ERA in July. In all other months he's 25-37 with a 5.03 ERA (stat box, below).
"It's pretty weird," says Witt. "I don't know why it's like this. I hope July will start in April next year."
The Rangers believe that Witt, 26, has finally made the progression from thrower to pitcher. His fastball and slider rank among the best in the league, and now he is learning how to mix them up and how to throw them for strikes. He has also benefited from having Nolan Ryan as a teammate, and not just because Ryan is one of the best power pitchers ever. "Bobby is no longer the center of attention," says Rangers pitching coach Tom House. "He's not the team's savior. He's allowed to just go out and do what he can."
The Indians have faded badly since the All-Star break, losing 16 of 25 games to fall nine games out of first, but at least rookie centerfielder Alex Cole has brought some excitement to Cleveland. Cole was traded from the Cardinals to the Padres for righthander Omar Olivares before spring training. The day after the All-Star break, he was dealt to the Indians for reserve catcher Tom Lampkin. Through Sunday, Cole had hit .417 (15 for 36), with 11 steals in 12 tries in his first 11 games since the Indians called him up on July 25.
Five of the steals came in one game on Aug. 1, setting a club record and making Cole one of only six players in American League history to steal that many in one game. Afterward, teammates taped Cole's locker, a reference to the speedy outfielder who played for Cleveland in the movie Major League.
CHANGE OF SOX
You might think the Red Sox would be devastated by the loss of ace closer Jeff Reardon for the season because of back surgery for a ruptured disk. But they'll probably find someone to fill in, just as Greg Harris and Tom Bolton have miraculously filled the chasms in the starting rotation. Until a deal is made, Rob Murphy (0-6, six saves, 6.31 ERA) is the new closer. "That's the rumor," Murphy says, smiling. "Everyone has picked each other up this year; there's been a continuing cycle of nightly heroes. We have to keep up that roll."
...The Mariners, who are riding a string of three straight winning months (they had never before had three winning months in a season, let alone three in a row), have a bright future with their young pitchers. Their best might be righthander Erik Hanson. He pitched 10 shutout innings in an 11-inning, 1-0 loss to Oakland on Aug. 1. Veteran umpire Rich Garcia, who worked home plate that game, said Hanson "had the best stuff I've ever seen."
...One of the most amazing facts about new Hall of Famer Jim Palmer is that he never gave up a grand slam in his 19-year major league career. Palmer more than once chose to walk a hitter with the bases loaded rather than give him anything to hit. "One run is better than four," Palmer always said. By comparison, the Mets' Frank Viola, another highly successful pitcher, has allowed eight grand slams in 8½ years.
BETWEEN THE LINES
ONE FOR THE TEAM
When the Reds opened the 1990 season with a string of victories, all the players vowed to shave their heads if they won 10 straight. They were saved when the streak ended at nine. After losing their seventh straight on July 29, the players pledged that they would shave their heads if they lost 10 in a row. After loss No. 8, 4-1 to the Dodgers on July 30, Reds infielder Ron Oester made the supreme sacrifice: He had his head shaved by centerfielder Eric Davis in an effort to halt the streak before it reached 10. "It's funny," says Oester. "A lot of the guys say I look better now than I did before." The next night, the Reds ended the losing streak with a 5-2 win over the Dodgers.
ROCK AND A HARD PLACE
There are at least two geophysics majors in the big leagues: pitchers Jeff Ballard of the Orioles and Stanford University and Ken Patterson of the White Sox and Baylor University. Patterson says he would love to speak to Ballard about their common interest because the talk in the White Sox bullpen is usually about rock music, but never about rocks. "I can pick up a rock in the pen and tell everyone what kind it is, and no one could care less," Patterson says. "I can tell everyone how the earth looked before the continental drift, and these guys say, 'Man, what are you talking about?' " Sox reliever Scott Radinsky, who in the off-season plays bass in a group called Scared Straight—a rock band—says, "Geophysics? Never heard of it."
Twins outfielder John Moses made his second pitching appearance of the season—and his third in the majors—on July 31. In Moses' latest outing he gave up three hits and two runs in the ninth inning of a 13-2 loss to the Angels. On May 19 he allowed two hits and one run in one inning. Last year, he pitched one scoreless inning. "My pitching seems to be getting worse; my ERA is blossoming," says Moses. He was saved from further damage against the Angels when outfielder Shane Mack reached over the centerfield fence to rob Lance Parrish of a grand slam. "If he hadn't caught that," says Moses, "my ERA would have been higher than my batting average."
DOUBLE DUTY II
What a hitting week for pitchers. Jose Rijo went 2 for 3 and stole a base in a 5-2 win over the Dodgers on July 31. The same night, the Giants' Don Robinson hit a pinch single to beat the Astros, 3-2. That gave Robinson more pinch-hit RBIs (two) this year than the California Angels (one). On Aug. 1 the New York Mets' David Cone pinch-hit a single, Greg Maddux of the Chicago Cubs went 3 for 4, and the Cardinals bullpen went 3 for 3—two hits by Scott Terry and one by Frank DiPino. On Aug. 2 Phillie pitcher Jose DeJesus, a self-described "horrible" hitter, got his first big league double, went to third on a wild pickoff throw and was thrown out trying to score on a grounder to the second baseman. "I never ran the bases," DeJesus said. "I have a fear."
THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA
Free-agent pitcher Mike Flanagan, who is undergoing rehabilitation of his weakened left shoulder, has said he will consider hooking on with a team after the World Series. Former teammate Mike Boddicker said, "He's doing great—he can fly-fish now without pain." Flanagan, 38, smiled and said, "Yeah, but after a while, my arm starts dropping down and I fly-fish sidearmed. After a long while, I become a submarine fly-fisherman."
BY THE NUMBERS
•With 129 strikeouts in his first 110 games, Tiger first baseman Cecil Fielder was on a pace to strike out 190 times, one more than Bobby Bonds's major league record, set in 1970.
Ace of the Month
REST OF YEAR
Chris Bosio, Brewers
John Smoltz, Braves
Randy Johnson, Mariners
Bobby Witt, Rangers
Tom Candiotti, Indians
Tim Belcher, Dodgers
From 1987 through Aug. 4
SOURCE: STATS, INC.