Stop the Fighting
When the Blue Jays set a major league record by hitting 10 homers in one game against the Orioles in 1987, Baltimore catcher Terry Kennedy was asked why no Toronto hitter was brushed back. "Every home run pitch was right down the middle," said Kennedy. "They should have been hit for homers. Why knock anyone down?"
It's too bad that more major leaguers aren't as logical and professional as Kennedy. Two of the three ugly brawls that have taken place in the last few weeks featured a familiar scenario: Batter hits a homer, next batter gets hit, fight ensues. On June 18, San Diego's Gary Sheffield belted a grand slam off San Francisco's Trevor Wilson, who then hit Fred McGriff with a pitch. McGriff charged the mound. On June 24, Cincinnati's Hal Morris hit a three-run homer off Houston's Pete Harnisch, who then threw behind Reggie Sanders, and both benches emptied.
"It doesn't make any sense," says Padres pitcher Larry Andersen. "How many homers are hit off good pitches down and away, where the hitter reaches for it? Not many. If you make a bad pitch and someone hits a home run, don't take it out on someone else."
A pitcher often does take out his frustration on the next batter, though. By that logic, says Andersen, "if the pitcher makes a good pitch and strikes the hitter out, then the hitter should get to throw his bat at the pitcher, right? This brawling has got to stop. I'm all for pitching inside, but I have a real problem with throwing at a guy's head."
Longer suspensions and stiffer fines—say, a minimum of seven days and $5,000 for any pitcher who intentionally throws at a hitter, and the same for any hitter who charges the mound—might be the first step toward eliminating basebrawls. Something must be done before someone gets seriously hurt. In that Reds-Astros fight, Houston coach Ed Ott, a former Pennsylvania stale high school wrestling champion, had a choke hold on Cincinnati reliever Rob Dibble at the bottom of a big pileup. "I watched him turn red, purple, then blue," Ott said. "I could have held him 45 more seconds until he turned black. Maybe now he holds more value for life, because I spared him this time."
And maybe the league offices should be doing more to prevent these dangerous confrontations.
Get the Vote Out
Some horrible injustices will be committed in the All-Star balloting unless the voters get to work. Consider the voting for the starting National League catcher. Darren Daulton of the Phillies has driven in more runs (54 through Sunday) than Benito Santiago, Mike Scioscia and Gary Carter have all told, yet those three catchers are ahead of him in the voting, which ends on July 5. Here are the four other players most in need of your votes:
Edgar Martinez, Mariners. He has clearly been the best third baseman in the American League this season, leading the position in eight offensive categories, including batting (.312 at week's end), slugging (.554) and homers (12). Only the names of the top eight vote-getters at the infield positions are released, and Martinez's was not one of them. Among those he trailed was Minnesota's Mike Pagliarulo, who had played in six games through Sunday. Martinez and Rafael Palmeiro of the Rangers are the only two major leaguers who batted at least .300 and hit 10 or more homers in each of the last two seasons, but Martinez's career high in homers before this season was 14 and his RBI high was 52. As of Sunday he had already knocked in 38 runs. "People said I should hit more homers because I was a third baseman, so two years ago, I tried to improve," says Martinez, who then began lifting weights. "Now I'm pulling the ball more and hitting with more power."
Martinez hopes that increased pop will get him named to the All-Star team as a reserve by Minnesota manager Tom Kelly. "There was big doubt in the minor leagues whether I'd ever play in the majors," says Martinez. "Making an All-Star team is one of my dreams."
Mickey Tettleton, Tigers. He's sixth in the voting for the American League catcher, behind, among others, Carlton Fisk, who had played in only 11 games through Sunday. An All-Star in 1989, Tettleton hit 31 homers last season and had 18 homers and 49 RBIs this year. The only catcher ever to hit 30 homers in back-to-back seasons is Roy Campanella.
Ron Gant, Braves. What's the deal here? He's seventh in the voting for National League outfielders. Even teammate David Justice, who had 16 fewer RBIs at week's end, is ahead of him. Gant may be one of the National League's three best outfielders, and he has a chance this year to become the first player to have three 30-homer, 30-steal seasons in a row. Except for San Diego first baseman Fred McGriff, Gant is the best player in baseball today who has never made an All-Star team.
Carlos Baerga, Indians. He's no Roberto Alomar—who is?—but how can he be trailing at least eight other second basemen in the balloting, including the Yankees' Pat Kelly, who was recently recalled from Triple A Columbus? Through Sunday, Baerga was leading American League second basemen in hits and runs batted in (41) and was the main reason that Cleveland led the majors in double plays.
Remember, if you don't elect the best candidates, you'll get the All-Star Game you deserve on July 14 in San Diego.
Had the Mets talked to some of the Pirates before the club signed Bobby Bonilla for $29 million last December, New York would have been provided with an accurate scouting report: good player, plays hard, decent guy, but not the great clubhouse influence he's cracked up to be. "I wouldn't call him a fraud, that's too strong," says one Pirate. "But don't be fooled by his smile. Everyone thinks Hubby is the greatest guy and Barry Bonds is a jerk, but at least you know where you stand with Barry. Bobby is all smiles, but he spent most of last year talking about his contract."
The Mets now understand that Bonilla's smile isn't always sincere. During a 9-2 loss to Chicago at Shea Stadium last Thursday, Bonilla misplayed a double to right as New York allowed seven runs—six of them unearned—in a badly played first inning. He was correctly charged with an error, but after the Cubs were retired lie called the press box from the dugout to complain about the ruling, a shameful move in the middle of a game. After the game he lied to the press, saying that he had merely called to check on the health of Jay Horwitz, the Mets' public-relations director, who said he had a cold. When teammates in the dugout later confirmed that Bonilla had lied, he ripped "the unidentified sources" for betraying him to the press.
Had Bonilla told the truth, it would have been a minor story. Instead, the lie earned the same headline—CRY BOBBY—on the back pages of two New York tabloids.
It wasn't Bonilla's first controversy as a Met. There was the earplugs incident on May 30, when he stuffed his ears to block out the boos he was getting after hitting .145 in his first 21 home games. And there was his visit to Bonds in the Pittsburgh clubhouse after the Pirates' three-game sweep of the Mets in mid-June. And, on June 22, he made a move to charge the mound after he was hit by a pitch thrown by the Cubs' Shawn Boskie. Some of the Cubs thought Bonilla's anger was staged to get the fans' support.
Following the June 25 brouhaha, he made reporters wait 50 minutes before emerging from manager Jeff Torborg's office. Did he expect the press to just go away? The New York press? Granted, he has been unfairly criticized at times by the press, but lately he hasn't handled troublesome situations very well.
To a man, neither have the Mets, including Torborg, who lied to the press to cover for Bonilla, even though teammates say Torborg immediately blasted Bonilla for having called the press box. Through Sunday, the Mets were 36-39, 6½ games behind Pittsburgh. They still have the most talent in the division—and Bonilla is one of their most talented players—but with all the distractions the team has encountered, you wonder if they can turn it around this year.
It's a shame that Rob Dibble has so often been the center of controversy, because his troubles detract from his achievements as a pitcher. On June 23 he recorded his 500th career strikeout. He needed fewer innings—368‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√±‚àö¬®—to reach that mark than any other pitcher in history. By comparison, Toronto relief ace Tom Henke, a tremendous strikeout pitcher, got to 500 in 431‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√±‚àö¬® innings, and Dick Radatz did it in 432⅖ innings. Nolan Ryan, Bob Feller, Sandy Koufax and Lee Smith all needed more than 500 innings to strike out 500 batters....
The best free-agent signing of last winter was Cub pitcher Mike Morgan, who was 7-2 through Sunday. Morgan had carried that staff to the best ERA in the major leagues, and he had not lost a game since April 15....
The Blue Jays are trying hard to sign outfielder Shea Morenz, their sixth-round choice in the draft. He has signed a letter of intent to play football at Texas, but Toronto might offer him a lot of money to play baseball....
In foreign news: Former Dodger and Angel pitcher Fernando Valenzuela earned his first victory of the season in his ninth start in the Mexican League, and the Nippon Ham Fighters of Japan's Pacific League sent former major league first baseman Mike Marshall to their minor leagues.
Between The Lines
The Day after Father's Day
During a 7-2 loss to the Oakland Athletics on June 22, Mariners utilityman Dave Cochrane tied a team record for most assists in a game by an outfielder (two), but he also set a club record for most errors in a game by an outfielder (three). "Longest day of my life," Cochrane says. "I called my wife after the game. I said, 'Hi, honey.' She said, 'Hi, klutz, how are you?' Then my 3½-year-old son—my wife must have put him up to it—got on the phone and said, 'Dad, try to catch the ball tomorrow, you geek.' My family has a real sense of humor."
Stealing a Strike
Expo catcher Darren Fletcher was behind the plate on June 23 when a paper airplane sailed from the stands at Olympic Stadium and landed right in his mitt. Home plate umpire Paul Runge called it a strike. "I think it was a changeup; it just floated in," said Fletcher. "I framed it pretty good for [Runge]."
The play of the week goes to Twins catcher Brian Harper. Last Friday, Oakland's Mike Bordick hit a one-hopper off the foot of Minnesota pitcher Willie Banks, and the ball ricocheted into foul territory toward the first base dugout. Harper, who was running to back up first, dived for the ball, caught it barehanded and threw out Bordick. Twins first baseman Kent Hrbek called it the greatest play he had ever seen.
By the Numbers
•As of last Thursday, California pitcher Bert Blyleven had allowed 418 homers, most among active pitchers, and Dave Winfield had hit 418 homers, most among active hitters. "I'll finish with more," said Blyleven. Last Friday, Winfield hit No. 419. On Sunday, Blyleven moved past him by giving up homers Nos. 419 and 420.
•Through Sunday, Rangers pitcher Kevin Brown had surrendered only one homer in 122‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√±‚àö¬®, innings this year.