FATHER KNOWS BEST
Montreal's Felipe Alou made a successful debut as a major league manager last year. This season he has juggled his lineup so deftly that he's making a case for himself as a Manager of the Year candidate.
Because of illness, injury and uncertain prospects at a number of positions, Alou used the same lineup in consecutive games only once last month. Second baseman Delino DeShields missed almost two weeks with chicken pox. Rightfielder Larry Walker missed seven starts with a hamstring injury. Alou has used six different players at first base and has no proven third baseman or catcher. Last Thursday his cleanup hitter was rookie third baseman Frank Bolick, who had never hit a homer in the majors. Bolick promptly homered in a 7-3 win over the Dodgers. "I told our guys to get used to changes," says Alou. "I'll make them at any time."
Despite some pitching woes—closer John Wetteland missed most of April because of a broken toe, and ace Dennis Martinez had only one win—the Expos still were 13-12 through Sunday, mostly because they were leading the National League in batting. "I'm not satisfied with where we are," Alou says, "but a lot has happened to us so far. We're still looking for the right combinations."
May 9, 1993
The changes are expected to continue at third base and catcher, but Greg Colbrunn is going to get a look as the regular first baseman, at least for the time being. "Our first baseman of the future is Cliff Floyd [currently at Double A Harrisburg], but the future might be May or June," says Alou. "It's wide open."
Even more impressive than his clever manipulation of his roster, though, has been Alou's handling of his son, leftfielder Moises Alou. Managing a son in the major leagues can be difficult—just ask Royal manager Hal McRae and his son, Brian, the Royals' centerfielder, who would just as soon not have the burden of being on the same team. The same is not true for the Alous. "Being in the major leagues, playing for my father, is like a dream," says Moises.
Yet Felipe benched his son for three games two weeks ago because Moises was 2 for 22 in his previous seven games. "The best cure for a slump is the bench," Felipe says, "not just with my son but anyone's son. He had lost some confidence. I had to bench him. But he understands why. He took it like a man."
Says Moises, "I was upset, but when he does something like that, I realize there's always a purpose for it. It happened last year, and it happened this year. And each time, I came back strong." Through Sunday, Moises had hit .483 (14 for 29) since the benching.
Father and son are very close, but it wasn't always that way. Felipe and his first wife, Maria, divorced when Moises was two years old, and Moises didn't spend much time with his dad as a child. "He never got to see me play growing up," Moises says. "It makes me feel great now to have a good game with him watching."
A MIGHTY MITE
Through Sunday, 5'10" Angel centerfielder Chad Curtis was hitting .282 and was tied with Cleveland's Kenny Lofton and Oakland's Rickey Henderson for the American League lead in stolen bases, with 12. Curtis, who swiped 43 bags last year as a rookie, has also emerged as a top defensive centerfielder. He led all American League outfielders last year in assists, with 16.
Success wasn't supposed to come this quickly for Curtis, 24, who was selected by the Angels in the 45th round of the 1989 draft. Being drafted that low "makes me want, more than ever, to show that I can play," he says.
Curtis is a classic overachiever who thrives by outworking others, trying harder than everyone else. He's a maniacal weightlifter and fitness freak, and he doesn't drink alcohol. He even swore off the bubbly altogether for a time. Last season, when the Angels hit a losing streak, he swore he wouldn't drink any carbonated beverages until they won four in a row.
NEON GROWS DIMMER
The Braves placed outfielder Deion Sanders on the disqualified list last Thursday when he refused to rejoin the team after attending the funeral of his father, Mims, who died on April 23. If Sanders's decision had been due solely to grieving for his father, it would have been excusable. But Sanders deserted his teammates because he was unhappy about his lack of playing time. That's insubordination, and that's inexcusable. The Braves are scuffling, having lost six of their last eight through Sunday, but Sanders is too selfish to put the team's needs above his own.
Who is Atlanta manager Bobby Cox supposed to bench in order to play Sanders? Should he sit David Justice, who was hitting .196 at week's end but was National League Rookie of the Year in 1990? Or Otis Nixon, who has been a catalyst at the top of the order the last few years and a top defensive centerfielder? Or leftfielder Ron Gant, who was hitting .207 through Sunday but was a 30-homer, 30-steal player in 1990 and '91?
Sanders says the Braves are punishing him for not signing a long-term deal in the spring, and he calls it "the worst betrayal by a team in sports history." That is laughable. The Braves have offered him a three-year deal worth $11 million that includes an option for a fourth season. Sanders wants a three-year, $12 million deal, with no option. The Braves' offer is extremely generous for a lifetime .246 hitter, but there is speculation that Sanders will go back to playing football full-time.
His former teammate with the Atlanta Falcons, Brian Jordan, apparently won't be joining him, even though he was sent to Triple A Louisville by the Cardinals last week. Jordan, 26, signed a three-year, $2.2 million deal last summer to give up football and only play baseball for the Cards. He was supposed to play every day, but a 5-for-33 start dropped his career average to. 199.
Sanders is a terrific talent, but if he wants to continue playing baseball he had better learn that the sport is about patience and discipline. And that in any sport, honoring a contract is the main obligation of a player.
The early leader for Comeback Player of the Year is Rocky first baseman Andres Galarraga, who was second in the National League in RBIs at week's end, with 26. Galarraga, who hit .243 and knocked in 39 runs last year with St. Louis, had very few offers after becoming a free agent in the off-season. He seems to have regained some of the bat speed that he had lost in the last few years. The Marlins arc certainly treating him with a newfound respect. Last Friday night they intentionally walked Galarraga three times.... Royal manager Hal McRae is a good guy, which made his tirade against the media on April 26 so surprising. His expletive-filled, object-throwing fit left sportswriter Alan Eskew of the Topeka Capital-Journal with a cut on his check. When Royal pitcher David Cone saw Eskew's cut, he said, "And I thought the New York media was tough."...Who would have thought that, at the end of April, Detroit pitcher David Wells would have more victories (four) than the combined total of Kevin Tapani, Tom Candiotti, David Cone, Bob Tewksbury, John Smiley and Jaime Navarro (three).... Wouldn't it be nice if Minnesota's Kent Hrbek, Milwaukee's Joe Kmak, Los Angeles's Rick Trlicek and Minnesota's George Tsamis could all buy a vowel from St. Louis's Hector Villanueva?
Minor League Note of the Week: The Class A California League player of the week for the last week of April was Izzy Molina, a catcher for Modesto in the A's chain. On April 25 he hit for the cycle, belting a grand slam in his last at bat. "I didn't know I'd hit for the cycle until a teammate told me," says Molina, who just missed hitting another grand slam in a previous at bat. He finished the game with eight RBIs. The next day he had three hits, including another grand slam.