Last week the renowned political wonk Deion Sanders proposed an
end to democracy as we know it. He suggested that voting for
baseball's All-Star Game, which will be played in Cleveland on
Tuesday, be taken from the fans, who, he contends, are biased,
and given to the more objective managers and players, like the
voting for the NFL's Pro Bowl game. To test Sanders's theory, we
asked the 28 major league skippers to choose the starting
position players in their respective leagues. They differed from
the fans in only four instances (see below). Our picks for the
midsummer classic, however, differ greatly from those of both
fans and managers. One thing we do agree on is that Sanders
doesn't get our votes. Here are the selections.
Fans/managers: Ivan Rodriguez, Rangers.
SI: Sandy Alomar Jr., Indians. At week's end he was second in
the league in batting (.372), was on a 26-game hitting streak
and had been Cleveland's most consistent player throughout the
Fans/managers: Tino Martinez, Yankees.
SI: Martinez. He has carried New York this season, hitting .308
with 28 home runs and 76 RBIs. He won our vote in a tight race
with Mark McGwire of the A's and Frank Thomas of the White Sox.
Fans/managers: Roberto Alomar, Orioles.
SI: Joey Cora, Mariners. Through Sunday he was hitting .330 with
a career-high seven homers. He's the leadoff man Seattle has
Fans/managers: Alex Rodriguez, Mariners.
SI: Jay Bell, Royals. He had 13 home runs and led Kansas City in
RBIs (55) at week's end. Where would the Royals, who were the
fourth-worst-hitting team in the league but still in the hunt in
the Central Division, be without him?
Fans/managers: Cal Ripken Jr., Orioles.
SI: Ripken. He had good numbers (.288, 10 homers, 48 RBIs
through Sunday), and his defense is improved since he moved over
from shortstop this season. The best candidate at the league's
Fans: Ken Griffey Jr., Mariners; David Justice, Indians; Brady
Managers: Griffey; Justice; Albert Belle, White Sox.
SI: Griffey, Justice, Belle. With 29 homers through Sunday,
Griffey was on pace to threaten Roger Maris's single-season
record. Justice, who played only 40 games last season for the
Braves because of a shoulder injury, was ripping American League
pitching (.335, 17 homers, 47 RBIs). After a slow start Belle
hit .324 with seven homers and 20 RBIs in June.
Fans/managers: Edgar Martinez, Mariners.
SI: Martinez. Having hit .333 through Sunday, he was the class
of the field that doesn't field.
Fans/managers: Mike Piazza, Dodgers.
SI: Todd Hundley, Mets. Piazza might have had a higher average
(.367 to Hundley's .291) through Sunday, but Hundley's power
numbers were slightly better (19 home runs and 50 RBIs to
Piazza's 15 and 45), and he gets extra credit for handling the
overachieving New York staff.
Fans/managers: Jeff Bagwell, Astros
SI: Bagwell. We gave him the nod over Colorado's Andres
Galarraga. Their power numbers at week's end were comparable
(Bagwell: 22 homers and 72 RBIs; Galarraga: 21 and 82), but
unlike the Big Cat, who plays at Coors Field, Bagwell hits in a
Fans/managers: Craig Biggio, Astros.
SI: Biggio. He was hitting for average (.313) and power (13
homers). He was also second in the league in runs (69) despite
being part of a mediocre offense.
Fans: Barry Larkin, Reds.
Managers: Jeff Blauser, Braves.
SI: Blauser. He's having a career year (.349 with 11 homers and
40 RBIs through Sunday) and leading the Braves in runs (53)
while often hitting eighth.
Fans: Ken Caminiti, Padres.
Managers: Chipper Jones, Braves.
SI: Jones. Having hit .301, with13 homers and 62 RBIs, he won by
a slim margin over Colorado's Vinny Castilla, whose power
numbers (20 homers, 60 RBIs) were bloated by playing in Coors
Fans: Kenny Lofton, Braves; Larry Walker, Rockies; Tony Gwynn,
Managers: Lofton; Walker; Barry Bonds, Giants.
SI: Lofton; Walker; Gwynn. Lofton's speed has helped revive the
Braves' offense, which was second in the league through Sunday.
Walker was hitting a league-leading .410 with 24 homers and 67
RBIs. Gwynn, who was batting .393, seems capable of hitting .400
for the year.
A NAME TO KNOW
Thurman Clyde Greer III is no Thurman Clyde Greer III. For as
long as he can remember, Greer, the Rangers leftfielder, has
answered to a more appropriate name. "Even my parents have
always called me Rusty," he says. "Look at me. It makes sense."
It isn't clear whether Greer is referring to the reddish tint of
his hair or to his proletarian demeanor, but the name Rusty
certainly doesn't apply to his baseball skills. At week's end
Greer, 28, was among the American League's Top 10 in hitting
(.336), runs (53), total bases (156) and outfield assists (7).
Greer plays the game with a blue-collar grit that he attributes
to his hardscrabble baseball upbringing. After high school in
Albertville, Ala., he had only one offer to play college
baseball, from nearby University of Montevallo, then an NAIA
school. Greer parlayed that opportunity into a 10th-round draft
selection by Texas in 1990. He endured four full minor league
seasons before reaching the majors in '94. That year he hit .314
and finished third in the Rookie of the Year voting. "When you
come from an NAIA school, you aren't going to get the attention
that players from bigger schools get," Greer says, "but I've
found that it doesn't matter whether you are the first pick in
the draft or you're taken in the 100th round. Everybody starts
the same in rookie ball, and you get only as far as your work
Texas manager Johnny Oates says, "If there is one word to
describe Rusty, it is consistent. He can run, throw, hit with
power and hit .300 against righties and lefties. And he's one of
the special ones who comes up big when you really need it."
Greer has, in fact, excelled in critical situations, winning
seven games in 1995 and '96 with hits in the Rangers' final at
bat, and another two games this season. In '94 he made a diving
catch in the ninth inning to save Kenny Rogers's perfect game.
All these heroics led fans to vote Greer their most popular
player in a newspaper poll last season. It's a tribute to
Greer's appeal in Arlington that he won that vote in a landslide
over Juan Gonzalez, the '96 American League Most Valuable Player.
Eric Davis returned to Camden Yards last Thursday evening
dressed in civvies and flanked by a pair of doctors. Two weeks
after cancer surgery, he informed Orioles fans that he was
embarking on yet another comeback. "I'm optimistic about playing
again in 1997," he said. "I've been knocked down plenty in my
career, but I always stand up again. Believe me, I know how to
make a comeback."
Before his latest ailment, the 35-year-old Davis had shown
flashes of brilliance in 1996 and the early weeks of '97,
compelling baseball fans once again to ponder what might have
been. After all, in 1986 he cracked 27 homers and stole 80
bases, becoming only the second 20-80 player in history (the
other was the Yankees' Rickey Henderson in 1985 and '86). The
following year Davis had 37 home runs and 50 steals, becoming
the first 30-50 man (Barry Bonds of the Pirates became the
second, in 1990). In those days Davis was constantly compared
with Willie Mays. "He does things the rest of us can only dream
about," said Dave Parker, Davis's teammate with the Reds from
1984 to '87. "There's a player like Eric Davis once every 50
years. It's a thrill to watch him. They should make me pay. I
hope he can stay healthy, so he can reach his potential."
Unfortunately, Davis never played more than 135 games in a
season because of myriad leg and shoulder injuries and a
herniated disk in his neck. Eleven times in his 13-year career
he has been on the disabled list; he has missed more than 450
games. In Game 4 of the 1990 World Series, between the Reds and
the A's, Davis lacerated a kidney trying to make a diving catch.
Hours later he lay in an Oakland hospital emergency room unaware
that his team had won the Series.
Davis retired from baseball following an injury-plagued 1994
season in Detroit, only to return to the Reds in '96. Despite
the 18-month layoff, he hit .287 with 26 homers and 83 RBIs to
win the National League Comeback Player of the Year award. Last
winter he signed with Baltimore as a free agent, and he was
hitting .302 with seven homers and 21 RBIs in 34 games when, on
May 25, pain he had been suffering in his abdomen became so
intense that he couldn't play anymore. Three weeks later doctors
removed a cancerous mass the size of a baseball from his colon.
Davis left the lineup, and soon the Orioles' offense began to
sputter. After being shut out last Thursday night for the fourth
time in eight games, Baltimore acquired slugger Geronimo Berroa
from Oakland to try to compensate for the loss of Davis's
Davis flew to Los Angeles last weekend to meet with his family
and get another medical opinion on whether he should undergo
chemotherapy. The decision could determine whether he rejoins
Baltimore this season. While Davis understands the gravity of
his disease and the importance of the chemotherapy, which would
probably put him out of action for months, he also realizes that
playing for the 1997 Orioles could be his last chance to return
to the World Series. "That's the only piece that's missing for
me, and it's an unquenchable thirst," Davis said in the
Baltimore clubhouse last Thursday. "I missed out on all the joy
in '90. I want the champagne. I want the ticker-tape parade. I
want my chance to finally celebrate."
OUCH! LACERATED BUTTOCKS AND OTHER UNTOWARD INJURIES
Astros relief pitcher Russ Springer went on the disabled list
last week with a strained back, which he suffered when he
sneezed violently. Inspired by Springer's misfortune, we present
a list of 10 other bizarre baseball injuries.
1. Dave Rozema, lacerated buttocks, 1982
Tigers righty missed a start after teammate Kirk Gibson pulled a
stool out from under him while he had a glass bottle of cough
syrup in his back pocket.
2. George Brett, broken toe, 1983
Royals third baseman spent three weeks on DL after he stubbed
left baby toe while rushing from his laundry room to see Cub
Bill Buckner bat on TV.
3. Vince Coleman, chipped knee bone, 1985
Cardinals speedster was knocked out of the World Series when a
Busch Stadium mechanical tarpaulin roller moving 0.5 mph ran
over his left leg.
4. Kevin Mitchell, damaged tooth, 1990
Giants outfielder missed the start of spring training after
undergoing emergency dental surgery to repair a tooth injured by
a microwaved chocolate doughnut.
5. Glenallen Hill, bruised knee and toes, 1990
Blue Jays outfielder and arachnophobe fell while sleepwalking
during a nightmare in which he was being chased by spiders. He
sat out two weeks.
6. Steve Foster, strained shoulder, 1993
Reds pitcher was out for four months after throwing baseballs at
milk bottles to demonstrate his control on The Tonight Show.
7. Dwight Gooden, bruised shoulder, 1993
Mets righthander skipped a start when Coleman, then a teammate,
accidentally hit him with a nine-iron he was swinging in the
8. Rickey Henderson, frostbite, 1993
Blue Jays outfielder was hors de combat for three games when he
chilled his left foot after treating it too long with artificial
9. Jeff Juden, infected leg, 1994
Phillies righthander missed a few days of spring training after
he got a new tattoo that became infected.
10. Steve Sparks, dislocated shoulder, 1994
Brewers righthander was injured while trying to tear a telephone
book in half after he heard a motivational speech. He was out of
action for a week.