All-Star week, when so much attention is showered on the game's
elite, is also a good time to scrape the bottom of the
statistical barrel for the Anti-All-Stars. This is our lineup of
the players, regardless of the league they play in, who have
most conspicuously underachieved during the first half of 1997.
Benito Santiago, Blue Jays. After hitting 30 homers for the
Phillies last season, he signed a two-year, $6.5 million
free-agent contract, but at the All-Star break he was batting
.197 with just three homers and had lost his job to Charlie
Dishonorable Mention: Rick Wilkins, Giants.
Mark Johnson, Pirates. He cracked 13 home runs in only 343 at
bats in 1996 and then hit seven homers in spring training this
year, which tied him for the major league lead. But once the
regular season started he hit .214 with four homers before being
shipped off to Triple A Calgary on June 24.
Dishonorable Mention: Hal Morris, Reds.
Bret Boone, Reds. Once a promising hitter who hit 12 homers and
knocked in 69 runs last season, Boone was briefly demoted to
Triple A in June. At the break he was in a 3-for-45 swoon that
had dropped his average to .190, and he had two home runs and 24
runs batted in.
Dishonorable Mention: Carlos Garcia, Blue Jays.
Benji Gil, Rangers. A first-round draft pick in 1991 and a
perennially touted prospect, Gil was one reason the Rangers
didn't re-sign Kevin Elster this year. But at week's end Gil was
hitting .234, had committed 12 errors and had lost his job to
Dishonorable Mention: Pat Listach, Astros.
Scott Brosius, Athletics. Rhymes with atrocious. He hit .304
last season but has labored below the Mendoza line for most of
Dishonorable Mention: Shane Andrews, Expos.
Todd Hollandsworth, Dodgers; Bernard Gilkey, Mets; Greg Vaughn,
Padres. Hollandsworth, the 1996 National League Rookie of the
Year, was batting .229 with no power through Sunday and had
spent 17 days in Triple A in June. Gilkey, who hit .317 with 30
homers last season, was at .215 with eight homers at the break.
Vaughn, who signed a three-year, $15 million contract over the
winter, had only 24 RBIs in increasingly limited playing time
before he was traded to the Yankees last Friday. The deal was
subsequently rescinded (following item), and now it looks as if
the Padres are stuck with Vaughn for a while.
Dishonorable Mention: Gary Sheffield, Marlins.
Scott Sanders, Mariners. Desperate for a righthander, Seattle
picked up Sanders in a trade with San Diego and then dropped him
from the rotation after six starts. Through Sunday he had been
shelled for 16 homers in 62 innings.
Dishonorable Mention: John Smiley, Reds.
Jose Mesa, Indians. He hasn't been the same since his rape trial
in April, in which he was acquitted. He had a 4.25 ERA at the
break and hadn't gotten a save since April 26.
Dishonorable Mention: Jeff Montgomery, Royals.
BRONX ZOO REVISITED
The telephone rang in Yankees manager Joe Torre's office at the
SkyDome last Saturday, only one day after New York had shipped
some excess baggage--pitcher Kenny Rogers and infielder Mariano
Duncan--to the Padres and only one hour after third baseman Wade
Boggs had asked that he, too, be traded. It was general manager
Bob Watson calling to tell Torre that the deal with San Diego
had fallen through because Greg Vaughn, the outfielder New York
was to receive, had flunked his physical. What's a manager to do
in such a uniquely Yankee moment of absurdity? "I giggled,"
Torre said. "I giggled at the whole thing, how this is what
happens in New York City and with the Yankees."
From world champions to weird champions, the Yanks, who were in
second place, seven games behind the Orioles, in the American
League East at the All-Star break, are compelling if nothing
else. New York was scared off by the condition of Vaughn's right
shoulder, which has required surgery three times in his
eight-year career. The Yankees still would like to upgrade
themselves in leftfield, where Chad Curtis has replaced Mark
Whiten, who slumped after replacing Tim Raines, who strained his
left hamstring after replacing Darryl Strawberry, who underwent
surgery on his left knee. Meanwhile, owner George Steinbrenner
is calling other clubs about acquiring a backup catcher,
according to one American League executive.
Boggs is unlikely to bring much in a trade. Since Sept. 1, 1996,
two days after the Yanks acquired Charlie Hayes to compete with
Boggs for the third base job, Boggs has batted .235 with 20 RBIs
in 285 at bats, including the postseason. This year the
39-year-old Boggs was batting .241, with one hit in his last 14
at bats, when he conceded the job to Hayes in his pregame
meeting with Torre in Toronto. "I'll just move on," said Boggs,
who is 254 hits short of 3,000. "The bottom line is, I stink
right now." --TOM VERDUCCI
On the evening of May 22, 1995, Shawn Estes paced restlessly in
his room at the Best Western Pzazz Motor Inn in Burlington,
Iowa. After having been chosen 11th in the '91 draft, he had
spent four undistinguished seasons in the minors. Now the
Mariners, for whose Class A team in Appleton, Wis., Estes had
been pitching, had given up on him and traded him to the Giants.
Estes would have to start over in a new organization, with the
Burlington Bees. "I was extremely depressed," Estes recalls. "I
was supposed to be living my baseball dream, but instead I was
totally humbled. I looked around at where I was, and I thought,
What the heck am I doing here?"
Just four months after that moment, which Estes describes as his
baseball epiphany, he was pitching for San Francisco in the
major leagues. Two seasons later he is the Giants' ace, with a
12-2 record and a 2.51 ERA through Sunday, and, though he has
not spent a full season in the majors, he has been named an
What turned things around? Estes recognized that his worst enemy
was a guy named Estes. After he was drafted out of Douglas High
in Minden, Nev., Estes often indulged his wicked temper, showing
disgust at his failures by stomping around the mound. Worse, he
screamed at teammates when they made errors and was fined
regularly for his petulance. "Shawn didn't have a great
attitude, and he didn't work as hard as he should have," says
Expos G.M. Jim Beattie, who was Seattle's director of player
development at the time. "I think it was because in high school
he had always been the big fish in a small pond."
Says Estes, "I was a bit of a head case, because I was an
intensely competitive guy and a perfectionist, and that's a
dangerous mix. The trade opened my eyes and made me realize I
had to kick myself in gear or I might never make it."
The Giants recognized Estes's competitive fire and used it to
challenge him. They gave him four starts at Burlington, moved
him to Class A San Jose for eight starts and then gave him four
starts in Double A Shreveport before calling him up to the
majors in September 1995. The following spring he started the
season in Triple A but rejoined the Giants in July. He finished
'96 at 3-5 with a 3.60 ERA, setting the stage for his
With a fastball clocked as high as 94 mph, a sharp overhand
curveball and a good changeup, Estes has overwhelmed batters all
season. In his last 11 starts before the All-Star break he went
8-0 with a 2.08 ERA. That streak included a 4-0 win over
Colorado last Friday in which he gave up just one hit over 8 2/3
innings and tied his career high of 11 strikeouts.
Despite his success, Estes still has occasional outbursts of
temper. On May 13, when Giants manager Dusty Baker went to the
mound to remove Estes from a game in Cincinnati, Estes flipped
Baker the ball and stalked off the mound. Baker stopped Estes in
his tracks and then lectured him as they walked off the field
together. "He reminds me of a thoroughbred horse," Baker says.
"You don't want to take the wildness out of him, because that's
what gives him his competitive edge. Those are the guys who tend
to be the warriors."
These days Estes tries to reserve most of his wrath for opposing
batters. "I really, really dislike hitters," Estes says. "I hate
when they complain about inside pitches. Do they expect me to
put it on a tee for them? They should know that I still get mad
on the mound sometimes, so if I'm throwing inside, hey, you
better get out of the way."
The Mets' enthusiasm for interleague play was sorely tested last
week when they were swept during a three-game series in Detroit,
where they were outscored 31-13 and outhomered 14-0. Eight New
York pitchers appeared in the series, and each allowed at least
one homer. "Maybe it was my fault for not preparing my guys
better for the Tigers' hitters," Mets manager Bobby Valentine
said after the carnage had ended, "but what was I going to tell
them, 'Fasten your seat belts'?"
The most compelling moment in the Tigers' slugfest came when
outfielder Bobby Higginson had a shot at a home run record--and
inexplicably left the bat on his shoulder. Higginson had
launched three consecutive homers in the series opener, on June
30, and he cracked another home run his first time up in the
next game, giving himself a chance to become the first major
leaguer to homer in five straight at bats. Facing New York's
Bobby Jones on his next trip to the plate, Higginson took five
straight pitches and was called out on strikes. "I don't know
what I was thinking," he said after the game. "I had a chance to
make history, and I didn't even swing."
ROCKIN' AND FIRIN'
With his 6-2 victory over the Braves on Sunday, Expos pitcher
Jeff Juden improved his record to 11-2, so it's no surprise that
he was invited to Cleveland this week to participate in the
All-Star festivities. Alas, Juden was invited not as a pitcher
but as a musician. He was scheduled to play guitar at the
All-Star gala on Monday night in a band that featured three
other big league pitchers: the Braves' Mike Bielecki, the
Angels' Mark Langston and the Indians' Jack McDowell.
The gala was to be the most high-profile gig of Juden's
fledgling music career, which began when he first picked up a
guitar as a 16-year-old in Salem, Mass. Juden taught himself to
play by ear and lists among his influences the boisterous
stylings of Eddie Van Halen. During his eight-year pro baseball
career Juden has often taken his guitar on road trips to strum
as an escape from the tensions of pitching. But his interest
grew last summer after he was claimed on waivers by the Expos
from the Giants and was introduced to the aptly named Joe
Jammer, an eccentric part-time member of the Olympic Stadium
grounds crew who is an accomplished guitarist. Jammer is well
known in Montreal music circles and claims to have once played
backup on a Led Zeppelin tour. "Jeff's got a good ear for
music," Jammer says. "He wants to write his own music, and I'm
going to see if I can help him out with it."
Three times this season Jammer and Juden have played sets after
Expos games on a stage in the arcade of Olympic Stadium. Juden
is sketching out some of his own tunes and hopes to put together
an album during the off-season. His favorite music is '70s rock,
but he alters his repertoire depending on his mood. "I'll
usually play rock after a win and blues when I lose," he says,
"so I've pretty much been rockin' and rollin' lately."
Juden, a first-round draft pick of the Astros in 1989, was used
primarily as a reliever in the minors, where he struggled for
three big league organizations before arriving in Montreal last
July. Pitching out of the bullpen, he went 1-0 with a 2.20 ERA
for the Expos in '96. Then he begged Montreal manager Felipe
Alou to let him audition as a starter this spring. He got his
shot in the rotation in part because of an injury to Matt
Wagner, and he has made the most of it. Through Sunday he was
fourth in the National League in victories, and in his last five
starts his ERA had dropped more than a full run, to 3.70. All of
which leads Juden to wonder what it takes to be an All-Star.
"I think 11-2 isn't too shabby, but I guess an All-Star is in
the eyes of the beholder," he says. "Maybe if I keep pitching
this well, then next year I'll get to bring my glove to the game
and leave the guitar at home."
HOLD THE RIBS
Fans who eagerly scan the box scores every morning to see
whether Ken Griffey Jr. or Mark McGwire has hit another homer or
whether Tony Gwynn and Larry Walker are still around the .400
mark might want to add Marlins second baseman Luis Castillo to
their checklists. Castillo is quietly--and we mean
quietly--having a potentially historic season. With 248 plate
appearances at the All-Star break, Castillo had only six RBIs.
If he keeps up this anemic pace and gets enough plate
appearances to qualify for the batting title, Castillo could
join this list of the worst run producers since the 162-game
schedule was introduced in 1961.*
YEAR PLAYER/TEAM APPEARANCES RBIS
1971 ENZO HERNANDEZ, PADRES 618 12
1989 GARY PETTIS, TIGERS 536 18
1972 RON HUNT, EXPOS 531 18
1980 BILLY NORTH, GIANTS 500 19
1983 WAYNE TOLLESON, RANGERS 521 20
*Does not include strike years. Source: Elias Sports Bureau