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Inside Baseball

Aug. 14, 2000
Aug. 14, 2000

Table of Contents
Aug. 14, 2000

College Football Preview 2000

Inside Baseball

More Heat In Arizona
Curt Schilling joins Randy Johnson to give the Diamondbacks a
daunting fireballing duo

This is an article from the Aug. 14, 2000 issue Original Layout

As the doggerel days of August drag on, as the evening
temperature outside Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix hovers at
110[degrees] and the Arizona hitters futilely flail for runs,
the Diamondbacks' new ace pitching combination of Randy Johnson
and Curt Schilling practically begs the sunstroked brain to
produce some Spahn-and-Sain verse. Maybe:

Big Unit and Schilling
And three days of chilling
Or perhaps:
Randy and Curt
Treat batters like dirt

They are the odd couplet. There's Johnson, a 6'10", lefthanded
package of scary who recedes into the background after each
start, and the 6'4", righthanded Schilling, a less expressive
pitcher on the mound but a man who fills any room he enters. Both
are classic power pitchers, but they have different "out" pitches
to complement their high-octane fastballs--Johnson a slider,
Schilling a splitter. They share a sense of responsibility to
themselves and to their team that surpasses even their combined
career average of 9.8 strikeouts per nine innings. "Rather than
shrinking from the notion that they are The Guy, they embrace
it," says Arizona general manager Joe Garagiola Jr., who obtained
Schilling on July 26. At the time, the Diamondbacks were 39-39 in
games started by someone other than Johnson but still were 12
games over .500 and in first place in the National League West
thanks to the Big Unit, who was 15-3 with a 2.16 ERA.

Arizona is in the midst of a 30-game stretch in which Johnson and
Schilling are scheduled to get 14 starts between them, but not
even they always wax poetic. Last Friday, Johnson simply got
waxed, failing to get out of the fourth inning, his pitch count
skyrocketing in a 6-1 loss to the Mets. Since word leaked on July
25 of the impending trade for Schilling--Arizona would send four
players to the Phillies for him--Johnson through Sunday had
endured his poorest stretch of the year. He walked seven batters
in 5 2/3 innings in a loss to St. Louis and then threw 145 pitches
in seven innings on July 30 against the Marlins, in a game the
Arizona bullpen would blow in the eighth, before his loss to the
Mets.

As he watched the bespoiling of Johnson's handiwork in Florida
two days after his own one-run-in-eight-innings Diamondbacks
debut, Schilling was stunned. "For years people would say, or
managers would tell me, 'Can't wait till you get out there and
throw, because we need a win,'" he says. "I realized that when I
get the ball, [my team] is expected to win. Now when Randy took
the mound and we lost, I was crushed. I haven't been able to
watch somebody and feel that way in a long time."

Schilling, a big-game pitcher who suffered from a dearth of big
games with the bedraggled Phillies, earned his reputation in 1993
with two exceptional playoff starts against the Braves and a Game
5 shutout of the Blue Jays that prolonged the World Series. He
had begun preparing for greatness the previous year, when he
started keeping a book on umpires because that's what Roger
Clemens did. He began studying videotape of dominant pitchers,
among them Steve Carlton, Bob Gibson, Tom Seaver and, yes, Randy
Johnson. Other than command of the fastball, Schilling noticed a
common thread. "They always had an idea," Schilling says.

Now his preparation is meticulous. For two years he has had
videotape of every pitch he throws downloaded into a computer. "I
envision sequences for everybody in the lineup," Schilling says.
"I prepare to go four times through the lineup. That's nine
innings."

There will be many big games for Schilling as a member of the
Diamondbacks, who as of Sunday were a game behind the Giants in
the National League West, especially with Arizona and San
Francisco scheduled to meet eight times in the last 12 games of
the season. But for now no start was bigger than facing Braves
ace Greg Maddux on Aug. 2 at the BOB, his first appearance for
Arizona--and on the night after the Diamondbacks had slipped out
of first place for the first time since April 4. Schilling huffed
through five scoreless innings and then hit his stride. He needed
only 32 pitches over the final four innings to get the 2-0
victory. His last 13 deliveries were strikes, including three
fastballs of 95, 96 and 95 mph--his three hardest pitches of the
night--to whiff Brian Jordan for the penultimate out. "Did that to
us two years ago," Garagiola says. "He'd been going along 91, 93,
92, and we're just flattened. He comes out for the ninth, and
everything is 94, 96, 95. This is a guy saying, 'Boys, this is
what I didn't bother to break out, but I'll just show it to you
so you'll know what's in the tank for next time.'"

There is poetry. Then there are pros. --Michael Farber

Brogna's Wait Ends
After the Deadline

When the phone in his San Diego hotel room rang at 1 p.m. PDT on
July 31--exactly at the trading deadline--Rico Brogna figured it
was Phillies general manager Ed Wade calling to say Brogna had
been dealt to the Red Sox. A 30-year-old first baseman with a
.272 lifetime average who had hit 20 or more homers whenever he
played a full season, Brogna had been sidelined most of this year
as he recovered from a fractured left forearm and had lost his
starting job. For more than a week Boston had been trying to make
a deal for Brogna, a New England native, and he had told
Philadelphia's management that was where he wanted to play.

"When [Wade] told me they hadn't made a deal, I was
disappointed," says Brogna, whose spot in the Phillies' infield
was taken by highly touted 23-year-old rookie Pat Burrell, with
Travis Lee, 25, acquired in the deal that sent Curt Schilling to
Arizona on July 26, waiting in the wings. "The Phillies pretty
much told me that Pat or Travis was going to be the first baseman
of the future. Knowing that, I was upset the trade didn't work
out."

The deal fell apart because Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette,
though desperate for a productive bat, refused to part with
infield prospect Donnie Sadler. Why? "The teams that were looking
for a first baseman had already filled their need," says
Duquette. "We were gambling that Rico would still be there after
the deadline."

Duquette's bet paid off. On Aug. 1 Philadelphia requested waivers
on Brogna, giving every other team, in ascending order of
won-lost record, the chance to claim him. With his $4 million
salary a deterrent, Brogna slipped by every club below the Red
Sox, who claimed him last Thursday. (They'll pay a prorated $1.3
million.) An elated Brogna was in the Boston lineup at Fenway
Park last Friday. He went 2 for 9 with one RBI and one run scored
in three starts at first against the Royals.

"I was confused by the whole process, and I didn't want to get
let down again," Brogna says when asked why he wasn't counting on
making it to Boston on waivers. "Now I think the process is
fine."

Indians' New Look
Risky Business In Cleveland

The Indians' John Hart dispenses with the usual general
manager-speak when discussing the trades that brought
righthanders Jason Bere, Bob Wickman and Steve Woodard and
outfielder Wil Cordero to Cleveland. There's no
we-liked-our-club-but-are-always-looking-to-improve spin here.
"Even though we've been riddled with injuries, we wanted to be
playing meaningful games in September," says Hart. "If we didn't
make these deals, we wouldn't have that chance. We weren't going
to win with the lineup and pitching we had--it just wasn't going
to happen."

Give Hart points for a realistic assessment of the Indians' grim
situation--Cleveland, three games above .500 and 10 1/2 behind the
division-leading White Sox on the morning of July 28, was going
nowhere with its patchwork collection of Triple A-caliber
pitchers. But the deals raised this question: In what shape do
they leave the Indians for the long term? Anything short of a
playoff berth will provoke cries that Hart gutted Cleveland's
future for an iffy wild-card run (the Indians trailed the A's,
leaders in the American League wild-card race, by three games
through Sunday), and even if the Indians do make the postseason,
they may find themselves even weaker next year.

The upside: Wickman, an experienced closer acquired from the
Brewers, figures to steady a young bullpen down the stretch.
Further, starters Bere and Woodard, while only a combined 7-14
with a 5.39 ERA for Milwaukee, also have experience, which is
more than can be said for many of the major league-record 30
pitchers manager Charlie Manuel had used through Sunday.

The downside: To get the trio of pitchers from the Brewers,
Cleveland parted with 25-year-old outfielder-first baseman Richie
Sexson, considered one of the game's most promising young power
hitters; to get Cordero, whom the Indians had let go as a free
agent last October, Hart gave the Pirates outfielder Alex
Ramirez, 25, a budding power hitter, and versatile infielder
Enrique Wilson, also 25, who had hit .282 in 191 big league games
since 1998.

The mass departure of good young players raised the spectres of
Jeromy Burnitz, Brian Giles and Danny Graves--all prospects traded
by Hart since mid-1996 who have found stardom elsewhere. "These
trades were greeted in [the clubhouse] with skepticism," says
third baseman Travis Fryman. "It wasn't like we got any huge
names, and we gave up some young players with bright futures."

Indeed, the deals all come down to the future. There's no
guarantee all the newcomers will be Indians next season. As a
veteran traded in the middle of a multiyear contract, Wickman has
the right to demand a trade after the season. Bere, who pitched
gems in his first two starts with Cleveland and shows signs of
returning to his early-career form (over the 1993 and '94
seasons, he went 24-7 for the White Sox), can be a free agent
this winter and will probably command a substantial raise from
his current $800,000 salary. "Physically I feel as good as I've
ever felt," Bere said after holding the Devil Rays to one run in
eight innings last Thursday. "Coming to a team like this
definitely brings some life back to you, too."

Hart's reputation may rest on how much life Bere and friends can
breathe into the Indians down the stretch. "If they get Cleveland
to the postseason, then the deal was a good one," says the Blue
Jays' Gord Ash, another pitching-hungry general manager who tried
to acquire Wickman and Woodard. "If the Indians don't make it,
it's not."

On Deck
Ker-plunk!

Aug. 13: Cardinals at Brewers

Note to St. Louis trainer Barry Weinberg: Bring extra ice packs
for Fernando Vina on this road trip. Through Sunday the
Cardinals' leadoff man had been plunked by a pitch a major
league-leading 18 times this season. On this day he just may face
Milwaukee righthander Jamey Wright, who along with Colorado
righthander Pedro Astacio led all pitchers with 13 hit batsmen.
Vina, a former Brewer who was traded to the Cardinals last
December, and his mates should keep their wits about them in the
other two games of the series as well. The Milwaukee staff had
nailed 48 batters, third-most in the National League behind the
Dodgers (57) and Rockies (53).

For the latest scores and stats, plus more news and analysis from
Tom Verducci, go to cnnsi.com/baseball.

COLOR PHOTO: ROBERT BECKCOLOR PHOTO: DAMIAN STROHMEYER Sprague, teammate of many top hitters, says Garciaparra is the best.COLOR PHOTO: DAVID LIAM KYLE Woodard is just one of the arms Cleveland got for a playoff run.

Aces of Diamondbacks

In an era of soaring offenses, Curt Schilling (38) and Randy
Johnson are members of a select group of pitchers who have had
an ERA of less than 4.00 and at least 15 wins in each season
from 1997 through '99. With Schilling now pitching for a
contending team, each member of the group has a good chance of
continuing his streak.

PLAYER, TEAM 1997-99 2000 1997-99 2000
ERA ERA* WINS WINS*

Randy Johnson, Diamondbacks 2.69 2.23 56 15
Pedro Martinez, Red Sox 2.29 1.42 59 13
Greg Maddux, Braves 2.64 3.35 56 12
Kevin Brown, Dodgers 2.69 2.34 52 10
Curt Schilling, Diamondbacks 3.22 3.47 47 8

*Statistics through Sunday

the HOT corner

After a nightmarish first half of the season, in which he hit
.245 with four home runs and had a sickly .372 slugging
percentage, Rangers outfielder Gabe Kapler spent the All-Star
break reconstructing his swing with Texas hitting coach Rudy
Jaramillo. Jaramillo added a leg kick to Kapler's stride to keep
him from starting his swing too early. The tinkering worked:
Through Sunday, Kapler had a career-high 20-game hitting streak
and was batting .344 with six homers and a .645 slugging
percentage since the break....

Words you never thought you'd hear: The Rockies, who led the
National League in scoring, had hit the fewest home runs (109)
in the league. If both trends continue Colorado would become
only the second team since 1900--the 1943 Dodgers also did
it--to finish a season first in runs and last in homers....

What does third baseman Ed Sprague, who was traded to the Red
Sox last month, think of teammate Nomar Garciaparra, who led the
majors with a .394 average through Sunday? "I played with [Dave]
Winfield, [Roberto] Alomar, [John] Olerud when he was hitting
.400, Tony Gwynn and Paul Molitor," says Sprague. "From what
I've seen, Nomar is the best hitter I've played with."...

The Padres sued Lloyd's of London last week, accusing the
consortium of underwriters of refusing to pay up on an insurance
policy that San Diego took out after the club's August 1998
acquisition of lefthander Randy Myers, who has missed the last
two seasons because of a rotator cuff injury. According to
Padres general counsel Bob Vizas, Lloyd's promised to pay $4
million for each of the 1999 and 2000 seasons if Myers couldn't
pitch. Myers, who signed a three-year, $18 million contract with
the Blue Jays in '97, has been on the disabled list since April
'99. Lloyd's has not commented publicly on the suit....

Conventional wisdom holds that the Astros' staff was done in by
the move to Enron Field this season, but the numbers showed that
Houston, which had the National League's second-highest team ERA
(5.43) through Sunday, hadn't been much worse at home (5.52)
than it had been on the road (5.36). What's more, starters Shane
Reynolds and Chris Holt and closer Octavio Dotel, all
righthanders, have lower ERAs at Enron than on the road....

Last week the Giants made their final trip to Milwaukee's County
Stadium, which will close after this season, and it didn't sound
as if they were heartbroken. "The coldest game I ever played was
here, and the game with the most bugs I've ever seen was here,"
said San Francisco pitching coach Dave Righetti. "I've seen a
dugout flood here, and I always knew I was going to get achy
when I pitched here. The mound seemed flat, and I always left
this place hurting."

IN THE BOX

August 5, 2000
Royals 7, Red Sox 5

Someone should invent a stat for Carlos Febles's contribution to
this Kansas City win. Febles wore the dread 0-for-5 collar, but
he set up three of the Royals' runs with what for many players is
a forgotten fundamental: giving himself up to advance a runner.
In the first inning, after leadoff man Johnny Damon singled and
stole second, the righthanded-hitting Febles slapped a ground
ball to first, sending Damon to third. Damon came home when the
next hitter, Mike Sweeney, singled. In the third, Damon led off
with a double, and Febles pushed him to third with a grounder to
the right of the mound. Two pitches later Damon scored on Rolando
Arrojo's wild pitch. In the fifth, Damon again led off with a
double, and Febles again advanced him with a ground ball to
first. Sweeney followed with a groundout that brought in Damon to
put the Royals up 4-3.

The day's tally? Damon got credit for three runs scored and
Sweeney for two RBIs. Febles lost five points off his batting
average but gained the Royals' appreciation. Said K.C. manager
Tony Muser of Febles's small-ball heroics, "That was a clinic."