Sammy Sosa and his apologists want you to believe that on June 3,
amid a horrible slump, he took a lighter-than-usual bat to the
plate not knowing that it was corked, and on the one occasion
that he used the bat in a game it happened to crack in half.
"Hogwash," Athletics pitcher Tim Hudson says. Hall of Famer Jim
Palmer says that Sosa should take a lie detector test.
Sosa's defenders pointed to the 76 bats found to be corkless
(irrelevant to this event), the fact that he did not panic when
the bat broke (as opposed to what, stuffing the parts down his
shirt?), his quick explanation (Cubs G.M. Jim Hendry, in a
vertigo-inducing spin, praised Sosa for his "honesty") and claims
by physicists that cork's effect on distance is negligible. Says
Hudson, "It makes a bat lighter. Guys are using it to get to a
ball quicker, maybe not all the time but when they think they
need it. Forget how far the ball goes."
A corked bat has no business near a big league bat rack. It was a
dishonest mistake. That is all we can be sure of. Connecting that
at bat to five, 50 or 500 others is pure speculation. So is
swallowing whole his story.
Shigetoshi Hasegawa and Ichiro Suzuki of the Mariners both said
they never heard of corking bats in Japan. "If it did happen and
someone was caught," Suzuki said, "there would be much shame." It
is no different Stateside.
When the Padres played host to the Tigers in interleague play
last week, San Diego general manager Kevin Towers told Detroit
first-year manager Alan Trammell (left), "I've got to admit
it--I'm scoreboard watching. I'm watching you guys." Said
Trammell, "I'm watching you."
The two clubs were battling to avoid the worst record in baseball
(at week's end San Diego was 19-45, Detroit was 16-44), not to
mention the 1962 Mets, whose 120 losses are the most alltime. The
good news for the Padres is that infielder Phil Nevin is expected
back in August from a dislocated left shoulder, an injury thought
to be season-ending. The bad news is that closer Trevor Hoffman
won't make it back at all this season from right-shoulder
surgery. As for Detroit, there isn't much hope.
BETTER WITH AGE
Two years ago, at 38, Jamie Moyer (below) of the Mariners became
the oldest first-time 20-game winner. Now Moyer (10-2) is in line
to be a first-time All-Star at 40 and might even surpass Warren
Spahn by nearly six months as the oldest pitcher ever to start an
All-Star Game. After breaking his left kneecap in 2000, Moyer
quit running except for a few sprints to loosen before a start.
As a result, he says, his body stays fresher. Here are the active
pitchers who have won the most games without being named to an
Player Team Wins
Jamie Moyer Mariners 174
Scott Erickson Orioles 140
Pedro Astacio Mets 118
Kirk Rueter Giants 116
Jeff Fassero Cardinals 112
On Sunday, the Astros' Billy Wagner (19 saves this season, 200
career with Houston) passed Dave Smith to become the club's
alltime saves leader. The Phillies' Jose Mesa (15 this year, 102
with Philly) needs two to pass Steve Bedrosian as Philadelphia's
alltime leader. When Mesa accomplishes the feat there will be 11
active pitchers who hold such records. The oldest club saves
record since the save became an official statistic in 1969 is
held by the Pirates' Kent Tekulve (158), who saved his last game
for Pittsburgh in '84....The Phils' offense is tanking mostly
because Pat Burrell and David Bell aren't producing. They went a
combined 7 for 72 in Philadelphia's last homestand. Bell had
seven hits all season against lefthanders; Burrell ranked third
in the majors in strikeouts with 70.... Seattle acquired Matt
White in a trade with Boston to have a second lefthander in the
bullpen behind Arthur Rhodes--even though the
righthander-dominant pen had lost only one game.
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