Tom Verducci's View

July 27, 2003

GROOVIN'

After compiling an embarrassing 10.64 ERA in 19 games with the
Blue Jays in 2000, Roy Halladay humbly dropped all the way to
Class A to rebuild his delivery. So an 0-2 record and a 4.89 ERA
after six starts this year was no cause for alarm, only for a
simple tune-up. Halladay and pitching coach Gil Patterson fixed a
minor flaw in the righthander's delivery that caused his breaking
pitches to hang against lefthanded hitters. "It wasn't an 'Oh, my
God, here it is' kind of thing," Toronto G.M. J.P. Ricciardi
says. "He figured out what he needed to do and corrected himself.
He didn't panic. Doc's proof that good things happen to those who
work hard."

Halladay has been unbeatable for nearly three months, going 14-0
with a 2.85 ERA in 16 starts through Sunday, all of which have
lasted at least 6 2/3 innings. (The major league record is 19
straight wins.) Even with his blip in April the 26-year-old
Halladay was 38-12 since being recalled from his remedial minor
league assignment on July 1, 2001.

"I haven't seen a guy pitch as good as Halladay since maybe Pedro
[Martinez] in '99," Red Sox righthander Derek Lowe said after
Halladay beat Boston last Thursday. "Four runs to him probably
feels like 10 to an average guy."

ALL-STAR PAYOFF

Playing for World Series home field advantage in the All-Star
Game was a qualified success. The AL's 7-6 victory was a great
show, with Hank Blalock's game-breaking homer off Eric Gagne sure
to be the talk of October. Baseball executives privately had
hoped for an 11 rating, but they knew the 9.5 mark meant the game
at least matched last year's number, outdrew all other summer
programs and blew away the 6.5 rating for the NBA Finals.

Commissioner Bud Selig says, "I shudder to think what [the
rating] would have been" without the change. The format is a
keeper. Now Selig should get rid of nondeserving All-Stars by
dropping the rule that all 30 teams be represented. Faux stars
Armando Benitez (Mets), Dmitri Young (Tigers), Lance Carter
(Devil Rays) and Mike Williams (Pirates) wasted roster spots--and
fittingly didn't play. "I'm willing to take a look at it," Selig
says.

UNDERACHIEVER

Call it the mystery of Pittsburgh. Righthander Kris Benson (35-41
in four seasons) is in danger of becoming the next Ben McDonald:
a young pitcher with ace-quality stuff but underwhelming results.
Like the former Orioles disappointment, Benson was a hyped No. 1
pick, out of Clemson in 1996. At week's end he was 5-9 with a
4.97 ERA while batters had hit .295 against him. It's not often
that a rebuilding team will trade a 28-year-old pitcher who
throws 94 mph, but the Pirates are shopping Benson, in part
because he's not worth the $6.1 million he'll make next year.

"His body, arm action, college [experience]...it's everything
[A's G.M.] Billy Beane looks for, but [Benson's] not getting
people out," one NL scout says. "He's young and he's got a great
arm, so it does make you wonder why he's available. His stuff is
good enough, but he's soft and he's not as aggressive with
hitters as he should be."

SHORT HOPS

The wobbling Cubs, desperate to replace injured outfielder Corey
Patterson (torn left ACL), whiffed on the Mets' Jeromy Burnitz
(New York traded him to the Dodgers), passed on the Rockies' Jay
Payton and have set their sights on Raul Mondesi, whom the
Yankees will gladly move if they can replace him in another
deal.... The Giants' Barry Bonds, chatting with Cardinals third
baseman Scott Rolen at the All-Star Game, said the key to his
power is his top hand on the bat. "It's like throwing a punch,"
Bonds said, comparing the bottom hand's power to a jab and the
top's to a roundhouse blow....San Juan is lobbying hard to host
all 81 Expos home games next year and has an ally in the players'
association, which doesn't want the team to play another split
home schedule.

COLOR PHOTO: SCOTT WACHTER/ICON SMI (HALLADAY) Halladay COLOR PHOTO: HEINZ KLUETMEIER (BLALOCK) Blalock COLOR PHOTO: DARREN HAUCK/AP (BENSON) Benson

Read Tom Verducci's Inside Baseball column every week on
si.com/baseball.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)