Tom Verducci's View

April 25, 2004

SILENT MAJORITY

While commissioner Bud Selig has wrongly placed a gag order on
baseball officials when it comes to steroids, too many players
voluntarily have turned mute. Not John Smoltz. The Braves closer
maintains that if the union polled its players anonymously, more
than half the members would agree to the stricter testing program
in place in the minor leagues.

"Purely speculative on my part? Yes," says Smoltz. "I'd be in
favor [of polling and stricter testing] because I would consider
any solution so people are not talking about steroids. It's not
good for the game. The accusations, network TV shows mocking
players.... It better not still be the talk at the All-Star Game,
and it really can't be going on during the playoffs."

Told of Smoltz's assessment that a stricter testing plan would
gain majority support, Red Sox righthander Curt Schilling said,
"I agree with him."

Union leadership, however, has dismissed the idea of polling
players. Smoltz acknowledged that many major leaguers are
hesitant to speak publicly about steroids because they don't want
to be perceived as "stepping out of line" by the union or "are
just hoping it goes away." But Smoltz adds, "It's a matter of
right and wrong. And [steroids] are wrong." Smoltz is dead
right--and has the conviction to speak out about it.

ON A ROLLBACK

After centerfielder Garret Anderson signed a four-year, $48
million extension with the Angels last week, he admitted taking a
discount because he had no desire to leave the only team he's
ever played for. Still, Anderson signed for two fewer years and
$27 million less than the extension that comparable outfielder
Larry Walker signed with Colorado five years ago. Walker was 32
when he signed his 1999 extension; Anderson turns 32 in June.
Here's how Anderson's career numbers entering this year compare
with those of Walker entering the '99 season:

G AB H HR RBI AVG.

Anderson 1,365 5,455 1,633 193 872 .299
Walker 1,171 4,154 1,265 225 740 .305

WHO'S ON FIRST?

Mets manager Art (Incandescent) Howe was at it again on April 14,
telling reporters that catcher Mike Piazza would play first base
that night without telling Piazza. Howe assumed Piazza knew by
looking at the lineup posted in the clubhouse. Reporters informed
Howe, who is in his second season with New York, that the lineup
board doesn't list positions. Piazza laughed off the incident,
another reminder of owner Fred Wilpon's evaluation of Howe--he
"lit up" the room--before he signed the former A's skipper to a
four-year deal.

THREE STRIKES

1. Managers need to think outside the traditional construct of a
lineup. Cardinals skipper Tony La Russa stuck with the speedy
table-setters notion by batting Tony Womack and Marlon Anderson
one-two, even though their career on-base percentages (.316 and
.317, respectively) are well below average. That pushed Edgar
Renteria, a much better hitter who should bat first or second, to
sixth unnecessarily.

2. White Sox closer Billy Koch used to get by without movement on
his fastball when he was throwing it in the high 90s. However,
now that he's in the low 90s, hitters are catching up to his
straight heater.

3. For those who took the over on seven games in the J.D. Drew
injury pool, better luck next time. And who could have guessed
that Larry Walker, Carl Everett, Nick Johnson, Jeffrey Hammonds
and Cliff Floyd and Kenny Lofton also would be hurt already?

COLOR PHOTO: TOM DIPACE (SMOLTZ) Smoltz COLOR PHOTO: LARRY GOREN/WIREIMAGE.COM (ANDERSON) Anderson COLOR PHOTO: CHUCK SOLOMON (HOWE) Howe

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)