Cubs manager Jim Frey was remembering what life was like before The Streak began. "We win six in a row, we're 3½ in front and our hurt guys are coming back," Frey said a few hours before the Cubbies ended their 13-game losing streak with a 7-3 win over the hated Mets in Wrigley on June 26. "I thought we'd be six up at the All-Star break."
The defending NL East champs fell 4½ games out because the offense produced two runs or less on nine occasions. The Cubs, who had prospered despite losing Rick Sutcliffe, Ryne Sandberg, Gary Matthews and Steve Trout to injuries, could not handle the loss of Bob Dernier, their leadoff man, base stealer and defensive whiz, and All-Star catcher Jody Davis. But 13 straight?
"Logic? There is none whatsoever in this game," Larry Bowa said. "This is a game you can't ever figure out. I'll tell you, I'm feeling more pressure this week than I ever have in a World Series game, just because all over the country everyone is counting. Even people who don't know anything about baseball know: 11, 12, 13 and counting."
After the Cubs ended the streak, Sutcliffe expressed the team's relief when he said, "We won. We bleepin' won. This may be the best feeling I've ever had in baseball."
When the A's traded for Toronto's Alfredo Griffin last December, they expected a solid glove and a .250 bat. Well, Griffin hasn't missed a game, and he's played an excellent shortstop. But check out that bat. In less than half a season, the .249 lifetime hitter is batting .295 with 41 RBIs, seven shy of his career-high and more than such noted sluggers as Kent Hrbek and Harold Baines.
This brings to mind what the usually prescient Bill James wrote in his 1985 Baseball Abstract: "If the A's make Alfredo Griffin their regular shortstop, they will lose 100 games." The A's are on a pace that would give them 87 wins.
Desperate for a second baseman, the Orioles traded for Alan Wiggins, the Padre who turned himself in for drug rehabilitation earlier this season. In the same week, Mike Norris of Oakland's Class A team at Modesto tested positive for alcohol and codeine, Rod Scurry of the Pirates was put on this drug rehab list after missing a road game, and Steve Howe raised fears of another drug relapse by failing to show up for the Dodgers' Sunday game. Good intentions and a short time in rehab simply aren't enough to ensure a player's healthy return to action. The Orioles may solve their second base problem, but they're not necessarily helping to solve Wiggins's problem. Ask Norris. Or Scurry.
No one notices because he plays for Cleveland, but third baseman Brook Jacoby is hitting .290 with 10 homers and 43 RBIs. That means Ted Turner gave up Jacoby and Brett Butler, another solid young player, for Len Barker, he of the bum elbow.... The Orioles' 4.28 staff ERA, 10th in the AL, is the highest it has been this late in the season since 1956. On 16 occasions, the O's starter has not finished the fourth inning.... Someone asked Cleveland manager Pat Corrales if Benny Ayala, 34 and near the end, would make a good hitting coach. "You can tell he knows a lot about hitting," Corrales said, "by the way he plays the outfield."... Dave Engle, the Twins' All-Star catcher last year, homered to beat Chicago 1-0 Saturday night. It was his first RBI since July 27, 1984, a dry spell of 103 at bats.
The Pirates drew 31,384 fans for their Sunday game with Chicago, an encouraging attendance considering the club is up for sale and down in the standings. But the game was promoted for weeks as Ballot by Ballpark Day, and the fans did not do themselves proud. They booed continuously throughout the game, the noise reaching a crescendo when the Cubs scored nine runs in the last three innings to win 9-2.
"This is a miserable environment to play baseball in," said Jim Morrison, a Pirate infielder not known as a pop-off. "There were 31,000 people here today, and 26,000 were rooting for the Cubs, and 5,000 were cheering for us. My opinion is, it's time for the team to move on. I don't believe the people of Pittsburgh want baseball."
Nineteen seventy-nine seems so very long ago.
Braves shortstop Rafael Ramirez, who has averaged 34 errors the past four years—he would make the brilliant play and screw up the routine one—has only eight so far this season. "I had to grow up this year," he says. "No more baby." ... Expo Terry Francona and his G.M., Murray Cook, are feuding. Francona claims Cook reneged on a promise to trade him if he wasn't playing regularly. Francona isn't starting, but he's still an Expo. "I'm 26 and making $250,000," he says. "I couldn't ask for more money. I don't need a lot. If they gave me the at bats, I'd probably give the money back just to get to play." ... The Giants' Duane Kuiper, who has gone an amazing 1,997 at bats without a homer (he hit his only one eight years ago off Steve Stone), will probably never get a shot at making it 1,998. He was released by the Giants after a pinch infield single on Thursday.... Montreal catcher Sal Butera pitched a one-two-three eighth inning in the Expos' 11-2 loss to Pittsburgh Wednesday. Butera brought George Hendrick (groundout), Jason Thompson (flyout) and Tony Pena (groundout) to their knees.
BALL PARK FIGURES
The 1985 season has seen an unusual number of unusual injuries. Some of them were very painful, so don't laugh:
1. Henry Cotto (of, Yankees) punctured his eardrum May 26 when Ken Griffey bumped into him on the bench as he was cleaning his ear with a Q-tip.
2. Greg Minton (p, Giants) missed much of the spring because of a fingernail injured while shoeing a horse. He also hurt his back lifting a hay bale.
3. Randy Johnson (if, Braves) was sent to the minors after he sprained his left thumb removing a sanitary sock in spring training.
4. Ed Whitson (p, Yankees) hurt his back April 9 leaning over to pull on another dangerous sanitary sock.
5. Kevin Gross (p, Phillies) injured his back body-slamming the Padres' Tim Flannery in a bench-clearing brawl June 3. Two weeks later, he reinjured the back while playfully demonstrating his body-slamming technique on teammate Charles Hudson.
6. Gary Pettis (of, Angels) missed two starts in early June when he hurt his throwing arm adjusting the seat of his Toyota.
7. Tito Landrum (of, Cardinals) sprained an ankle playing golf. Actually, he stepped on a stick getting out of his car at a golf course.
8. Mark Bailey (c, Astros) missed six games (and interrupted a hot streak) with bruised back muscles suffered when he slipped getting out of the whirlpool.
9. Nolan Ryan (p, Astros) was bitten by a coyote pup on his ranch. The coyote was caught and tested for rabies. Negative, thank goodness.
10. Jay Johnstone (of, Dodgers) was on the DL from April 23 to June 20 after he strained his right hip tripping over a sprinkler head at Dodger Stadium.
Honorable mention to both Rich Gossage (p, Padres, back) and Ron Kittle (of, White Sox, neck), who hurt themselves sneezing.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
PEDRO GUERRERO: The Dodger outfielder hit three homers to set the NL record for home runs in June with 15. He tied the major league mark held by Babe Ruth, Robert Johnson and Roger Maris.
"Things are definitely getting better," says Yankee righty Ed Whitson, who was the target of vicious fan abuse before his pitching improved. "But I still check my mail for ticking."