SCHOTT IN THE DARK
When pitcher Ken Brett was a rising phenom, he had a sign hanging in his apartment that read: THE WORST CURSE IN LIFE IS UNLIMITED POTENTIAL. That piece of wisdom should be noted by the Cincinnati Reds, who at week's end were five games below .500 even though they have what many consider the best young players in the National League.
This has not been a good year for the Reds. Not only have they been hurt by injuries to outfielders Eric Davis and Tracy Jones, third basemen Chris Sabo and Buddy Bell, shortstop Barry Larkin and first baseman Nick Esasky, but also majority owner Marge Schott has lost patience with the team and has put everyone in the Reds organization—especially manager Pete Rose—on the hot seat. Asked recently if Rose would be back next year, Schott said that whether or not Pete returned "wouldn't mean a stitch."
Rose, whose 30-day suspension ended on June 1, is obviously feeling the pressure, On June 5 he blasted Larkin for not telling anyone that he had reinjured his finger against the Dodgers before he committed three errors, one of which cost the Reds the contest. "One thing I can't do is read minds," said Rose. "We aren't running a concentration camp here. We don't make people play when they can't."
Davis, who was hitting a disappointing .247 at week's end, found himself in trouble last week when The Cincinnati Enquirer printed a story in which an unnamed source claimed the centerfielder might be involved in drugs. The next day Davis vehemently denied the report and lashed out at the press. "When other players get off to bad starts, no one says anything," he told the Cincinnati Post. "But when something happens to a black player, it's because of drugs. Last year, I had 19 homers in May and I was the greatest thing since Swiss cheese. No one started any of this stuff then."
To help turn the Reds around, general manager Murray Cook last week traded lefthander Dennis Rasmussen (3-6 with a 4.96 ERA) to the San Diego Padres for reliever Candy Sierra. Cook has also been trying to deal Esasky to Seattle for outfielder Glenn Wilson and has even discussed with some teams trading Davis and outfielder Kal Daniels. At first the Rasmussen-Sierra deal seemed puzzling, because Rasmussen has a 46-31 lifetime record and Sierra is 0-1 with a 6.29 ERA and no saves in 16 appearances. But according to one scout, Rasmussen, who has been traded five times in the last six years, "simply doesn't throw hard anymore. He's a six-inning pitcher [Rasmussen has only gone past six innings twice in 12 starts], and he's behind hitters so often that he keeps his manager at the top step of the dugout."
Schott has been reluctant to make trades since shortstop Kurt Stillwell, whom she called "my little sweetheart," and pitcher Ted Power were dealt to Kansas City last November. But she has come up with her own way of dealing with the Reds' problems. On June 3, Schott, who is known as a penny-pincher, had a speaker phone temporarily installed in the visitors' clubhouse at Dodger Stadium so that she could call from Cincinnati to give her team, which had lost five straight, a pep talk before a game with Los Angeles. "She'll probably call collect," said Rose beforehand, "but I will accept the charges." When the call finally came through, a bad connection made it hard for the players to hear what Schott had to say. "The call was short," quipped pitcher John Franco. "She had to pay for it."
That night the Reds lost 13-5 and gave up 22 hits.
AND IN A RELATED DEVELOPMENT...
Screenwriter David Ward (The Sting and The Milagro Beanfield War) has written a script about the Cleveland Indians. The plot? A woman inherits the team, a loser with potential, from her late husband and unites the players by inducing them to hate her. Sound familiar?
TROUBLE IN L.A.
Los Angeles was still in first place in the National League West at week's end, but things are far from perfect in Dodger Heaven. Third baseman Pedro Guerrero's arthritic condition, which put him into traction last week, could sideline him for a month; pitcher Jesse Orosco has been bothered by calcium deposits in his elbow; and shortstop Alfredo Griffin has a broken hand. On June 7, first baseman Mike Marshall's agent called general manager Fred Claire and insisted that Marshall be moved to rightfield to protect his chronically troubled back. So, two hours before a game with the Houston Astros, Dodger manager Tom Lasorda had to put outfielder Danny Heep at first. Heep, who had played first in only 95 games over a nine-year career, had trouble with several grounders and made one costly error that led to a 5-2 defeat for the Dodgers.
But no matter how well the Dodgers perform, it's likely that Lasorda will be looking for another team to manage when his contract runs out at the end of the season. Two possibilities are the Padres and the California Angels, and if Boston doesn't replace manager John McNamara before the end of the season, we could see Lasorda in a Red Sox uniform next year.
Former Chicago Cubs general manager Dallas Green may be out of baseball, but he still has a lot to say. Here are some examples:
•On the young talent of the Cubs: "It has become obvious we knew what we were doing, and if we were let alone a little longer, this [the emergence of stars such as Rafael Palmeiro and Mark Grace] would have happened [for us].... The organization is not in as good shape right now as when I left it."
•On successor Jim Frey's trades: "My wife Sylvia could have traded [pitcher] Lee Smith. The thing that had to be done in winter was to trade [first baseman Leon] Durham. That would have freed [first baseman] Grace to play right away."
•On former Cub Dennis Eckersley's success as a closer for the Oakland Athletics: "I begged our manager [Frey] and field people to put Eckersley in the bullpen. They couldn't see it, and I had to trade him."
•On Philadelphia Phillies owner Bill Giles's promise not to hire Green to replace recently fired general manager Woody Woodward: "Giles has spent the last seven years trying to rid the organization of all the Dallas Green-type people who love the game and work hard."
UP ON DOWNS
According to a poll of scouts and managers, the National League pitchers with the best split-fingered fastballs are Houston's Mike Scott, San Francisco's Kelly Downs, Los Angeles's Tim Leary, New York's Ron Darling (although he uses it as a changeup) and Pittsburgh's Jeff Robinson. "Downs may be the best pitcher in the league for six innings," says one scout. Six times this season the hard-luck Giants' righthander has gone into the fourth inning with a no-hitter, but his record at week's end was 4-6.
THE LAST WORD
When Seattle Mariners manager Dick Williams was fired June 6, nobody was surprised that he had a few words to say about pitcher Mark Langston, who had blasted Williams in the press the day before. "The only thing I don't like," said Williams, "is that our so-called ace pitcher, who doesn't have a gut in his body, probably will be credited with making this happen. A lot of things about that young man leave a lot to be desired. Langston took himself out of games. He didn't have the guts to finish them. He's a self-centered individual, and if he's the ace of the staff, then they're in trouble."
On Saturday New York Yankees manager Billy Martin made pitcher Rick Rhoden his designated hitter, batting seventh ahead of Rafael Santana and Joel Skinner. Martin wanted to use righthanded batters against Baltimore Orioles lefthander Jeff Ballard, and because Rickey Henderson, Don Mattingly and Willie Randolph were sidelined, the only every-day player available was catcher Bob Geren, who doesn't have a major league hit. It was the first time a pitcher ever started a game as DH and the first time Rhoden had batted since Sept. 30, 1986. He responded by hitting a game-tying sacrifice fly in his second plate appearance as New York won 8-6. Yankee batters shouldn't be insulted, though. Rhoden's .239 lifetime average is higher than that of teammates Skinner, Geren, Mike Pagliarulo, Bobby Meacham and Jay Buhner.
Montreal Expos first baseman Andres Galarraga has risen to the top of the National League in hitting (.335 average) and homers (16), and Toronto's top scout Al LaMacchia predicts he "will be one of the three most dominant players in the game in a year or so. He's not just a big, strong hitter; he's the best defensive first baseman in the game. Guys like Don Mattingly and Keith Hernandez are very, very good, but Galarraga is in a class by himself."...
White Sox general manager Larry Himes is still riding out the storm for trading his three top starting pitchers after last season: Floyd Bannister, Richard Dotson and Jose DeLeon. From those deals he now has one starter, Melido Perez, who was 5-2 at week's end, and one outfielder. Dan Pasqua, who was hitting .231 with five homers and a strikeout every 3.8 at bats. "Pasqua's a one-speed hitter, and it's a slider, at that," says one general manager....
Times are so hard for Angels manager Cookie Rojas that when the team signed journeyman Thad Bosley to a Triple A contract, Rojas called it "the best news I've heard in two months."
BETWEEN THE LINES
THE POWER OF THE PRESS
On June 5 official scorer Charles Scoggins of The Lowell Sun awarded Toronto reliever Duane Ward the victory in a 12-4 romp over Boston, invoking scoring rule 10.19(c), which says the scorer may give a win to the relief pitcher he or she judges to be the most effective. The next day Scoggins received a call at home from Greg Clifton, the agent for Toronto reliever David Wells, who had pitched 2⅖ innings, giving up three hits, walking one and striking out two. (He was followed by Ward who pitched for two scoreless innings, allowing only one hit and a walk.) Clifton questioned Scoggins's decision, pointing out that the Red Sox had received a number of phone calls complaining about it. What he failed to point out was that most of the half dozen or so calls the Sox received were from Rotisserie League owners who had Wells on their teams.
RUMORS OF THEIR DEATH
When the last-place California Angels checked into the Sheraton Centre Park Hotel in Arlington, Texas, on June 6 for a series with the Rangers, they discovered that they would be sharing the hotel with a convention of Texas funeral directors.
WELCOME TO THE SMALL TIME
Kansas City catcher Scotti Madison was sent down to the Triple A Omaha Royals on June 3, and in his first game three days later he was struck in the face by a pitch and knocked unconscious. When Madison came to, trainer Nick Swartz asked him if he knew where he was. "I know I'm not in the major leagues," replied Madison.
NEXT TIME, DON'T ASK
Eight days after Padres president Chub Feeney fired manager Larry Bowa, The San Diego Union ran 23 letters from fans supporting Bowa and one letter backing Feeney. When Feeney complained to the newspaper about the inequity, he was informed that the Union had received only one letter in his defense.
MOVE OVER, MICKEY
On June 3, Oakland's Jose Canseco hit a 456-foot home run against the Twins in the Metrodome, one of the longest ever in that stadium. Then, six days later in a game with the Rangers, he set a park record, blasting a 457-foot shot in Arlington Stadium.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
Pirates third base coach Gene Lamont, explaining why he wouldn't apply for the vacant Seattle managing job: "I never heard of anybody getting a job they applied for."
THE BIG SWITCHEROO
The Astros are so frustrated by switch-hitter Kevin Bass's lack of lefthanded production that if they can't trade him, they may have him bat righty only. Houston nearly had Bass on the way to Montreal for the disgruntled Hubie Brooks, but the Expos backed off when Bass went 1 for 10 in a three-game series in San Francisco.
•When golfer Morris Hatalsky won the Kemper Open on June 5, his caddy was former infielder Tim Foli.
•At week's end, both Pittsburgh second baseman Jose Lind and Baltimore shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. had played every inning of every game this season.
•Montreal's Bryn Smith, who was 4-4 through Sunday, has walked only eight batters all season.
•Since May 15, lefthanded hitters have been 0 for 16 against Detroit's Guillermo Hernandez.
•The Yankees were 16-12 through Sunday in games started by Don Slaught at catcher and 22-9 with Joel Skinner behind the plate. In Slaught's starts, the pitchers have a 4.11 ERA; in Skinner's, a 2.72 ERA.
•Since 1984 the Rangers' Charlie Hough has started 12 games against the Angels, completing eight of them, with a 1.31 ERA. His record against them is 4-6.