Detroit's dismal season was summed up in one bungled play in a game against the Angels on June 16. With two outs in the top of the ninth, Keith Moreland, playing third base instead of first, made a wild throw on a grounder by the Angels' Lance Parrish, which allowed base runner Chili Davis to race for home. There Davis crashed into catcher Matt Nokes, who injured his left knee and will be out for four to six weeks.
At one time or another this season, the Tigers, who were in last place in the American League East on Sunday with a 25-41 record, have lost several other veterans to injuries: ace Jack Morris (chip fracture of the right elbow); shortstop Alan Trammell (back spasms); righthander Jeff Robinson (tender elbow and sore left side); reliever Mike Henneman (pulled groin); and outfielder Fred Lynn (rib injury). On top of that, the Detroit farm system has run dry, and one of the best minor league prospects, outfielder Rob Richie, had surgery on his right shoulder this spring. "We just have to ride this thing out," says manager Sparky Anderson, who recently missed three weeks himself because of exhaustion.
But what's worse for the Tigers is that with the exception of Trammell and outfielder Chet Lemon, all their key players' contracts run out at the end of the season. Possible free agents include Detroit's two best starters, 35-year-old Frank Tanana (6-6, 3.48 ERA through Sunday) and 38-year-old Doyle Alexander (4-7, 3.40 ERA), second baseman Lou Whitaker (.274. 15 homers) and reliever Guillermo Hernandez (12 saves, 5.48 ERA). Trading any one of those veterans, especially Tanana or Alexander, could bring the Tigers new blood, but G.M. Bill Lajoie insists he isn't looking for youngsters with whom to rebuild the team.
So the Tigers have a tough question to answer: How competitive do they want to be in 1990? If they want to make a run for the division title, they will have to re-sign most of their veterans. But that strategy could cost them a lot of money and leave them with a team that could still finish in the cellar.
GAME OF THE NAME
Bob Sheppard, who broke in as the Yankees' P.A. announcer in 1951, likes to take credit for teaching New Yorkers how to pronounce Joe DiMaggio's last name. Whenever the Yankee Clipper stepped up to the plate in the Stadium, Sheppard used to intone "DiMa-a-a-ggio," stretching out the "ah" for what seemed like several seconds. Mets announcer Rusty Staub says that Sheppard, a longtime speech professor at St. John's University, has "the tones of dignity," and Red Sox broadcaster Jerry Remy adds, "You know you're in the big leagues when Bob Sheppard announces your name."
Newsday baseball writer Marty Noble recently asked Sheppard to select an all-euphonic team, made up of players whose names he had most enjoyed announcing. Here is the team he picked:
1B Harmon Killebrew
2B Julio Franco
3B Mike Pagliarulo
SS Jose Valdivielso
RF Mickey Mantle
CF Joe DiMaggio
LF Minnie Minoso
C Roy Campanella
P Cecilio Guante
P Luis Arroyo
P Salome Barojas
Barojas is Sheppard's favorite moniker, followed closely by Valdivielso and the current Yankee shortstop's name, Alvaro Espinoza. "To be euphonic, a name should have a minimum of harsh sounds," says Sheppard. "Names such as Steve Sax and Mickey Klutts are not euphonic. Why, even the name Bob Sheppard is not euphonic."
Most of Sheppard's favorite names are Hispanic, and to celebrate them, he wrote this paean. "Poetic Tribute to Spanish Names":
There are certain names that go over well,
Like Pena, Ramos, Carrasquel,
With liquid sounds so panoramic.
And, strangely, they all are Hispanic.
Aurelio, Hipolito, Cecilio, Domingo
Have a lovelier sound than American lingo.
What native name could I ever tell so
Musically, as Valdivielso?
And no native name could ever show us
The splendor of Salome Barojas.
On Sunday, when Phillie general manager Lee Thomas traded reliever Steve Bedrosian to San Francisco and outfielder Juan Samuel to the Mets, he dramatically affected both National League division races and continued the razing of the underachieving team he inherited last September.
For their part, the Giants got the closer they so desperately needed. At week's end their staff had walked in the winning run six times and lost another game on a wild pitch. To get Bedrosian, a Cy Young Award winner in 1987, San Francisco gave Philadelphia two promising young lefthanders, Dennis Cook and Terry Mulholland, but they I shouldn't be a big loss, because the Giants' organization is loaded with lefties.
The Mets had been looking for an impact player since '88. "When you look at our lineup, you'd think we'd score better," says Mets vice-president Joe McIlvaine. "But except for April and September of last year, we haven't." In recent weeks McIlvaine had tried unsuccessfully to land Cleveland outfielder Joe Carter and Boston outfielder Ellis Burks.
Samuel, a dynamic player, has averaged 18 homers, 34 doubles, 14 triples and 47 steals a year since 1984. Sure, he strikes out a lot, but he plays with a passion that could help revive the Mets' moribund offense. The Mets' price for Samuel was reliever Roger McDowell and outfielder Lenny Dykstra.
In his brief tenure with the Phillies, Thomas has made six other major trades, unloading outfielders Chris James, Milt Thompson and Phil Bradley, pitchers Shane Rawley and Kevin Gross and catcher Lance Parrish. In return, Thomas has received second baseman Tom Herr, first baseman-outfielder John Kruk, catcher Steve Lake and young pitchers Ken Howell, Jeff Parrett, Floyd Youmans and Dave Holdridge.
Does this mean that the Phillies of the '90s will be any better than the Phillies Thomas inherited? Not necessarily. If first baseman Ricky Jordan and outfielder Ron Jones develop into frontline hitters and if Holdridge and the other minor league pitching prospects pan out, the club can only improve. However, Samuel and Bedrosian were the Phillies' toughest competitors, and the team still needs a shortstop. Years from now, Thomas may regret having given up such valuable assets for what could amount to a song.
Everyone knows that the All-Star balloting process is flawed. But how could the fans snub Texas's Ruben Sierra while making Oakland's Jose Canseco, who hasn't played this year, the third highest vote-getter among outfielders in the American League? At week's end Sierra was leading the league in hits (90) and was among the leaders in RBIs (57), doubles (20), triples (7) and runs (46). Yet according to last week's All-Star vote tally, the fans don't even think he's one of the league's top 16 outfielders. Says one scout of Sierra, "He's the best player in the league right now, a nose ahead of Bo Jackson and Devon White."...
The Expos are so worried they won't be able to sign newly acquired lefthander Mark Langston at the end of the season that they threatened to file tampering charges against St. Louis manager Whitey Herzog for telling reporters, "If Langston pitched in Busch Stadium, he might never lose....
It's a crying shame he doesn't pitch here." The Expos were even more upset with Red Sox general manager Lou Gorman, who told Steve Fainaru of The Boston Globe that if Langston becomes a free agent. Boston will enter the bidding war for him....
Are you confused by baseball's announcement last week that it was going to delay revealing any expansion plans until after a new basic agreement is reached with the Players Association? Well, keep in mind that the owners are under pressure from Congress to expand as soon as possible, but they would like to use the expansion issue as a bargaining chip in this year's negotiations. The owners are hoping to get the union to agree to revisions in the current arbitration system by offering to add two teams in the National League, thereby creating 48 new big league jobs.
FOCUS ON SPORTS
Will Alexander and other key Tiger veterans become free agents?
RONALD C. MODRA
The Most Euphonic Name
Sheppard has "tones of dignity."
The Least Euphonic Name
¬¨¬®¬¨¬©THE TOPPS COMPANY, INC.
Happy 46th to a big-deal Yank.
BETWEEN THE LINES
STRIKE THREE, DUMMY
Early this season, the Class A Bakersfield Dodgers removed righthander Bill Bene, the No. 5 pick overall in last year's draft, from their starting rotation. It was not because Bene was injured, but because he had walked 29 batters in 13‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√±‚àö¬® innings, and the coaching staff thought he needed to pitch some simulated games. After Bene hit the leadoff batter in his first simulated game, the Dodgers decided to take another tack: They bought a plastic mannequin, dressed it in a Dodger uniform and set it up in the bullpen for Bene to pitch to. Bene took to the idea—drawing a mustache on the doll and dubbing it Harold—and he started getting the ball over the plate. Last week the Dodgers shipped Bene to their Class A Salem (Ore.) club with a go-ahead to resume pitching to the real thing.
IN OVER HIS HEAD
During a 5-3 loss to the Pirates on June 15, the Phillies' ambidextrous reliever Greg Harris came into the game wearing his special glove, which is designed to be worn on either hand. "What's that?" asked Pirate base runner Andy Van Slyke, who was on third.
"He's amphibious." replied Phillie third baseman Randy Ready.
"Does that mean he can pitch underwater?" asked Van Slyke.
WRONG YEAR, JOHN
Boston pitcher John Dopson balked four times on June 13, giving him more balks (11) than any pitching staff in the American League. The Red Sox must have taught him some new tricks, because in 1988, the Year of the Balk, he had only one balk in 168⅖ innings for the Expos, the team that led the National League in balks.
THE PRICE OF STARDOM
In March you could get the rookie card of San Francisco slugger Kevin Mitchell (page 36) for 25*2. Now the price has climbed to $6.
Just after Reds general manager Murray Cook called rookie pitcher Scott Scudder to his Los Angeles hotel room on June 12 and told him he was being sent to the minors, an earthquake rattled the hotel. "Does it always shake like this when you send somebody out?" asked Scudder.
•Has second baseman Willie Randolph helped the Dodgers? At week's end they had turned 68 double plays, the second-highest total in the league (the Giants are first with 73). Last year L.A. was 11th in that category.
•Kansas City catcher Bob Boone is 7 for 18 against his previous team, the Angels.
•Baltimore's Jeff Ballard was 9-2 at week's end, but he had 23 walks and only 20 strikeouts.
•Phillie outfielder and first baseman Von Hayes is the first player to sign a $2 million-a-year contract who has never made the All-Star team.
WAITING FOR THE HOOK
This season the Yankee bullpen has outperformed the club's starters—as measured in ERA—by a greater margin than any other relief corps in the American League. So you would expect manager Dallas Green to call on his bullpen as often as possible. But that hasn't been the case. Indeed. New York leads the league in slow hooks—statistician Bill James's term for games in which the starters stay in for more than nine innings, or give up seven or more runs, or have a combined total of at least 13 runs and innings pitched. Perhaps Green should take a lesson from the Athletics, whose relievers have outshone the club's starters by the second-greatest ERA differential. Though the A s have one of the best rotations in baseball, they lead the league in quick hooks—games in which the starters were lifted before pitching six innings and giving up four runs.