In the second inning of this season's first game, Oriole centerfielder Mike Devereaux made a terrific running catch to spark a 2-0 victory over Cleveland. It has been a season of big plays and big hits for Devereaux, who is one reason why, through Sunday, the surging Orioles were only 1½ games behind Toronto.
At week's end Devereaux was hitting .286 with 22 homers, was fifth in the American League with 96 RBIs, tied for third in total bases, and ninth in slugging. With the bases loaded he's 11 for 19, with two homers and 32 RBIs. Since replacing the slumping Cal Ripken in the lumber 3 spot on Aug. 21, Devereaux has gone 23 for 59, with four homers and 14 RBIs. He has also had at east one RBI in each of his last eight games. And he's almost a lock to become the first Oriole outfielder in 12 years to drive in 100 runs (Ken Singleton did it in 1980).
"I said three years ago that le had a chance to be a consistent 20-home-run, 80-RBI guy," says Baltimore assistant general manager Frank Robinson. "He's strong."
And he's fast. Devereaux, 29, still holds the Wyoming state high school records in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter dashes, and in the high jump. Kelly Walsh High in Casper, Wyo., didn't have a baseball team—"because of the weather, I think" he says—but he played organized ball up to the American Legion level. After a standout career at Arizona State, he was drafted by the Dodgers in 1985, but he was a bit player, at best. In 1989 he was traded to Baltimore for pitcher Mike Morgan. "Unless someone had been hurt severely, I wouldn't have gotten a chance," Devereaux said of his Dodger experience. "I was lucky to get out before my ability started to deteriorate." The Dodgers, by the way, haven't had a 100-RBI man since Pedro Guerrero in 1983.
A Bad Sign
Outfielder Vince Coleman was supposed to revitalize the sagging Mets when they signed him to a four-year, $11.95 million free-agent contract on Dec. 5,1990. Instead he has become one of the worst free-agent signees in history.
Coleman's act has gotten very ugly. Ejected by umpire Gary Darling on Sept. 1 for arguing a check-swing call in the second inning, Coleman became enraged, poking his finger in Darling's chest. Met manager Jeff Torborg ran from the dugout and tried to protect Coleman, getting between him and Darling. When Torborg gently pushed Coleman toward the Mets' dugout, Coleman wheeled, berated his manager and whipped Torborg's hand away from him. The argument carried over into the clubhouse, and Torborg and Met general manager Al Harazin suspended Coleman two days for insubordination. According to club sources, Coleman said that if he was suspended, he might not play his hardest the rest of the year, but how could anyone tell? Coleman is appealing the suspension, which cost him about $32,000. "Anytime you lose money, it's undeserved," he says.
That was the worst in a series of unseemly incidents involving the 30-year-old Coleman. On July 26, 1991, he cussed Met coach Mike Cubbage and threw equipment when Cubbage twice asked him not to take batting practice until it was his turn. In spring training this year he drew Torborg's ire by not running out a ball that was booted. During a rehab assignment on May 24 in A ball, he was thrown out of a game for disputing called third strike. On Aug. 30 he was ejected by umpire Bruce Froemming in the first inning for arguing another third strike call. Sources say he played golf the following day—Torborg has prohibited golf on game days—before a doubleheader. The day after that, he lashed out at Darling and then Torborg.
Last Friday, Coleman met with Torborg in Cincinnati, before his first game since the suspension. "I'm ready to play," he said. "I can play for Jeff." In the very next game he hit a looper over third, started to run, stopped because he thought it might be foul, then finally started running when he realized it was clearly in fair territory. Nice hustle.
Coleman's bad attitude is only one of his problems. An outfielder with a weak arm, he is below average defensively. He is also a singles hitter with no power, and he had driven in 21.8% of runners from scoring position in his career before this season. Over the last 17 years, according to the 1992 Elias Baseball Analyst, no player with as many opportunities as Coleman had driven in a lower percentage of runs.
O.K., so Coleman is a leadoff hitter, and his job is to get on base and raise havoc with his speed, but due to hamstring injuries, he doesn't even run the bases much anymore. At week's end he had 18 steals in 27 attempts. In fact, he has been far more disruptive to his own team than he has been on the bases.
Unless the Reds make a stunning comeback and win the crown in the National League West—at week's end they were 6½ games out—major changes are expected at the end of the season. Sources on the club say owner Marge Schott might fire general manager Bob Quinn and perhaps even manager Lou Piniella, both of whose contracts expire after the season.
Schott more than doubled Piniella's salary—from $325,000 per year to $750,000—after the Reds won the 1990 World Series, but she is no longer enamored of him. A club source says Piniella is financially secure, and if he isn't happy with the way the team finishes, he might resign before he gets fired. Piniella is a native of Tampa, so it's only logical to guess that if the Giants play there in 1993, Piniella might want to manage that team.
Says Piniella, "Let the chips fall where they may."
The shake-up may not end with management. Pitcher Greg Swindell is expected to become a free agent after the season. Schott probably won't dole out big bucks for free agents if her $35 million payroll this year yields only a second-place finish. Reliever Rob Dibble has talked of moving to a team where he can be the number 1 closer instead of sharing that role, as he now does with Norm Charlton. The Reds might indeed go with one closer next year, but if one of them is traded, it could be Charlton.
The monster trade for A's outfielder Jose Canseco might have saved Tom Grieve's job as Ranger general manager and perhaps even gotten him a two-year extension. If he's back next year, that's a good sign for Ranger manager Toby Harrah and the coaching staff....
With the uncertain health of Dodger outfielders Eric Davis and Darryl Strawberry, it's not likely that L.A. will re-sign Davis when he becomes a free agent after this season....
A number of Padres were very upset that the team traded its coleader in wins, lefthander Craig Lefferts, to the Orioles for two minor leaguers. "I hated to see that happen," said infielder Tim Teufel. "You have to ask the question, How dedicated are we to winning? You can't read this trade any other way except that [management] feels it's over. You don't fill the stands except by winning, and you don't give away a 13-game winner at this point in the season." The Padres have had bad attendance and related financial troubles. They expect to lose between $7 million and $10 million this year.
SCOTT JORDAN LEVY
At the plate and in the field, Devereaux has been a smash hit.
[See caption above.]
Push came to shove for Coleman and Torborg.
Between The Lines
Flies by Night
A swarm of flying insects descended on Royals Stadium between the third and fourth innings of a game with Texas on Sept. 2. "It was amazing," said Ranger shortstop Jeff Huson. "After the game I pulled off my jersey, and I had an insect in my belly button. They were down my pants. But by the seventh or eighth inning the bugs were all gone." Like some fans, those insects probably had no interest in watching the conclusion of a meaningless late-season game.
The Phillies could become the first team ever to finish last and lead the league in runs scored. This could also be the first year in which both batting champions come from last-place teams: John Kruk from Philadelphia and Edgar Martinez from Seattle. Boston's Roger Clemens could also be the first American League Cy Young winner to play for a last-place team.
By the Numbers
•Cleveland shortstop Felix Fermin, who had walked six times in 127 at bats this season, drew four walks on Sept. 5 against Seattle.