When Ryne Sandberg (left) was inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday (along with Wade Boggs), it marked the start of a new golden age for second basemen in Cooperstown. Sandberg's entry opens the door for Roberto Alomar, Jeff Kent and Craig Biggio, all of whom have more prolific credentials than Sandberg and reflect the offensive emphasis at the position in the past 20 years.
Before the recent run of Hall-quality second basemen, only seven players who played most of their games at second had been elected by the writers to the Hall, including just one, Joe Morgan, in the 43 years before Sandberg. Four of those seven were active in 1926 (Eddie Collins, Rogers Hornsby, Frankie Frisch and Charlie Gehringer), just as new golden agers Sandberg, Alomar, Biggio and Kent were in 1993.
AS HOT AS THE WEATHER
Tigers first baseman--designated hitter Chris Shelton (below), 25, swiped from the Pirates in the 2003 Rule V draft, may not look like a slugger (6 feet, 215 pounds) or be much of a defensive player, but he can flat-out mash. Recalled from Triple A on May 31, Shelton batted .350 in July with 42 hits, including nine doubles and five homers. "Shelton reminds me of Edgar Martinez," Detroit reliever Jamie Walker said. "His [patience at the plate] is just phenomenal, a mixture of Martinez and Wade Boggs."
DECLINE OF THE DH
A new low in the 32-year history of the DH: When the A's (Dan Johnson) and the Indians (Jason Dubois) batted their DHs ninth on July 25, it marked the first time DHs hit at the bottom of the lineup in the same game. Only Boston (David Ortiz), Cleveland (Travis Hafner, right) and Seattle (Raul Iba√±ez) employ prototypical DHs regularly. Measured by batting average, eight of the 14 AL teams were getting below-league-average production from the DH spot.
•After correcting a flaw in the set position that had him tipping his pitches (his glove would open wider as he gripped his slider), Yankees lefthander Randy Johnson went 4-0 with 48 strikeouts in 40 2/3 innings between July 5 and a no-decision in Sunday's 8-7 win over the Angels. "Guys would be taking my slider, and I'd wonder, How does he take that pitch unless he knows it's coming?" says the Big Unit.
•How foolish was the seven-year, $105 million contract the Dodgers gave 33-year-old righthander Kevin Brown in 1998? In seven seasons since signing the deal, Brown has returned an average season of 10 wins and 154 innings--less production than journeyman Aaron Sele (11 wins, 166 innings) had over that span. Brown (4-7) was put on the disabled list with a bad back for the third time this season on July 28.
•The increasing incidence of bats breaking with pieces flying toward players has become a major safety concern of Major League Baseball, which is studying why it is happening and what might be done about it. The popular thin-handled, heavy-barreled maple bats tend to break apart rather than crack.
RAY STUBBLEBINE/REUTERS (SANDBERG)
KEVIN JOHNSTON/US PRESSWIRE (SHELTON)
KIRBY LEE/WIREIMAGE.COM (HAFNER)