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A September to see

With that nonsense behind us, there's baseball to be played

Posted: Monday September 02, 2002 11:51 AM
Updated: Monday September 02, 2002 6:04 PM


  Storylines
  By the Numbers
  Heroes and Bums
  Rookie Spotlight
  Yogi-isms
  Mad About Vlad
  Series to See
  Peanut Gallery
By John Donovan, CNNSI.com

If there's never another mention of collective bargaining or revenue sharing or luxury tax in your friendly neighborhood WAAG, we'd all be happy, wouldn't we?

If no one had to be subjected to a bunch of blather about tax thresholds or competitive imbalance, it would be a good thing, wouldn't it?

This week, the WAAG gets back to the game at hand: Baseball. Not baseball labor. Not the players' union. Not the owners. Please, not the owners.

This week, now that we have peace in our time, we're back to the game on the field. Hitters and pitchers and streaks -- woo hoo, streaks! -- and what could be a corker of a September.

Check it out. We here at the WAAG are cautiously optimistic about this month:

The Wild Cards: Say what you will, purists, but the wild card is making things interesting. The Dodgers are barely hanging on to the thing in the National League. The streaking Giants are hot on their trail. The real wild-card race will be in the American League, where Boston, Anaheim and Seattle all have a chance. Put Oakland in the mix, too, if the A's ever hit a cold spot.

Barry Bonds: He's on his way to another amazing season. At week's start, his on-base percentage is .577, which is 24 points better than the major-league record held by Ted Williams (.553 in 1941). And do you think Bonds will get a few walks this month, playing a schedule heavy with playoff contenders? He was walked 11 times last week alone. On the year, he leads baseball with a .370 average, he's knocked 40 homers and has 88 RBIs. And he's been walked 159 times -- 47 more than the next guy on the list.

John Smoltz: The former Atlanta starter is on the verge of having the best season a closer has ever had. At week's start, he has 49 saves, eight shy of the single-season record set by Bobby Thigpen of the Chicago White Sox in 1990. After an early week series against Pittsburgh, the rest of the Braves' season is against the NL East. Atlanta is 34-19 against the East.

Curt Schilling: The Arizona righty is 21-5 with a 2.77 ERA, enough to put the Cy Young Award in sight. He's given up only 27 walks all season. He has struck out more than 10 times that many (275). He leads baseball in innings pitched, he's second to teammate Randy Johnson in strikeouts and he's playing for the World Series champs on their way to the playoffs, again. Worth watching. Every time.

Alex Rodriguez: A-Rod leads baseball in homers (48) and RBIs (119) and he's sixth in hitting (.316) in the AL. Baseball's Triple Crown is a pipe dream, but the MVP may not be, even if he plays for a last-place team. Joe Torre thinks A-Rod's the MVP. Joe Torre's never wrong, is he?

The Oakland A's: The hottest team in baseball -- the hottest team over 18 games in the last 49 years -- has an MVP candidate of its own in Miguel Tejada, the All-Star shortstop. Tejada, after a dramatic homer Sunday stretched the A's win streak to 18, is hitting .310 with 30 homers and 115 RBIs. The A's, with that pitching, are the best team in baseball right now.

The awards: The AL MVP (Tejada, A-Rod, Alfonso Soriano, Jason Giambi,), the AL Cy Young (Pedro Martinez, Derek Lowe, Barry Zito), the NL MVP (Bonds, Lance Berkman, Albert Pujols, Vlad Guerrero), the NL Cy Young (Schilling, Johnson) nothing's decided yet.

Eighteen straight
Once every half-century or so. That's how often a streak like the A's has comes along. There are all sorts of amazing numbers that go along with it. The A's are outscoring their opponents by more than four runs a game during the streak. The pitching staff has a 2.33 ERA. Opponents are hitting just .201 against them. Oakland was four games behind in the AL West standings when the streak started. Now the A's are four games up. Next up: K.C.
When when will it all end?
Baltimore surprised everyone this season by hanging around .500. Against Toronto on Aug. 23, the O's finally clawed back to .500, at 63-63. They've lost nine in a row since. The Rockies are on a nine-game skid, too, though they weren't close to .500 when their streak started. And then there's the Mets, who have lost 14 straight at Shea Stadium. There's still a month to go, gentlemen.
Giants make their move
They blew a ninth-inning lead over the Diamondbacks on Sunday, but the Giants are starting to make noise. They won seven straight to end August. They were 18-10 last month. They are only two games behind L.A. for the wild card. Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent are on fire. And they still have seven games against the Dodgers and four against NL West-leading Arizona this month. It could happen.

  6   Errors committed by Alex Rodriguez, the Texas shortstop, this season. Between errors No. 5 (June 27) and No. 6 (Aug. 28), he hit 24 homers and drove in 53 runs.
  30   RBIs in August for the Blue Jays' Josh Phelps, the most by a rookie since Garret Anderson drove in 31 in July 1995.
  107   Runs scored this season by the Yankees' Derek Jeter. He is the third player to score at least 100 runs in each of his first seven seasons. Earle Combs and Ted Williams were the others.

More in By the Numbers

Hero: Ivan Rodriguez, Rangers
He may not be back in Texas next season, but last week shows he still has some left: A .462 average (12 for 26), four homers, nine RBIs and eight runs scored.
Bum: Brent Butler, Rockies
Weeks like this are better forgotten. If only you could. Colorado's Butler managed only a single in 20 at-bats (.050) during a lost week for the Rocks.
Hero: Barry Bonds, Giants
A three-homer game in Coors helped him to five homers on a week in which he hit .571 (12 for 21), drove in 10 runs, scored nine times, walked 11 times and did not strike out. Can those numbers be right?
Bum: Edgar Martinez, Mariners
This is not what a manager wants out of a designated hitter: No hits. Martinez was hitless in 13 at-bats last week as the Mariners struggled for their stroke.

Josh Phelps, DH, Blue Jays
His 30 RBIs last month were the most by a rookie in more than seven years. Last week helped. He drove in 12 of those runs last week, hitting .385 (10 for 26) with a pair of home runs. On the season, Phelps is hitting .302 with nine homers and 42 RBIs in just 54 games.

      Our tribute to the banter of baseball
 
"All streaks come to an end, and this is one that was overdue to come to an end."

-- Players union head Don Fehr in announcing that the players and owners had come to a collective bargaining agreement without a work stoppage for the first time ever.

Our man Vladimir Guerrero and his Montreal teammates were spared contraction with the new labor agreement, but Vlad had a definitely un-Vlad-like week. He had only five hits in 22 at-bats (.227), and none of them were home runs. Still, he's hitting .333 with 35 homers and 92 RBIs for the Expos, who could be coming soon to a town near you -- especially if you live in, say, the Washington D.C. area.

 vs. 
Monday-Wednesday, Bank One Ballpark, Phoenix
The final three games of this season series should be every bit as good as the first 16. The Diamondbacks and Dodgers, 1-2 in the National League West, are 8-8 against each other this season. When it gets right down to it, these three games probably won't make a huge difference in the NL West race (though they could). But they are hugely important for L.A., the NL wild-card leader. The Dodgers, luckily for them, won't have to face Curt Schilling in this series. He's 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA against the Dodgers this year. The Dodgers will get Randy Johnson on Wednesday. The Diamondbacks have been struggling, losing four of their last five games, finally snapping a season-high four-game losing streak on Sunday night with a ninth-inning comeback against the San Francisco Giants. The Dodgers, terrible right after the All-Star break, were 18-10 in August. A guy to watch: The Dodgers' Shawn Green has five homers and 12 RBIs against Arizona this season.
 

Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling. Curt Schilling, Randy Johnson. CNNSI.com users have their ideas.

But before we get to that, let's lay this week's Peanut Gallery question on you: What's been the most impressive thing you've seen so far this season? The A's? Barry Bonds? Manny Ramirez? Curt Schilling? Shawn Green? The Mets' fold? The Twins? Atlanta's resurgence?

Click here to give us your opinion. And don't forget to include your name and hometown.

On to your thoughts on Schilling, Johnson and the National League Cy Young

Well, this could be decided by either a coin flip or a sausage race ... both are deserving. But I would have to pick Curt Schilling for the Cy Young in the NL because of one thing. Against L.A. a while back, Randy Johnson vs. Hideo Nomo, R.J. gave up a double to Nomo. A double to Nomo?? Forget about it.
-- Brian Watts, Long Beach, Calif.

Randy Johnson or Curt Schilling hmmm ... I would have to give the nod to Randy Johnson. It may just be me but it seems like Schilling gets bailed out of a lot of 3-2 games (two or three I can think of since the Braves and D'Backs went at it). Aren't there more righties batting than lefties? So you would think a right handed pitcher would have a slight edge pitching against heavy right-handed batting (as if Schilling needs an edge). I'll give the nod to Johnson for that and he is simply much more intimidating to me (on TV, anyway).
-- Karl White, Phoenix

Hmmm ... let's see ... the two best pitchers in the league are on the same team. They're practically mirror images of each other in the way they pitch ... and the lefty has how many Cy Youngs? Give it to the righty ... in my mind Curt Schilling deserves it, if only because he's having at least as good a season as Johnson and has been overlooked before.
-- Mark Marshall, Ogallala, Neb.

Well, it's about time Curt had his day. Don't get me wrong -- I'm a die-hard D'backs fan, born and raised in Phoenix, so either choice is fine by me. But I think Curt deserves the recognition for a superb season. Granted, they've both had their share of amazing, record-setting style outings this season -- and they've also each had their share of "dog-day" afternoons, but Randy has had it four times (third consecutive time last season) and I don't think No. 5 will really mean that much to the Big Unit -- not compared to how much No. 1 will mean to the Big Chill. Curt has been right there with Randy in stats, from last year's world championship season through to the present. It's really is a tough call. Glad I don't have to make it. But I think it's finally time to honor the best right-hander in the NL (maybe in the game).
-- David D. Miller, Salt Lake City, Utah

Who would I rather have on my team? Randy Johnson, because lefty power pitchers are more rare. More impressive? Curt Schilling, because he is in a much larger field of pitchers. Not by much, but more nonetheless.
-- Michael Hayes, New York

Schill is by far the scariest pitcher in all of baseball. He has proven time and again that he can dominate just about any batter on any day.
-- Christee, St. Louis

Curt gets my vote. The man is a horse and is old-school consistent.
-- Bruce Hanby, Runnemede, N.J.

This is a no brainer!! You have to pick Randy Schilling, or was that Curt Johnson. What's the difference? Quibbling over who should get the Cy Young makes about as much sense as wondering whether you'd want to be marooned on a tropical island with Salma Hayek or Viveca Fox. Pick them both.
-- Bud Blancaster, Madison, Ala.

This is the classic question asked about Cobb v. Ruth or Aaron v. Mays in my fomative years. Please don't ask for any ID. There is no right answer. You pick both if you could, but you won't go wrong, barring injury, picking one or the other.
-- Jim Galler, Stokesdale, N.C.

Living near Seattle I am a major Mariners fan and, while he played for us, I enjoyed the wins that the Big Unit brought to our team. Now, however, he has relocated and I have "seen the light." Although he is an incredible pitcher (and a lefty at that) I would still have to go with Curt Schilling simply because he appears to me to be a much more refined, dominating pitcher, instead of mostly overpowering.
-- RJ, Vashon Island, Wash.

Sheer impressiveness, it's gotta be R.J. The guy is an imposing, dominating, 6-foot-10 lefty standing out there on the mound. He throws a Mr. Snappy that just falls off the table. Most impressive of all is that he throws gas that occasionally reaches triple digits and sets the slider up. It seems that it just isn't fair to the batters to have that kind of filthy stuff! A close second would be Schilling. For pinpoint control and power, Schilling is better than even Martinez this year. The guy has more wins than walks (and it's the end of August)!! And he's giving R.J. a run for the money on total K's. I understand something like this doesn't come around often, and it's a true joy to get to watch these two go to work on opposing hitters.
-- Jimbo Jones, Mesa, Ariz.

This is the easiest question posed. Ask Bob Brenly who he would start in Game 1 of the World Series. This would be the guy who would also start Game 4 and Game 7. Either that or flip a coin. This is truly a case of there being no wrong answers when you have narrowed it down to these two.
-- Jeff Sass, Lincoln, Neb.

With stats like these guys have, I say "Make the Cy a tie."
-- David Jourdan, Austin, Texas

My vote goes to Randy Johnson. He deals an attitude that says: Hit me if you can, and don't show me up or the next one will be off your helmet. He's baseball's best enforcer! His ERA and strikeouts speak volumes; he edges Curt by a whisker. The fact that I'm left-handed has nothing to do with my selection!
-- Bob Freeman, Riverside, Calif.

Schilling! And it's not because I am an old Phillies fan (changed allegiance while living in Colorado in the early '90s). In a game dominated by numbers we sometimes forget how an individual can affect a team's attitude. I will give you that for parts of his career Johnson has done that, but not always. Schilling has, as a Phillie and now as a Diamondback, and this year more than ever (excluding last year's playoffs). When he takes the mound the guys behind him KNOW they are going to win, and this year he has truly added pitching dominance to the mix. I will admit that based on talent Johnson wins by a hair, but this year Schilling has been the heart of the Diamondbacks. He not only leads on the field but in the clubhouse and with the media, maybe the best option is to give Johnson the Cy Young and Schilling the MVP.
-- Allen, Kenosha, Wis.

 
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