Negative reinforcement is not the only problem. Examine video of Grieve '98 (.288, 18 home runs, 89 RBIs) and Grieve '99 (three homers, nine RBIs), and there's one very notable difference. Last season the lefthanded-hitting Grieve had a flow to his swing: As he strode forward with his front leg, his hands would bring the bat back and up. Now his bat comes back straight. As a result, with his timing out of whack, he's been way ahead of pitches. "I've been watching a lot of tape, trying to see what worked then, what isn't working now," Grieve says. "There are little things, not that easy to figure out. I'm pretty much the same as I was—but not 100 percent."
Grieve has handled the slump well. He has been taking extra batting practice before most games. He has met regularly with Hudgens. He has yet to throw a helmet. The A's, 16-17 and two games out of first in the American League West through Sunday, have been a surprise even with Grieve's limited production. "The guy can go 0 for 5 or 5 for 5, and he's exactly the same," says Giambi. "He's not the type to let his troubles bring down the team."
Oakland manager Art Howe, an excellent contact hitter during his 10-plus major league seasons, says there's no thought of sending Grieve down to Triple A Vancouver for rejuvenation. Last Saturday, against the White Sox, Grieve went 2 for 4 with a homer—his first positive sign in weeks. Who knows? Maybe he's turning things around. Clearly, the A's are prepared to wait.
Offerman On in Boston
Filling Big Shoes, So Far
Even in the Red Sox clubhouse, which can hardly be described as pulsating with personality these days, Jose Offerman's quietness stands out. He slips in and out with few words to teammates. "If you don't see him," says Boston first baseman-DH Mike Stanley, standing six lockers from Offerman, "you don't hear him."
If Offerman is ever to let loose with an exultant yelp, last weekend would've been a good time to do it. In the Red Sox' ovation-filled sweep of the Angels—during which hoarse Fenway crowds serenaded Mo Vaughn upon his homecoming to Boston and witnessed a 15-strikeout gem by Pedro Martinez and a sparkling major league debut by 21-year-old Red Sox righthander Juan Pena—Offerman nearly stole the show. He went 4 for 10 and reached base seven times in the three games, continuing a torrid stretch at the plate that began on Opening Day. Though Offerman went 0 for 4 on Sunday, ending a nine-game hitting streak, he was hitting .355 at week's end, the fourth-best average in the American League, and he ranked among the league's top five in doubles (15), triples (four) and hits (43) and multiple-hit games (14). He also led Boston in runs (20) and steals (seven). Without his heroics at the top of the lineup the punchless Red Sox, second to last in the league in homers (21) and runs (137), wouldn't have been two games over .500 and within shouting distance of the American League East lead.
Most surprising, Offerman, 30, had also ingratiated himself with Boston's fickle fans, most of whom smelled blood after general manager Dan Duquette signed him to a four-year, $26 million free-agent contract last November. The deal was loudly criticized by fans and some executives from other teams, who felt Duquette grossly overpaid for Offerman, a middle infielder who has speed and can hit .300 but is error-prone and had no chance of filling the 40-homer, 120-RBI hole left by Vaughn's acrimonious exit from Boston.
Offerman, who hit a career-high .315 and stole 45 bases for Kansas City last year, also took shots from Royals manager Tony Muser, who charged that Offerman failed to hustle. "That's O.K., Offy," Muser said, addressing the absent Offerman at a January banquet in Kansas City. "Take the $26 million and go to Boston."
"Muser said I never played hard for him," says Offerman, "but for someone who follows the game, that would be hard to believe. With the numbers I put up for him, I must have played hard at some time."
In the season's opening series Offerman torched the Royals for eight hits, including four doubles and a triple, and scored five runs in Boston's three-game sweep. Through Sunday he had played all 30 of the Red Sox' games and had gone hitless in only five. "From Day One in spring training he's been outstanding," says Boston manager Jimy Williams, who has started Offerman at second, first and DH. "He plays hard, and he has a whole bunch of intensity."