After compiling an embarrassing 10.64 ERA in 19 games with the Blue Jays in 2000, Roy Halladay humbly dropped all the way to Class A to rebuild his delivery. So an 0-2 record and a 4.89 ERA after six starts this year was no cause for alarm, only for a simple tune-up. Halladay and pitching coach Gil Patterson fixed a minor flaw in the righthander's delivery that caused his breaking pitches to hang against lefthanded hitters. "It wasn't an 'Oh, my God, here it is' kind of thing," Toronto G.M. J.P. Ricciardi says. "He figured out what he needed to do and corrected himself. He didn't panic. Doc's proof that good things happen to those who work hard."
Halladay has been unbeatable for nearly three months, going 14-0 with a 2.85 ERA in 16 starts through Sunday, all of which have lasted at least 6? innings. (The major league record is 19 straight wins.) Even with his blip in April the 26-year-old Halladay was 38-12 since being recalled from his remedial minor league assignment on July 1, 2001.
"I haven't seen a guy pitch as good as Halladay since maybe Pedro [Martinez] in '99," Red Sox righthander Derek Lowe said after Halladay beat Boston last Thursday. "Four runs to him probably feels like 10 to an average guy."
Playing for World Series home field advantage in the All-Star Game was a qualified success. The AL's 7-6 victory was a great show, with Hank Blalock's game-breaking homer off Eric Gagne sure to be the talk of October. Baseball executives privately had hoped for an II rating, but they knew the 9.5 mark meant the game at least matched last year's number, outdrew all other summer programs and blew away the 6.5 rating for the NBA Finals.
Commissioner Bud Selig says, "I shudder to think what [the rating] would have been" without the change. The format is a keeper. Now Selig should get rid of nondeserving All-Stars by dropping the rule that all 30 teams be represented. Faux stars Armando Benitez ( Mets), Dmitri Young (Tigers), Lance Carter (Devil Rays) and Mike Williams ( Pirates) wasted roster spots—and fittingly didn't play. "I'm willing to take a look at it," Selig says.
Call it the mystery of Pittsburgh. Righthander Kris Benson (35-41 in four seasons) is in danger of becoming the next Ben McDonald: a young pitcher with ace-quality stuff but underwhelming results. Like the former Orioles disappointment, Benson was a hyped No. 1 pick, out of Clemson in 1996. At week's end he was 5-9 with a 4.97 ERA while batters had hit .295 against him. It's not often that a rebuilding team will trade a 28-year-old pitcher who throws 94 mph, but the Pirates are shopping Benson, in part because he's not worth the $6.1 million he'll make next year.
"His body, arm action, college [experience]...it's everything [A's G.M.] Billy Beane looks for, but [ Benson's] not getting people out," one NL scout says. "He's young and he's got a great arm, so it does make you wonder why he's available. His stuff is good enough, but he's soft and he's not as aggressive with hitters as he should be."