IS THE JUNIOR CIRCUIT THE BETTER CIRCUIT?
Veteran Dodger scout Ed Liberatore has spent most of the season evaluating personnel in the American League, and three-quarters of the way through his tour of duty he says, "I'm really impressed with the number of talented young players. They're everywhere." Take a look at the league leaders. Seven of the top 10 home run hitters in the American League are 26 years old or younger, while only four of the top nine in the National are that young. Seven of the top eight AL RBI producers are in that age bracket, five of the top seven in runs and nine of the top 10 in slugging.
Roger Clemens is 24, Don Mattingly 24, Kirby Puckett 25, Wally Joyner 24, Jesse Barfield 26, Jose Canseco 22—and they are probably the six leading contenders for the MVP award. The Rookie of the Year chase among Joyner, Canseco and Danny Tartabull presents a stark comparison to the NL race, in which the only rookie regulars with 90 games are Giants second baseman Robby Thompson and Dodgers outfielder Reggie Williams. Try this 26-and-under American League all-star team:
C—Rich Gedman, Andy Allanson
1B—Mattingly, Joyner, Kent Hrbek, Alvin Davis
2B—Harold Reynolds, Steve Lombardozzi
SS—Cal Ripken, Tony Fernandez, Julio Franco
3B—Mike Pagliarulo, Brook Jacoby
OF—Puckett, Tartabull, Canseco, Barfield, Joe Carter, Cory Snyder, Tom Brunansky, Lloyd Moseby, George Bell, Rob Deer and Pete Incaviglia
"The biggest reason the AL has so many good young players is the difference in ballparks," says Cubs president Dallas Green. "With all the big parks with artificial turf in the National League, speed is extremely important." In the AL, three of the four artificial turf parks—Toronto, Minnesota, Seattle—are small home run parks. Adds Green, "The AL teams look for the guys with pop, and having the DH lets them consider a guy who can hit even if it might be his only skill. In this league we are looking for more complete athletes, but sometimes we miss the big bats." In other words, the American League is looking for baseball players, while the National League is obsessed with track stars. The result is that the American League is becoming the more interesting one.