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BASEBALL
Peter Gammons
September 07, 1987
NEW SOX
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September 07, 1987

Baseball

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BALLPARK FIGURES
The Society of American Baseball Research considers 80 extra-base hits in a season a significant accomplishment, and it is something only Dave Parker, Robin Yount, Hal McRae and Don Mattingly (twice) have accomplished in the past five seasons. Here are the '87 extra-base-hit leaders through last weekend, and the best one-season totals of all time:

THIS SEASON

Gerge Bell, Tor.

70

Dwight Evans, Bos.

68

Juan Samuel, Phil.

64

Ruben Sierra, Tex.

62

Tim Wallach, Mont.

62

Eric Davis, Cin.

62

Andre Dawson, Cubs

62

ALL TIME

Babe Ruth, 1921

119

Lou Gehrig, 1927

117

Chuck Klein, 1930

107

Chuck Klein, 1932

103

Hank Greenberg, 1937

103

Stan Musial, 1948

103

NEW SOX

No one could have expected the Red Sox to have another year like 1986, when they came within one strike of being the world champions. That team was composed of aging every-day players and what amounted to a six-or seven-man pitching staff. Management didn't seem to help in the off-season when it forced MVP Roger Clemens to hold out, held off free-agent Rich Gedman and failed to replace any of the five members of the '86 team absent from the '87 Opening Day roster. Oil Can Boyd hurt his arm, Jim Rice's deteriorating knee worsened and the bullpen self-destructed. "Everything was negative," said second baseman Marty Barrett.

But without acquiring a single player—not even a minor league backup catcher—from another organization since Aug. 19, 1986, the defending AL champions have rebuilt themselves and seem likely to be a power for the remainder of the decade. The Boston media, which have regarded the club with disdain since its dreadful start, don't seem to realize that New England fans are more optimistic going into September 1987 than they were a year ago, when they worried about another lead being blown. When the Sox returned from a recent 4-5 road trip, fans were lined up on Yawkey Way for tickets.

The reason for the optimism is simple: new blood. Since Gedman's season ended with a thumb injury in July, the Sox have been playing four rookies. Centerfielder Ellis Burks, with 21 steals and 19 homers since coming up in May, is the most exciting player the club has produced in two generations. Sam Horn, the 6'5", 240-pound DH, dubbed the Fenway Fridge by the Globe's Dan Shaughnessy, became what Joe Sambito called "an instant folk hero," with nine homers in the first 22 games he started, after hitting 30 at Pawtucket. Outfielder Mike Greenwell has hit better than .320 and knocked in a remarkable 66 runs in 286 at bats, while catcher John Marzano has five homers (one more than Gedman, Marc Sullivan and Danny Sheaffer combined). Furthermore, outfielder Todd Benzinger has shown flashes of being a Pat Tabler-like hitter, and on the immediate horizon are two potential front-liners, outfielder Brady Anderson and shortstop Jody Reed. Burks and Anderson give the Red Sox speed they have not had in years. Now, says Barrett, "there is as much enthusiasm around here as I've ever felt."

Says converted first baseman Dwight Evans, "What we have is a good blend of players with talent and players with all kinds of experience." It should be noted that Evans's leadership has a lot to do with it. He is among the league's top five in homers (in fact, he has more HRs than anyone in the AL over the last six seasons), batting, doubles, on-base percentage, slugging, RBIs, slugging percentage and total bases.

Pitching is still the biggest problem. "They begin," says Tigers manager Sparky Anderson, "with as good a pair of starters as anyone has, in Clemens and Bruce Hurst. It's easier to build when you have that. Most teams have whole staffs of fifth starters." Boyd is expected back after minor shoulder surgery, young Jeff Sellers shows promise, and Wes Gardner has bounced back from shoulder surgery with a win and four saves in his last five appearances.

Manager John McNamara has to figure out how he can keep Horn and Rice, whose defense has gone the way of his speed, in the lineup at the same time, as well as how to get Rice hitting again. He has a paltry 25 extra-base hits, fewer than Steve Lombardozzi.

MINOR UPRISINGS

Ken Griffey Jr., the No. 1 pick in the June draft, has a .320 average with 14 homers for the Mariners' Bellingham club of the Northwest League. "He is just the player and the person we thought he was," says Seattle G.M. Dick Balderson. The No. 2 pick. Twins pitcher Willie Banks, is having a rough time. He is 1-8 with a 6.99 ERA and 28 wild pitches for Elizabeth-ton of the Appalachian League....

If the Padres' Tony Gwynn and John Kruk finish 1-2 in the NL batting race, they will be the first teammates to do so since Giants Willie Mays and Don Mueller in 1954. Yankees Don Mattingly and Dave Winfield finished 1-2 in the AL in 1984.

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