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HEADING FOR A PHOTO FINISH
Steve Wulf
September 14, 1987
The A's of Mark McGwire (above) are one of four teams with a shot in the AL West
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September 14, 1987

Heading For A Photo Finish

The A's of Mark McGwire (above) are one of four teams with a shot in the AL West

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KANSAS CITY—They have that good starting pitching. They have Brett. They have those 1985 world championship rings. They have a history of strong Septembers. They're the Royals, and the other teams are waiting for them to make a move. The Royals are waiting, too. "I hear that the other clubs are worried about us," says catcher Jamie Quirk. "I don't know why. Not the way we're playing."

K.C. is in a hitting slump. It has scored five runs in its last three games, all close losses, and with Minnesota's 2-1 victory over Boston earlier in the day, the Royals trail by five games. "It's not fun, and it hasn't been fun all year," says Brett. "When it's fun. I come to the park at 2:30. Today I didn't leave the house until after four."

Most of the malaise is left over from the Billy Gardner regime, which ended with his firing on Aug. 27. Gardner, who had been given the difficult task of replacing Dick Howser, fell victim to the Leo Durocher Axiom: He was too nice and the players took advantage of him. Besides, the Royals don't have a first-string catcher or a first-string shortstop, and the bullpen is discombobulated. Can anyone satisfactorily explain how a reliever who averaged 40 saves from 1982 through '85 can disappear into the gulag even though his ERA is a very respectable 2.58? Quisenberry can't.

Then there's the Bo Jackson dilemma. To keep the 1985 Heisman Trophy winner happy, the Royals kept him in the majors this year, when he should have been getting some seasoning. Then they let him sign a contract with the Los Angeles Raiders. Bo's play in leftfield has forced the Royals to use Lonnie Smith, an erratic fielder at best, as his defensive replacement, and Jackson's free swinging (153 strikeouts) has earned him the bottle of champagne the Royals traditionally give those who strike out 100 or more times. "It's a shame they took Bo out of the lineup," says one Royal. "He could have gotten two bottles."

To set the managerial situation right, the Royals needed the Duke. No, not John Wayne but John Wathan. Actually, K.C. first called for Hal McRae, but the 42-year-old DH, who became the Royals' full-time hitting instructor this spring, didn't like the fact that "interim" would come before the title. So Wathan, a very popular and very versatile player for 15 years with Kansas City, was called up from Omaha, where he'd been managing the Triple A club. "I know good things are going to happen," Wathan says. "I just hope they happen sooner, not later."

The Royals get clobbered 8-2 by the Brewers this night as starter Mark Gubicza loses his sixth straight and Garber, the reliever who is supposed to replace Quisenberry, gives up three runs in a third of an inning. They now trail Minnesota by 5½ games. Their eyes are glassy.

FRIDAY, SEPT. 4

MINNEAPOLIS—He looks good in a Twins uniform. Of course, he looked good in a Red Sox uniform, a Yankee uniform, an Angels uniform, an A's uniform and an Orioles uniform. In his 16th full season in the big leagues, Baylor is participating in his 12th pennant race. This is the first time he's been employed essentially as a rent-a-leader.

"We made no secret of the fact that we were trying to add pitching," says Twins GM. Andy MacPhail. "But we would have had to pay a king's ransom for what was there. We determined that it would be best to add a bat if we could. We wanted the best bat who had been through the September wars."

Can Baylor have much of an effect on a ball club in one month? Mauch, who managed him on the Angels, thinks so. "I hate to see Baylor's personality going into the Twins' clubhouse," Mauch says. Whatever Baylor lends to a club, he seems to have brought it to the Twins right away. On Thursday, his first time in the Minnesota lineup, Baylor went 1 for 4 with a single against the Red Sox, who three days earlier had been his teammates. The Twins won 2-1 after Kirby Puckett hit a game-tying homer in the ninth and the winning run was walked home in the 10th.

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