The Indians are loaded with hitters and shouldn't have trouble scoring runs. Their new batting instructor Charlie Manuel's first assignment will be to get rightfielder Cory Snyder, who hit .236 with 33 homers in 1987, to cut his strikeouts down from a club-record 166 to 100 or so. "If we can do that," says Manuel, "I think he would hit 40 to 45 home runs." Maybe. But the Indians are going to need a lot more than that to finish higher than sixth.
The darkest moment in the history of the BALTIMORE ORIOLES came on Sept. 14, 1987. On that night, Baltimore gave up a major league-record 10 home runs in an 18-3 loss to Toronto. Those 10 helped the Orioles set another record, for most homers allowed in a season, 226, eclipsing the 224 given up by the '64 Kansas City A's. At least the front office had the good humor to make a lowlight film of the barrage to use as an instructional tool.
The O's will need a sense of humor to get through this year. Pitching was once their pride and joy, but not any longer. To give you an idea of just how bad things have gotten, the ace is Mike Boddicker, who is 36-41 over the last three years, and the No. 2 starter is Mike Morgan, who lost more games in 1986 and '87 combined than any other major leaguer.
Baltimore's demise can be traced to two other basic weaknesses: 1) too many youngsters have been called up to the majors too soon, and 2) manager Cal Ripken Sr. hasn't fathered enough players. Billy Ripken was a joy to behold as he took over at second base, alongside his shortstop brother, Cal Jr., after the All-Star break. But he was the exception to the rule.
The Orioles need time. Or, better yet, another Ripken or two in the lineup. After becoming the first man to hit a ball into the seats at Miami's Joe Robbie Stadium, where the Orioles played a few games this spring, Cal Sr., 52, said, "Ah, my wife, Vi, could hit one out here." Can she pitch, though?