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BASEBALL
Peter Gammons
April 25, 1988
OF BIRDS AND BRAVES
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April 25, 1988

Baseball

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BILLY'S KID

When the Yankees' Rickey Henderson plays at full tilt, he may be the most dangerous offensive force in the game. And when Henderson plays for Billy Martin, he always seems to go all out. Below are Henderson's stats while playing 564 games for Martin in Oakland (1980 through '82) and in New York (1985 and '88), compared with his stats in 630 games under other managers:

Why the difference? "Billy gives Rickey complete freedom," says a Yankee official. "Rickey will go through a wall for him." With Henderson hitting .431 with three homers and 11 steals from the leadoff spot through Sunday, it's no wonder that in the first five games of their road trip last week, the Yanks had leads of 3-0, 3-0, 5-0, 2-0 and 5-0 before the Blue Jays or the Brewers batted.

One of those early leads in Toronto went for naught, as the Yankees lost 17-9. Martin, rather laughably, blamed that defeat on shortstop Rafael Santana, who dropped a first-inning double-play relay. Some of Santana's former New York Mets teammates, notably Darryl Strawberry, criticized Martin for his treatment of Santana. "They sure do talk a lot," Martin responded. "If they like him so much, they can have him back." Martin called Strawberry "a skunk" and said that if the Mets play the Yankees in the World Series, "it will be hard for him to hit on his back." Hmmm. If there is a subway series and Strawberry gets decked, Martin can probably expect a five-figure fine from the commissioner.

A GIANT SURPRISE

When San Francisco made its seven-player deal with San Diego last July, most of the attention was focused on new Giants pitcher Dave Dravecky. "The surprise has been Kevin Mitchell," says Giants manager Roger Craig. "I never realized what a good athlete and defensive third baseman he is. He's got 25-to-30 home run power. And he's got the great makeup. He recently dislocated a finger taking ground balls, went out into the outfield, snapped it back in place and resumed taking grounders."

...More balk talk: Boston Red Sox second baseman Marty Barrett thinks that pitchers pausing in the stretch with runners on base has hurt some hitters. "Guys who have a lot of timing in their swings—like me, or, for a better example, Don Mattingly—had trouble for a week or so because that timing got all messed up with runners on base." After struggling for a week, Mattingly began holding his bat with a loose, Rod Carewtype grip while waiting for the pitch. He then cocks the bat as the pitch is released. "I was having trouble getting any type of rhythm," says Mattingly. He promptly went 5 for 6 against Toronto....

The California Angels may have finally found a leadoff hitter with speed in second baseman Mark McLemore. "I don't know how I'd be playing if Gene [Mauch] was still around," says McLemore, who was benched by Mauch last August after having started 127 of the Angels' first 130 games. One of Cookie Rojas's first acts as manager was to put McLemore in the leadoff spot, and he has been a different, relaxed player ever since.

QUIZ QUESTION

There's considerable speculation in Kansas City that with Royals relief specialist Gene Garber pitching so well, Dan Quisenberry will be released. The Quiz can't be traded unless his contract is converted so that it excludes his real estate partnership with Royals co-owner Avron Fogelman. Even then K.C. would have to swallow his huge salary before it would have any hope of dealing him to another team. Quiz's contract pays him a base of $1.1 million a year through 1990, $350,000 from '91 through '95, $230,000 a year from '96 through 2000 and $1.05 million a year from '01 through '05. At that point he can either accept $23.5 million in cash or $1.875 million a year for 20 years.

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