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Detroit's dismal season was summed up in one bungled play in a game against the Angels on June 16. With two outs in the top of the ninth, Keith Moreland, playing third base instead of first, made a wild throw on a grounder by the Angels' Lance Parrish, which allowed base runner Chili Davis to race for home. There Davis crashed into catcher Matt Nokes, who injured his left knee and will be out for four to six weeks.
At one time or another this season, the Tigers, who were in last place in the American League East on Sunday with a 25-41 record, have lost several other veterans to injuries: ace Jack Morris (chip fracture of the right elbow); shortstop Alan Trammell (back spasms); righthander Jeff Robinson (tender elbow and sore left side); reliever Mike Henneman (pulled groin); and outfielder Fred Lynn (rib injury). On top of that, the Detroit farm system has run dry, and one of the best minor league prospects, outfielder Rob Richie, had surgery on his right shoulder this spring. "We just have to ride this thing out," says manager Sparky Anderson, who recently missed three weeks himself because of exhaustion.
But what's worse for the Tigers is that with the exception of Trammell and outfielder Chet Lemon, all their key players' contracts run out at the end of the season. Possible free agents include Detroit's two best starters, 35-year-old Frank Tanana (6-6, 3.48 ERA through Sunday) and 38-year-old Doyle Alexander (4-7, 3.40 ERA), second baseman Lou Whitaker (.274. 15 homers) and reliever Guillermo Hernandez (12 saves, 5.48 ERA). Trading any one of those veterans, especially Tanana or Alexander, could bring the Tigers new blood, but G.M. Bill Lajoie insists he isn't looking for youngsters with whom to rebuild the team.
So the Tigers have a tough question to answer: How competitive do they want to be in 1990? If they want to make a run for the division title, they will have to re-sign most of their veterans. But that strategy could cost them a lot of money and leave them with a team that could still finish in the cellar.
GAME OF THE NAME
Bob Sheppard, who broke in as the Yankees' P.A. announcer in 1951, likes to take credit for teaching New Yorkers how to pronounce Joe DiMaggio's last name. Whenever the Yankee Clipper stepped up to the plate in the Stadium, Sheppard used to intone "DiMa-a-a-ggio," stretching out the "ah" for what seemed like several seconds. Mets announcer Rusty Staub says that Sheppard, a longtime speech professor at St. John's University, has "the tones of dignity," and Red Sox broadcaster Jerry Remy adds, "You know you're in the big leagues when Bob Sheppard announces your name."
Newsday baseball writer Marty Noble recently asked Sheppard to select an all-euphonic team, made up of players whose names he had most enjoyed announcing. Here is the team he picked:
Barojas is Sheppard's favorite moniker, followed closely by Valdivielso and the current Yankee shortstop's name, Alvaro Espinoza. "To be euphonic, a name should have a minimum of harsh sounds," says Sheppard. "Names such as Steve Sax and Mickey Klutts are not euphonic. Why, even the name Bob Sheppard is not euphonic."