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INSIDE: BASEBALL
Peter Gammons
August 28, 1989
CUCKOO'S NEST
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August 28, 1989

Inside: Baseball

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You might ask what a 26-year-old lefthander with three no-hitters is doing in the minors. "He's got a long way to go to be a big league pitcher," says Vancouver manager Marv Foley. "He's been up and down. And remember, he's coming off an operation [arthroscopic surgery was done on his throwing shoulder last winter]."

White Sox general manager Larry Himes was at last week's seven-inning gem—two of the three no-hitters have been seven-inning games—and was noncommittal as to whether Drees would be called up in September. "He's on his way, but we want to make sure he's fully recovered from the operation," said Himes.

The White Sox thought so little of Drees this spring that they included him in a list of players they would throw into a deal they were discussing with the Tigers. "He has a below-average fastball," admits Foley. "And he has more walks than strikeouts." This year, Drees has an 11-10 record. He was 30-31 in his four previous pro seasons. Says one scout who has seen Drees: "Drees gets behind too many hitters. Guys with his stuff can get behind 2 and 1 on Triple A hitters, but big league hitters will kill them."

BEST IN CLASS
No one, especially not Cub manager Don Zimmer, expected that Jerome Walton would be hitting .309 midway through August and have the longest hitting streak of the season—30 games through Sunday. When Walton made the jump from Double A this spring, Zimmer knew from his reports that he "was the kind of defensive centerfielder we needed and that he had the speed we needed at the top of the order. I said if he hit .260 in spring training, that was enough to win the job." Many scouts were skeptical about Walton's hitting. He starts with an exaggerated open stance, then pulls in and dives into the pitch. "You should be able to eat him alive with fastballs on the inner part of the plate," says one scout, "but he has such extraordinarily quick hands that he's handled everything so far. His hands are like a [Rod] Carew's or [Tony] Fernandez's." Only a final-month nosedive or another severe hamstring pull, like the one that sidelined him for 28 games earlier this season, will keep Walton from winning the NL Rookie of the Year award.

BREW STEW
Brewers second baseman Jim Gantner had his season—and possibly his career—cut short by an illegal rolling block by Yankee rookie Marcus Lawton on Aug. 15. Gantner suffered ligament damage to his left knee. Milwaukee general manager Harry Dalton calls the injury "a critical double loss." The obvious loss is on the field; Gantner has hit .331 in 33 games since the All-Star break. Now Dalton will have to deal for a new second baseman, when what he really wanted was another starting pitcher. The second element of the loss is that the 35-year-old Gantner is a fiery team leader. Along with Robin Yount and Paul Molitor, he called a players-only clubhouse meeting in Kansas City after the club lost its first six games following the break and fell into sixth place, 12 games behind Baltimore on July 18. The meeting got a lot of feelings out in the open, and since then the team has gone 23-10 and moved into second place, a half game behind the O's.

EJECT THE IMPS
The refusal by National League president Bill White to suspend Reds manager Pete Rose for the shoving incident last Tuesday with umpire Joe West was an unofficial acknowledgment that umpires sometimes antagonize players, coaches and managers. "I'm very concerned about the escalation of baiting by umpires, which too often gets players ejected for no reason," says Cincinnati general manager Murray Cook. A case in point might be umpire Joe Brinkman, who lost his temper during a game on Aug. 13 and went after Oakland catcher Ron Hassey. Brinkman had to be restrained by A's manager Tony La Russa. On July 15, Minnesota's mild-mannered DH Jim Dwyer backed out of the box after what he thought was a terrible first-pitch strike call and said, "The ball was outside." Umpire Greg Kosc snapped, "Get the——out of here," infuriating Dwyer, who swore back. Dwyer then was tossed by Kosc for using the same word the umpire had used. "It all goes back to Peter Ueberroth's sellout to get the umps back on the field in the '84 playoffs," says one general manager. Says Montreal manager Buck Rodgers, "Now umpires can't be fired, and there's no reward for competency because they take turns on the playoffs and World Series. Players and managers have to perform to be rewarded; so should umpires."

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

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