THE MVP RACE
The favorite for the National League MVP has to be the Giants' Kevin Mitchell, who at week's end had 40 homers and 110 RBIs. In the American League, however, the picture is murkier. Angel manager Doug Rader is pushing Bert Blyleven, stressing Blyleven's clubhouse contributions as well as his on-field accomplishments. "All the peripheral meanings of the word value should be considered in MVP awards," says Rader. "Bert is responsible for more positives around here than anyone."
Last Thursday, Blyleven raised his record to 14-2 by shutting out the Royals in Kansas City after the Angels had lost the first three games of that crucial series. It was the fifth time this season that Blyleven had broken an Angel losing streak of three games or more. It also was his 10th victory without a loss since May 20.
Still, Milwaukee's Robin Yount may be the leading candidate in the AL. He is among the league leaders in batting average (.318 through Sunday), RBIs (82), runs (79), doubles (33) and triples (8), and he has been caught stealing only three times in 17 attempts. Says Brewers manager Tom Trebelhorn, "There are leaders who lead by talking nice. But if something needs to be done, Robin takes care of it in a way that those involved probably don't know it's been done."
Two other players who could attract a lot of votes if they carry their teams down the stretch are Bo Jackson of the Royals and Fred McGriff of the Blue Jays, but don't discount Baltimore shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. His 18 homers and team-leading 78 RBIs through Sunday don't tell the whole story of his contribution to the Orioles. Says Ripken, "I read where [Dodger catcher] Rick Dempsey says I'd be more productive if I took some more time off. Maybe so, but how does that translate to the team? Maybe my stats would be better, but would the team be better? I get as much enjoyment from turning a double play to hold a lead as I do from hitting a home run." Having played in 1,219 consecutive games through Sunday—a streak exceeded only by Lou Gehrig and Everett Scott—Ripken is the backbone of a club that has been a marvelous surprise this season.
As Labor Day approaches, guess which teams have come out of the shadows to join the pennant hunt. Yup, the I-70 twins from Missouri, the Cardinals and the Royals. Heretofore, the featured attractions in the NL East were the Mets, Expos and Cubs. "We've lurked around," says St. Louis manager Whitey Herzog. "But I don't know how seriously anyone has taken us." After winning two of three games from Houston last weekend at the Astrodome, the Cardinals were only 2� games behind the first-place Cubs.
For most of the year St. Louis's main offensive threat had been Pedro Guerrero, but as August closed, other players got hot. Streak-hitting Tom Brunansky hit four homers in one five-day stretch two weeks ago, and Terry Pendleton belted five in August, his one-month career high. "We've gotten a lot out of what we've got," says Herzog.
Joe Magrane, who was 17-7 at week's end, and Jose DeLeon (14-11) have been horses, but after losing three expected starters—Danny Cox, Scott Terry. Greg Matthews—Herzog has had to fill in with Ricky Horton and Ted Power, two rejects from other teams.
In the AL West, Oakland and California have occupied the lead—and most of the press's attention—for more than two months, while Kansas City fell as many as seven games back. When the Royals began a seven-game trip on Aug. 14, they knew they had to improve their 25-34 road record. They lost the opener in Chicago but then won six straight games. Upon returning home, K.C. won three of four games from California and two of three from Oakland. As of Sunday the Royals were only 3� games in back of the punch-less A's and 2� behind the Angels.