- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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If the Yankees catch the Blue Jays in the last weeks of the season, it will be because the Blue Jays, whose lead has shrunk from nine to 1� games since Aug. 8, did not get heroics from the players who must be heroic: George Bell, Willie Upshaw and Lloyd Moseby. The Yankees have Don Mattingly, Rickey Henderson and Dave Winfield, each of whom can win a game by himself. But until rookie Cecil Fielder drove in five runs last Friday against Minnesota, no Jay other than Bell, easily the team MVP, had more than three RBIs in a game since July 5. And Bell has a sore knee and one RBI in his last 41 at bats. "With the Yankees," says Twins manager Ray Miller, "you've got those three guys. Your club can be dying and one of them will drive in six runs and relax everybody."
On Aug. 30, the Dodgers banned outfielder Jay Johnstone's autobiography, Temporary Insanity, from their concession stands because it included a verbatim transcript of Lee Elia's famous obscenity-filled tirade against Cub fans in 1983. The book was already selling well, but then it really took off. Johnstone, who wrote the book with Rick Talley, says he wasn't upset by the ban. In fact, he recently carried a box of the books into the Dodger Stadium stands to sell.
Three days after the ban, Johnstone, just off the disabled list, beat the Expos in the 11th with a pinch-hit single off Jeff Reardon. It was his first at bat since July 4. Johnstone is 39 and has only 10 at bats in 1985. While Johnstone was on the DL, Tommy Lasorda even put him in charge of the postgame spread, and Johnstone has no intention of relinquishing those duties now that he's active. "Tommy appointed me. I won't let anything interfere with my job," says the man who was once spied standing in line—in uniform—for a hot dog while the game was going on.
Since May 29, Cardinal lefthander John Tudor has gone 16-1 in 20 starts with a 1.25 ERA and eight shutouts, not bad for a guy who began 1985 with a 51-43 lifetime record and then lost seven of his first eight decisions. Not bad, either, for a guy whose intestinal fortitude was questioned by Boston manager Ralph Houk two years ago. Manager Whitey Herzog, however, thinks his man is the best lefty in the NL now, and Tudor's 1.95 ERA threatens to be the lowest by a Cardinal southpaw starter since Howie Pollett's 2.10 in 1946.
Why has Tudor become unhittable? "There's no leftfield wall like he had in Boston," Herzog says, "and he has never had a shortstop, and that's a big difference." Tudor also has the gifted outfielders who can run down the 390-foot mistakes. Because he doesn't have to worry about the Green Monster, Tudor can feel comfy using his changeup. "But 15 out of 16," he mused before shutting out Atlanta Friday to make it 16 out of 17, "that, to me, is ridiculous."
Dave Parker hit a bloop double to tie a game against the Cardinals, and afterward Whitey Herzog said, "A 250-pound elephant hits a 125-foot quail." The next night Parker homered and hit two singles, and after each hit, he made like an elephant by raising his right arm high in front of his nose as he passed the Cardinals' first-base dugout.... Lefty just may make it back from his strained rotor cuff injury. In his first start since leaving the DL, Steve Carlton worked five innings against the Giants, gave up three hits and one run and threw his fastball 87 mph.... Steve Garvey had two RBIs in his last 52 ABs and only 67 for the year. Garvey is the only Padre to play every game—old hat for him—but he's 36, and he could use a day off now and then.
Don Mattingly may be the best player in the game right now, but Eddie Murray officially became its highest-paid player last week when he signed a five-year, $13 million deal with the Orioles that had been agreed on a month ago. The contract calls for a $1 million signing bonus that will be added to his $1.35 million contract for '85, and he will get $2.4 million a year for five years starting in '86.
Murray, one of the game's class acts, is going to give part of the money back to Baltimore. He will buy a block of leftfield seats for each O's home game and distribute them to needy kids, and he will also open a summer camp in Baltimore to be named the Carrie Murray Learning Center, in memory of his mother.
Tony LaRussa thought Carlton Fisk may have been concentrating too much on home runs after the AL leader hit only one in three weeks. But it turns out that Fisk had a strained ligament in his left wrist, an injury from the All-Star Game. So LaRussa gave him last Thursday off, and Fisk hit Nos. 34 and 35 on Friday to take over the major league lead.... One reason the Angels fell out of first place on Friday after holding the lead since June 21 is the Aug. 30 rib-cage injury to rookie reliever Stu Cliburn, who was 8-2 with a 1.80 ERA and five saves. The injury runs in the family: His twin brother, Stan, a minor league catcher, suffered the exact injury last August.... Cliff Johnson, back in Toronto, is wearing 00, a number previously worn by only one major leaguer, former Indian Paul Dade. Why? "Everything has been so crazy this year, so why not?" says Johnson.
George Steinbrenner must not have learned his lesson from 1983. He and Billy Martin waged a number of verbal battles against AL umpires that year, and the Yankee players swore the umps took revenge on the team. This time around, Martin has been a lamb—he hasn't been ejected from even one game. But Thursday night, in the middle of a win over the A's, Steinbrenner foolishly risked umpire retaliation in the middle of a pennant race. After a controversial play at first went against the Yankees, he marched from his private box through the press box and into the scoreboard control room, where he ordered the technician to show two replays of the close play. Steinbrenner's command was in defiance of a directive from league president Bobby Brown that forbids such incendiary nonsense. When the umpires' crew chief, Larry Barnett, went over to tell Martin that he would pull his crew off the field if it was replayed a third time, Martin, who had already phoned upstairs to find out what was going on, told him, "It's being done under George's orders."