"We believe in rolling the dice," said Cardinal General Manager Joe McDonald after trading the National League's best all-around first baseman, Keith Hernandez, 29, to the Mets for two strong-armed but suspect pitchers, Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey, both 25. Allen, who was treated for emotional problems earlier this year, at the time of the swap was 2-7 with a 4.50 ERA and had allowed 57 hits and 36 walks in 54 innings. In 34? innings, Ownbey had given up 31 hits and 21 walks, was 1-3 and had a 4.67 ERA. St. Louis sent Ownbey to the minors but put Allen, once an outstanding reliever, in its starting rotation.
"If either one comes through, we'll be all right," McDonald said. "We have a surplus of outfielders, and we need pitching. Now we can move George Hendrick from right to first and give some playing time to three young outfielders—David Green, Dane Iorg and Andy Van Slyke." Van Slyke was hitting .368 with Louisville when he was brought up last Wednesday.
There were other considerations. One might be that the Cardinals agree with those hitters who are saying St. Louis Reliever Bruce Sutter's split-fingered fastball has gone awry. Thus, Allen may eventually pay off as bullpen insurance. Also, Hernandez was expected to seek a whopping raise when his contract expires at the end of 1984. "I can't say his contract didn't enter into it," McDonald admitted. Furthermore, Hernandez' batting has fallen steadily over the last four seasons, from .344 in 1979 to .293 as of the end of last week.
But Hernandez should help stabilize the young Met team, which became even more youthful last week when General Manager Frank Cashen made three other moves: Catcher Junior Ortiz, 23, was obtained from Pittsburgh; First Baseman Mike Jorgensen, 34, was sent to Atlanta; and pitchers Walt Terrell and Tom Gorman, both 25, were brought up from the International League, where they were a combined 16-2. With Ortiz, Hernandez, Shortstop Jos� Oquendo, 19, and Darryl Strawberry, 21, now starting, New York has made a 50% turnover from its Opening Day lineup. Obviously, the Mets also believe in rolling the dice.
"The only reason we did it was the speed," said White Sox Manager Tony LaRussa about the trade of second basemen that sent Tony Bernazard to the Mariners for Julio Cruz. Through last Sunday Cruz was leading the majors in stolen bases with 33. Another possible reason was Bernazard's unhappiness with management, partly because he lost an off-season salary arbitration case. "Apparently, his heart wasn't in it," LaRussa said of Bernazard's play this year. On the other hand, the Mariners knew that Cruz planned to become a free agent after this season.
With his speed, the switch-hitting Cruz would be ideal in the leadoff spot, which is where LaRussa wants him, at least against lefthanded pitchers. Cruz, however, prefers batting ninth. When he has led off, he has sometimes worked himself into such a stew that he's become ill. "I'd put too much pressure on myself," Cruz says. "I'd feel if I didn't get a hit or get on my first time up and then score, that we'd lose."
Detroit's Kirk Gibson became the first player since Jason Thompson in 1977, and the 10th overall, to hit a fair ball out of Tiger Stadium since it was triple-decked in 1938. Gibson's blast to right, which landed on the roof of a lumber company, was officially measured at 523 feet.... Remember Terry Felton, whose 0-13 mark with the Twins in '82 made him a record-breaking 0-16 for the start of his big league career? Well, Felton, who lost his first four decisions this season at Toledo, won his first game at any level since August 1981—and broke an overall 17-game losing string—by beating Pawtucket 5-2.... In his first 76 games as a rookie last year, Texas' Dave Hostetler hit 22 homers and batted .261. However in his last 37 games in '82 and his first 41 this year he has hit only two homers and batted .180.
"It looks like a fastball, but it's slow and it sinks. Even the ones they hit, they don't hit very well." That's Baltimore Pitcher Mike Boddicker's description of the oddball pitch that's helped him build a 4-2 record and 3.02 ERA since coming up last month to replace ailing Jim Palmer. Boddicker, a righthander, began using his novel pitch when he was trying to learn how to throw a forkball at the University of Iowa. While vainly attempting to develop a proper forkball grip, Boddicker came up with a delivery that slips out of his hand, rotates slightly and breaks like a screwball. He has dubbed the pitch the "forkscrew." Baltimore Pitching Coach Ray Miller, who feels the pitch is a combination of a forkball and a dead fish, has labeled it a "foshball."
"I hate day games," says California's Rod Carew, who prefers the unchanging light of night games and doesn't like to contend with shadows late in day games. "You're always blinking, fighting off all kinds of glare. You see the ball better at night. There's less tension in your eyes at night." Maybe so, but through last Sunday Carew was batting .463 in day games and .382 at night for his overall .409.
With his 12th homer and league-leading 46th RBI, Minnesota's Gary Ward defeated Texas 4-3. Astonishingly, that blow also gave Ward only his first game-winning RBI. Tom Brunansky is hitting .194 but leads the Twins with nine game-winning ribbies, second in the league.... With Lenny Faedo hurt and with Ron Washington at his father's funeral, the Twins brought up Houston Jimenez from the minors to play shortstop. The 5'7", 142-pound Jimenez was only 2 for 21 at the plate, but his glovely work in the field helped Minnesota win four games in a row. "He made some plays that were sensational," said owner Calvin Griffith, who wants Jimenez to be his shortstop the rest of the year.