- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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Major league batters responded to an SI poll about the best parks to hit in by naming Boston's Fenway as their overwhelming choice in the American League and Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium as their favorite in the National. That's odd, considering the difference between the two parks, and other factors.
Fenway's natural grass doesn't help speedy runners who like to chop balls into the infield so they can beat out high bouncers for hits. Although the greenery at the Vet is artificial, it's no livelier than in many other stadiums. Long-ball hitters like Boston's Green Monster in leftfield, but about the only appeal in right and center (where the wall is 17 feet high and 420 feet away) is that there is lots of room to spray singles and 'tweeners. The 330-foot foul lines in Philadelphia are about average for those in the National, but the 12-foot-high walls are tied with those in Cincinnati and Montreal for being the league's tallest.
Hitters like having little foul ground at Fenway in which balls can be caught, but there's no such advantage at the Vet. Balls carry well at both parks, but even better in Minnesota's Metrodome, Atlanta's Fulton County Stadium or at Chicago's Wrigley Field when the wind is blowing out. Furthermore, the lights in Boston and Philadelphia are no better than at most parks. Still, Fenway and Veterans Stadium are hits with the hitters.
Giants' Manager Frank Robinson's attempts to revive the art of bench jockeying raise questions about whether his methods are artful or tactless. Bill Buckner of the Cubs felt that Robinson overdid it in a series in San Francisco by getting on him with excessive heckling and derisive gestures. Said Robinson, "I never liked the guy. He said I bothered him? Great." Buckner retaliated by going 6 for 18 with a homer and four RBIs.
The Dodgers also got hot about Robby recently when he repeatedly rubbed his nose while L.A. Reliever Steve Howe was pitching against the Giants—an obvious allusion to Howe's cocaine history. One Dodger, Pedro Guerrero, tried to get at Robinson, but was contained by teammates. "I always rub my nose," Robinson said. "It's a habit of mine. But if Howe has a guilt feeling, it's his problem and not mine."
Going "the other way" has helped Blue Jay outfielders Jesse Barfield and Lloyd Moseby go the right way this season. Much to his own surprise, the righthand-hitting Barfield has found he can go to the opposite field with power. Barfield's two home runs to right in the past two weeks were the 33rd and 34th of his career—and the first ones he didn't pull. "I can drive the ball the other way and be successful, and I'm going to take advantage of it," Barfield says. Moseby has worked all season on going with the pitch rather than pulling everything. During a recent stretch, the lefty swinger had two hits in four consecutive games against lefthanded pitchers. "I've lowered my hands and I'm going the opposite way," says Moseby, who last year hit .236 but is batting .311 this season. "It's definitely put 40 points on my average."
The Mets have not been able to stop enemy base stealers this season, except when Ed Lynch has pitched. The team's most consistent starter, Lynch shortens his leg kick dramatically when pitching from the stretch. As a result, only 10 runners have tried to steal on him, and only five have been successful. As a team, though, the Mets have allowed the most steals in the major leagues: 137 in 190 attempts.
If it's necessary to complete the Pine Tar Game between the Royals and Yankees (K.C. leads 5-4 with two out in the top of the ninth), the Kansas City dugout will have some vacancies. Though he overruled the umpire's call they protested, American League President Lee MacPhail has ejected George Brett, who hit the controversial homer off Goose Gossage, Manager Dick Howser and Coach Rocky Colavito and also Pitcher Gaylord Perry, who tried to make off with Brett's bat. It appears to be a sop to the umpires, whose poor work precipitated the controversy in the first place.... Another Royal who won't be there—or at any other Kansas City game this year for that matter—is Vida Blue. The 34-year-old lefthander had 191 career wins but was 0-5 with a 6.01 ERA this season when the Royals released him last Friday. K.C. must honor Blue's $600,000-per-year contract through 1984.... In his first start, Blue's replacement, Eric Rasmussen, beat Boston 7-0. It was the Royals' first complete-game shutout since last September when Blue blanked Seattle 8-0, his last victory as a Royal.
When Catcher Butch Wynegar was traded by the Twins to the Yankees in May 1982, he was a lifetime .254 hitter. For New York he has hit .307 this year and .300 since the trade. "It's being with a winner, playing for the team I wanted to play for ever since I was a kid," Wynegar says. "In Minnesota, when it became apparent that the owner [ Calvin Griffith] didn't care if we won, well, the subconscious takes over and you start to think, 'Why should we care?' A new lease on life? You wouldn't believe how much."
With Glenn Wilson on first, Detroit Manager Sparky Anderson flashed the hit-and-run sign for John Wockenfuss, who dutifully stroked a single to right. Instead of going to third, though, Wilson stopped at second, having been decoyed by Julio Cruz, the Chicago second baseman. Cruz pretended the ball had been popped up to the outfield and yelled for it to be thrown to first to double up the runner. Anderson was so mad at Wilson that he sent in Pitcher Jack Morris to run for him. Sparky then called for a bunt but Tom Brookens missed the pitch, and Morris, who had headed toward third, slipped and was picked off second by Catcher Carlton Fisk. The Tigers lost the game 7-5.