- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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New Tiger owner Tom Monaghan also owns Domino's Pizza chain, and, before the season started, every Tiger received a blue Domino's T shirt. The front of the shirt says: THE HOT ONES. And indeed the Tigers opened with an eight-game winning streak. Unfortunately, manager Sparky Anderson wore his T shirt during the first game and decided he would keep wearing it—unwashed—until the Tigers lost. Ah, the sweet smell of success.... Darrell Evans, the 13-year National League veteran who hit a three-run homer in his debut as a DH with the Tigers and another three-run shot in the club's home opener, says, "The worst thing is making the last out of the inning and waiting for someone to bring your glove. It never comes."... By the way, National League teams have ordered their minor league affiliates to forgo the use of the designated hitter when they play one another this season.
Once upon a time, Fernando Valenzuela was an overweight phenomenon. Now he's just another struggling pitcher with an ordinary waistline, having lost around 30 pounds since his rookie year in 1981. He has gone 7-10 with a 4.50 ERA since last June 13, and he's 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA after his first three starts for the Dodgers this year.
Once upon a time, Valenzuela's screwball was the most famous pitch in the game. It even had a name—Fernando's Fadeaway. Now the screwball has become a problem that won't go away. Even Ronald Reagan is concerned. When Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda visited the White House for a black-tie dinner last week, the Prez asked about Valenzuela.
What's happening? Just this: The hitters have stopped chasing those screwballs a few inches off the plate, and Valenzuela has been unable to throw the pitch consistently for strikes. When the hitters were still chasing pitches off the plate, Fernando's ordinary fastball was an out pitch. The hitters were so preoccupied with the scroogie they couldn't pull the trigger on his heater.
"He can't get his screwball over," says Braves manager Joe Torre, "and the more he realizes that he can't get it over and that guys are taking it, the more he'll try to aim it." And when you try to aim the ball, when you get tentative because of a crisis in confidence, terrible things happen to your ERA.
Lasorda, Dodger pitching coach Ron Perranoski and Mike Brito, the scout who signed Valenzuela, relate the problem to an inconsistent release point. According to Perranoski, "When Fernando does something wrong; he's dropped his arm too much." And when that happens, he throws a scroogie that's too fat or is taken for a ball.
It is a tribute to White Sox hitting coach Charley Lau, who died of cancer five weeks ago, that the club has temporarily replaced him with two coaches, Joe Nossek and Tommie Reynolds.... The Reds also have two hitting coaches, Tommy Helms for righthanders and Joe Sparks for lefthanders. The coaches split duties with switch hitters Ron Oester and Paul Householder.
It's early in the season, and the Orioles stink. So what else is new? Over the last 10 years they've been 201-106 (.655) in September-October but 86-94 (.478) in April. Characteristically, they won only two of their first eight games.
Jim Palmer thinks the reason for the rough starts is the schedule—there just aren't enough games. "The only guy pitching well for us now is Storm Davis," Palmer said last week, "and he's the only guy on the staff who's overpowering, and he's the only guy pitching regularly. When you take control and location pitchers like we've always had here, and they pitch every seven or eight days, which is what happens now, you're going to have problems."
Davis, who has started once and pitched middle relief three times, has allowed two runs in 17? innings. The rest of the Oriole pitchers have allowed 45 earned runs in 50? innings.