- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Hernandez, who is of Spanish and English-Scottish heritage, gets along with virtually everyone, but he sometimes finds his recent eminence a mixed blessing. "The same day in February I signed my contract [five years, for $3.8 million], I had to fly to Chicago for a dinner," he says. "I never had a chance to celebrate with my family."
Home for Hernandez is on three acres of land in a semi-rural area of Missouri about 40 minutes' drive from the ball park. "Our house is on the side of a hill," he says, "and there's a lot of woods around it. I'm happy taking my golden retriever for a walk or going on drives with my wife [Sue] and daughter [Jessica]." At other times he will spend hours piecing together large, detailed models of clipper ships.
Attention to detail was built into him. "When my father was teaching me baseball, we would go over all kinds of situations. 'You're playing first,' he'd say. 'There are runners on first and second. There's a base hit to right-center. Where do you position yourself?' "
Hernandez still relies on his father for advice. "Sometimes if I'm in a slump, I'll call him up and tell him, 'I don't know what I'm doing wrong. I'll fly you out.' He'll always make the correction."
Hernandez' teammate, Templeton, has yet to experience a bad year at the plate, having had a rousing .304 average over his 3� seasons in the major leagues. Last year he hit .314 and became the first player ever to get 100 hits righthanded and 100 lefthanded in a season. His 211 hits led the league, as did his 19 triples. It was the third year in succession that he led the league in triples, but also the second in succession—and this is the rub—that he led the league in errors, a dubious distinction he feels befell him mainly because he has greater range than any shortstop in the game. This is a view shared by the Cardinals' chief executive officer, John Claiborne, who recently signed Templeton to a six-year, $4 million contract.
"No one can match Garry in terms of the total picture—offense, defense and speed," says Claiborne. "He's the best there is in baseball. Sure, he's made some lackadaisical throws and he isn't the best defensively at present, but he's going to be. And when you add the fact that he can switch-hit and run, it's just plus, plus, plus."
The minuses are represented by those errors—34 last year, 40 in '78, 32 in '77—but Templeton is working to improve his fielding, although he will always make errors because of his vast range. "I'm using two hands now and trying to be more fluid in my move to first base," he says. "I'm staying in front of the ball."
A player who almost never errs is Carney Lansford, the Angels' brilliant 23-year-old third baseman. He made only seven errors last year in 405 chances to lead American League third basemen with a .983 fielding percentage. But Lansford is much more than a defensive whiz. Last season, his second in the majors, he hit .287 with 19 homers, 114 runs, 79 RBIs and 20 stolen bases.
"Carney's an outstanding player right now," says his manager, Jim Fregosi, "and I don't think he's come close to the potential he has. Basically, he's a throwback. He plays so damned hard all the time. And he wants to learn. I think he's capable of stealing 35 bases and hitting 25 home runs a season."
Lansford is a rangy, strong-armed 6'2" 195-pounder whose baby face seems fixed in an attitude of apology. His shyness may have been the biggest obstacle he had to overcome as a major-leaguer. "I feel more comfortable now after two years," he says. "It's hard for any rookie. You're in awe of guys like Joe Rudi, Don Baylor, Bobby Grich." Lansford, like Hernandez, was raised on "the Peninsula" south of San Francisco. He was a fan, however, of the A's, based across the bay in Oakland. "I'd be driving down the road listening to my car radio, and it seemed like they were always behind 4-3. But they'd always pull it out. I admired the players on that Oakland team. Now I'm playing with them—Joe, Campy [Campaneris], Don. I patterned myself after Rudi. When he's not hitting, he doesn't show a lot of emotion. I try to do that, but I have a big ego when it comes to playing this game. I don't like to make a fool of myself in anything. That's immaturity, I guess. Maturity comes hard."