- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
California was moving before the strike, and new Manager Gene Mauch can now count on a healthy Fred Lynn and Bobby Grich. Bruce Kison may even be ready to pitch again. Owner Gene Autry got married during the interregnum, and the wedding had him blissfully confused. Referring to Shortstop Rick (Rooster) Burleson and his attempt to hit .300, Autry said, "He doesn't want to lay an egg out there."
Pity the White Sox, who immediately embark on a 17-day, 16-game road trip with stops in Boston, Baltimore, New York and Milwaukee. That acid test should tell the league whether the White Sox are for real or not. Shortstop Bill Almon can't possibly be a .326 hitter, but then Outfielder Ron LeFlore shouldn't be batting .234. The Rangers have both a solid starting staff and a league-leading batting average of .284, but something deep in the heart of Texas keeps them from winning. During the early part of the strike, as many as 15 players were involved in organized workouts, but lately the number had dropped to four or five.
Want to or not, Billy Martin will have to go to his bullpen in the first few weeks of the new season. The Oakland manager will also have to see Lee MacPhail, the league president, about his run-in—bump-in, rather—with Umpire Terry Cooney. And the infielders are as bumpy as the outfielders are smooth.
The Twins apparently didn't train very hard in their off time, at least not hard enough to make up for their lack of talent. The Mariners, however, could surprise a lot of people. Not only did they work hard the last two months, but Jim Beattie and Jerry Don Gleaton also found winning ways in the minors. And Seattle has the big bats of Gary Gray (13 HRs), Tom Paciorek (.328) and Richie Zisk (.321, with eight homers).
A second season almost certainly would produce some kind of aberration, a fluke team getting hot for two months. This could be the division, and the Mets could be the team.
Go ahead and laugh. Let's say, for instance, that Dave Kingman goes on a tear, that Ellis Valentine responds well to his new surroundings, that Mookie Wilson plays as he did during the last week before the strike, that Lee Mazzilli bats the ball as sweetly as he bats his eyes. Joel Youngblood, hitting a mere .359, can't even find a place to play on the club. The Mets' defensive weaknesses, which are many, won't be as telling over a short span. Craig Swan, Pat Zachry, Randy Jones, Mike Scott and Neil Allen could provide enough pitching to get by.
If form holds, however, the Expos still should be the strongest team in the division. Leftfielder Tim Raines, with 50 stolen bases in 55 games, was on his way to breaking all stolen-base records. Centerfielder Andre Dawson was fourth in the league in homers with 13 and fourth in batting at .325. Except for Charlie Lea, who had a no-hitter May 10, the pitching had been something of a disappointment. But then, Scott Sanderson has been throwing to his wife, Kathleen, lo these many weeks. After Pete Rose passes Stan Musial on the National League hit parade, the Phillies can go about the business of—what? Defending the world championship? Defending their first-half title? Their oldies-but-goodies may feel a little older after this week of training. The same holds true for the Pirates, who may have to call up Luis Tiant to bolster their pitching staff. Pittsburgh will need the continued hitting of Bill Madlock (.326) and Mike Easier (.317) and more production from Dave Parker (.286).
The team hurt most by the strike may be the Cardinals. Time has not healed the wound of Darrell Porter, who is only now beginning to throw after tearing a rotator cuff. When the workouts began, the Big Stopper, Bruce Sutter, hadn't picked up a baseball in two months. And St. Louis has to play 30 of its last 52 games on the road. The Cubs were sold to The Chicago Tribune shortly after the strike started, which means that 1) Wrigley Field may soon have lights and 2) "The World's Greatest Newspaper" now has The World's Worst Baseball Team.