- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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Rosen could deal one of his shortstops, Jose Uribe or Ernest Riles, but he is hesitant to break up the rest of his everyday lineup, even though some of his players have slipped. Second baseman Robby Thompson, who batted .207 after the All-Star break last year, was hitting .208 at week's end. And as of Sunday, Mitchell had only 15 RBIs, despite his eight homers.
Still, Craig is optimistic. "I know we're going to score runs," he says. "I know we're going to catch the ball. I know there's a lot of time left."
Perhaps, but with a weak pitching staff and Cincinnati's lead, time is running out.
Mets rightfielder Darryl Strawberry may be less mercurial than he was before undergoing alcohol rehabilitation in the off-season, but he's off to a slow start (.228, four homers, 13 RBIs through Sunday), and that has made him—and many of his teammates—wonder if he has mellowed too much. "Because of the change in me, some of that killer in me is gone," says Strawberry. "I'm not the old vocal Darryl anymore, and it might be affecting the way I produce. I've got to get myself to be less humble and more nasty. The A.A. [Alcoholics Anonymous] meetings help me keep my sobriety, but they make me mellow. I'm going to start changing, get myself a mean attitude."
Phillies pitcher Dickie Noles says he knows what Strawberry is going through. He underwent rehabilitation for alcohol abuse in 1983 and attended A.A. meetings for a year thereafter. "Darryl is going to be better in the long run," says Noles, "but for the first few months after you come out, you're more concerned about your sobriety than your aggressiveness on the baseball field."
Noles is nowhere near as talented as Strawberry-through Sunday his 11-year career record was 36-53—yet few have played baseball more aggressively. "They said when I came out of rehab that I'd win 20 games because I was straight, but I got worse," says Noles. "My first year out, I put pressure on myself. When you do that, the slumps and struggles are magnified. But I got over it. Now guys will tell you that at 60 feet, six inches, I'm still the same guy. Darryl will be too. But I agree and disagree with him. I never thought he was a really aggressive player in the first place."
Defense at second base is as strong throughout the major leagues today as it ever has been. At the top is the Cubs' Ryne Sandberg, whose remarkable streak of errorless games ended at 123 with an errant throw last Friday. Going into the season, Sandberg had the highest lifetime fielding percentage (.9891) for second basemen with a minimum of 1,000 games. The next three players on the list are also active: the Phillies' Tom Herr (.9886), the Brewers' Jim Gantner (.9850) and the Royals' Frank White (.9842).
Sandberg's streak ended when he barehanded a ground ball hit by the Astros' Eric Anthony that had deflected off first baseman Mark Grace's glove. Sandberg made an off-balance throw that skipped between Grace and pitcher Mike Harkey, who was running toward the bag. "It's a shame it had to end on such a weak error," says Grace. "A lot of guys would have stopped and not tried to make the play, but not Ryno."