WHAT A RELIEF!
Even though the Cardinals were in last place in the National League East at week's end, many observers consider them the favorite in the division now that they have acquired reliever Lee Smith from Boston in exchange for outfielder Tom Brunansky. With closer Todd Worrell out until at least July with an elbow injury, St. Louis needed a short man, and Smith (four saves, 1.88 ERA with Boston) is one of the best.
In early April, Cardinals general manager Dal Maxvill said he would never swap Brunansky for Smith. However, when Brunansky said last week that he would enter the free-agent market after the season, the deal was sealed. Smith, who said before the trade he wouldn't return to Boston in 1991, can also become a free agent in the off-season—and there's a good possibility he may leave if Worrell's elbow heals.
The deal, which ended Gorman's 506-day trading drought, should help the Red Sox, too. Using both Smith and Jeff Reardon as closers wasn't going to work, and Boston desperately needed an additional righthanded bat. Although he's off to a slow start, batting .158 with the Cards, Brunansky loves Fenway Park. While playing for the Twins between 1982 and '88, he had 10 homers in 32 games at Fenway. By contrast, he hit only 11 in 159 games at St. Louis's Busch Stadium.
But Brunansky won't solve Boston's most glaring weakness—starting pitching. The Sox used eight different starters in the first 17 games—one more than the Angels used all of last year. It wasn't a good sign that Boston started a reliever, Greg Harris, on April 28, then turned to him again on May 2, after only three days' rest.
The Royals' astounding collapse—as of Sunday they were 7-16 and 10½ games out of first in the American League West—can be blamed on many factors. However, Kansas City's vaunted starting rotation deserves to be at the top of the list. At week's end, the Royals' five regular starters had only four wins among them, and their combined ERA was 4.74. All this would not be so alarming if the Royals' off-season spending spree (including a contract extension for righthander Bret Saberhagen and. sizable contracts for two other starters, Mark Gubicza and Storm Davis) hadn't raised the Royals' payroll to a major league high $22.2 million.
THE NEXT CEDENO
White Sox manager Jeff Torborg may have overstated the case when he said last week that "there is no better right-fielder in the game" than Sammy Sosa. But Sosa, who was hitting .269 through Sunday, seems to be the real thing. One American League coach says the 21-year-old Sosa reminds him of Cesar Cedeno at the same age. Someday, the Rangers will regret having let Sosa go to get DH Harold Baines last July....
The Angels are planning to use newly acquired outfielder Luis Polonia as their regular leftfielder despite his questionable fielding. Remember what pitcher Dennis Lamp said two years ago: "If you hit Polonia 100 fly balls, you could make a movie out of it—Catch-22."
...The key player the Yankees got in the Polonia deal was outfielder Claudell Washington, who now has been traded in each of the last three decades. Minnesota's Jim Dwyer is the only other active player who can make the same claim.