Better news: Ace pitcher Teddy Higuera (9-6 in just 135 innings, with a variety of ailments last year) is throwing well again. Rookie outfielder Greg Vaughn won't help the Milwaukee defense, but he can hit. He can also run, and should help the Brewers lead the league in steals for the fourth straight year. Vaughn would be better off as the DH, but that's Parker's job.
Perhaps the biggest boon for this team is the 27-man roster. "Yeah," says Dalton, "it will allow us to carry three more doctors."
3. BALTIMORE ORIOLES
In 1989 they asked only for improvement; they got a miracle. The O's zoomed from 54 wins to 87, using magic, mirrors, superb defense and remarkable performances from unlikely players. They played harder and hungrier than anyone, and finished two games out of first. But now comes the hard part: the encore season. "Everyone knows us now; they'll make adjustments," says leftfielder Phil Bradley. "We'll hear it all this year: sophomore jinx, flop, flash in the pan. But we worked very hard last year to put ourselves in position to win." Says manager Frank Robinson, "What I don't like is when people say we snuck up on teams last year. How do you sneak up on someone in September?"
There are other questions Robinson might ask. Is catcher Mickey Tettleton (26 homers in '89—14 more than in any of his eight previous pro seasons) that good? Can Jeff Ballard (18-8) repeat his career year after elbow surgery? Can Rookie of the Year reliever Gregg Olson (no runs allowed after July) match his wondrous '89? The Orioles did virtually nothing to better themselves in the off-season. "Everyone wanted our good young kids, but trading them would be counterproductive," says Robinson. The O's feel they have enough talent now. Says reliever Kevin Hickey, "We're like Bum Phillips said about his Houston Oilers. Last year we knocked on the door. This year we're going to kick the damn thing down."
4. NEW YORK YANKEES
Not long after the U.S. invasion of Panama, Roberto Kelly, a Panamanian, was stopped in his homeland by three Noriega supporters. They put a gun to his head, but then recognized him as the centerfielder for the Yankees and sent him on his way. Now, that's respect, something his team got none of in 1989—deservedly so. The Yanks lost 87 games, used 49 players and started 16 different pitchers. Trashing New York became cool. "People enjoy taking shots at the Yankees," says catcher Rick Cerone. "They don't think we'll be in contention. But they're all going to be wrong."
If Cerone is right, a key reason will be left-fielder Dave Winfield, who sat out 1989 with a back injury. "He's mammoth, not just in size, but in presence," says Mattingly. Even without Winfield, the Yankees finished fourth in the league in hitting last season. And rookie third baseman Mike Blowers should improve on the stats of the seven who manned the position last year: .227, 33 errors, 48 RBIs.
Yankee manager Bucky Dent's job security—is that an oxymoron?—rests mainly with the starting pitching, and most precariously on free-agent acquisition Pascual Perez. But Perez's ERA over the last three years averages out to 2.80, and he struck out 152 batters in '89 with Montreal—54 more than any Yankee. Perez and fellow newcomer Tim Leary (8-14, with only 2.81 runs of support per start with the Dodgers) will be aided by a deep bullpen.
Nevertheless, one American League manager, when told that the Yankees didn't look too bad. said, "What have you been doing, watching old highlight films?" No respect.