Through Sunday, 5'10" Angel centerfielder Chad Curtis was hitting .282 and was tied with Cleveland's Kenny Lofton and Oakland's Rickey Henderson for the American League lead in stolen bases, with 12. Curtis, who swiped 43 bags last year as a rookie, has also emerged as a top defensive centerfielder. He led all American League outfielders last year in assists, with 16.
Success wasn't supposed to come this quickly for Curtis, 24, who was selected by the Angels in the 45th round of the 1989 draft. Being drafted that low "makes me want, more than ever, to show that I can play," he says.
Curtis is a classic overachiever who thrives by outworking others, trying harder than everyone else. He's a maniacal weightlifter and fitness freak, and he doesn't drink alcohol. He even swore off the bubbly altogether for a time. Last season, when the Angels hit a losing streak, he swore he wouldn't drink any carbonated beverages until they won four in a row.
NEON GROWS DIMMER
The Braves placed outfielder Deion Sanders on the disqualified list last Thursday when he refused to rejoin the team after attending the funeral of his father, Mims, who died on April 23. If Sanders's decision had been due solely to grieving for his father, it would have been excusable. But Sanders deserted his teammates because he was unhappy about his lack of playing time. That's insubordination, and that's inexcusable. The Braves are scuffling, having lost six of their last eight through Sunday, but Sanders is too selfish to put the team's needs above his own.
Who is Atlanta manager Bobby Cox supposed to bench in order to play Sanders? Should he sit David Justice, who was hitting .196 at week's end but was National League Rookie of the Year in 1990? Or Otis Nixon, who has been a catalyst at the top of the order the last few years and a top defensive centerfielder? Or leftfielder Ron Gant, who was hitting .207 through Sunday but was a 30-homer, 30-steal player in 1990 and '91?
Sanders says the Braves are punishing him for not signing a long-term deal in the spring, and he calls it "the worst betrayal by a team in sports history." That is laughable. The Braves have offered him a three-year deal worth $11 million that includes an option for a fourth season. Sanders wants a three-year, $12 million deal, with no option. The Braves' offer is extremely generous for a lifetime .246 hitter, but there is speculation that Sanders will go back to playing football full-time.
His former teammate with the Atlanta Falcons, Brian Jordan, apparently won't be joining him, even though he was sent to Triple A Louisville by the Cardinals last week. Jordan, 26, signed a three-year, $2.2 million deal last summer to give up football and only play baseball for the Cards. He was supposed to play every day, but a 5-for-33 start dropped his career average to. 199.
Sanders is a terrific talent, but if he wants to continue playing baseball he had better learn that the sport is about patience and discipline. And that in any sport, honoring a contract is the main obligation of a player.