Impressive group, huh? Nevertheless, Duncan is a master at salvaging a staff from such a menagerie. Count on La Russa, Duncan and a high-powered offense to keep Oakland in the hunt—again.
Andy MacPhail says the only team capable of winning the West division by 10 games is the CHICAGO WHITE SOX, because they have a load of talent at the major and minor league levels plus the wherewithal to get whatever else is needed to win. He's right. But the White Sox also are the team most likely to cave in as a result of distractions, conflicting egos and bad defense.
The most unsettling factor is Bo Jackson, whose amazing comeback from hip-replacement surgery has been inspiring but, through no fault of his own, has created a circus. His hitting (.367 this spring) won him a roster spot, but he has no position to call his own—rendering him the most famous pinch hitter in baseball. Will he be content in that role? Will his teammates tire of the media talking up Bo instead of them? When Bo takes a turn at designated hitter, will it upset the American League's premier DH, George Bell?
Jackson isn't the only rehab project on the team. Although shortstop Ozzie Guillen (knee) and rightfielder Ellis Burks (back) have had good springs, they must be monitored warily, as must fifth-starter candidate Dave Stieb (elbow).
And Bo's comeback isn't the only upsetting situation. Forty-five-year-old Carlton Fisk, who is 25 games short of setting the major league record for most games caught, thought he was being slighted during contract negotiations this spring, and he won't be happy playing sporadically behind Ron Karkovice. And second baseman Steve Sax, whose defense is worse than ever, will be miserable after losing his job to Craig Grebeck.
"We have a logjam," says Chicago manager Gene Lamont, knowing there aren't enough at bats to keep everyone happy. He's got one more problem: After 20-game winner Jack McDowell, the rotation (Kirk McCaskill, Alex Fernandez, Wilson Alvarez and Stieb or Rod Bolton) doesn't include anyone who looks like a 15-game winner.
Not much has happened to the TEXAS RANGERS this spring, except...new shortstop Manny Lee had visa problems, couldn't get out of the Dominican Republic and missed the first two weeks of camp; new second baseman Bill Ripken introduced himself to right-fielder Jose Canseco, who said, "What are you doing here?" unaware that Ripken had joined the team as a free agent in February; 20-game winner Kevin Brown injured a rib, jeopardizing his Opening Day start, which might go to free-agent newcomer Craig Lefferts; Kenny Rogers, who has a career ERA of 6.17 as a starter and 3.32 as a reliever, was handed a spot in the rotation; new manager Kevin Kennedy said Canseco might pitch in a game this season; Canseco said Kennedy could use any of his cars, anytime; first baseman Rafael Palmeiro had his tonsils removed, sidelining him for 2� weeks of camp; the rotation was juggled so that Nolan Ryan could start an exhibition game before 50,000 at the Astrodome on April 2, the first stop on a farewell tour to end all farewell tours; Lee injured his rib cage, leaving 20-year-old Benji Gil, who hasn't played above Class A, as the probable Opening Day shortstop; no set-up man for new closer Tom Henke emerged, so Seattle reject Mike Schooler was plucked off the waiver wire; no established centerfielder or leadoff man was found; and DH Julio Franco, who missed most of '92 with tendinitis in his right knee, developed tendinitis in his left knee.
This team has the frontline talent to win the West, but spring training was so uneven, so disruptive, that it's hard to imagine the Rangers getting their act together before July.
According to Hal McRae, "Of all the jobs at the ballpark, managing is probably the least desirable—unless you've been established for five or six years so you can do things your way, or you're earning real good money. I'm not possessed. I'd like to be successful, but I don't have to be. I'd be happy doing something else in the game. If I ranked what I'd like to do, first I'd be a player, second a hitting coach, third a manager."
McRae never really wanted to manage the KANSAS CITY ROYALS, which has been obvious in his 1� years on the job. After last season he told his players that as badly as they had played (72-90), he had managed just as poorly. Nevertheless this year's camp has run smoother, the players say, and McRae is more comfortable in his role. "I'm having a great time," he says. "The last two years I didn't like it. But I gained experience; I got some players."