Swindell can afford champagne. New Astro owner Drayton McLane spent $36.5 million to bring free-agent pitchers Swindell and Doug Drabek back to Houston, the hometown of both players. The two contracts are worth more than twice the entire payroll of the 1992 Astros, who finished a surprising 81-81 in spite of their shallow staff of starting pitchers, which went 42-60 last season.
This season, with Drabek and Swindell preceding Pete Harnisch and Mark Portugal in the rotation, the Astros have the third-best staff in baseball—and, alas, in the division. "There will be a lot of one-run games when we play Atlanta," pitching coach Bob Cluck clucks.
In other words, Houston is in it to win it this season. This would complete a startling metamorphosis best exemplified by the growth on Candaele's face. Candaele is wearing what blues musicians and other facial-hair aficionados call a "soul patch" beneath his lower lip. "To help me play the saxophone," he says. "Actually, it's a caterpillar. Maybe by the end of the season, it will grow into a butterfly."
Sherry Davis, the legal secretary who becomes the first full-time female P.A. announcer in the majors this year, may have the best 3-4-5 hitters in baseball to introduce for the SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS.
Batting third, the first baseman, Will Clark. A free agent after this season, Clark would like to stick the Giants for the kind of money ($43.75 million) they gave Barry Bonds in December. Which means Will will be certain to have a monstrous season after hitting a mere .300—along with the most anemic team-leading total of RBIs (73) in the league—last season.
Batting fourth, the third baseman, Matt Williams. When Bonds arrived this spring, he allegedly called Williams a "fat, bald old man." Even so, Williams has to be elated about his new teammate. Batting in front of Bonds—who led the league in walks last year—Williams will see nothing but pitches on the fat part of the plate, as he did when Kevin Mitchell used to hit behind him. Without a threat in the five hole last season, a flustered Williams batted .227.
Batting fifth, the leftfielder, Barry Bunds. The best player in baseball had a tumultuous spring, but also a torrid one. He hit Padre Phil Plantier, but he also hit .400 for most of the exhibition season. He and Clark together—both strongheaded, sometimes wrongheaded—will make for a wildly interesting season.
The problem for undermanned San Francisco? As centerfielder Willie McGee says, "You can't put them on the field by themselves." The Giants, it seems, intend to try.
If ifs and buts were Pizza Huts, Tom Lasorda would be fat again. "What if Strawberry is healthy?" queries Giant manager Dusty Baker. "What if Davis is healthy? What if Offerman cuts down on his errors? What if Orel Hershiser and Ramon Martinez put it together?"
The LOS ANGELES DODGERS lost 99 games and finished in last place for the first time since 1905. But what if fragile outfielders Darryl Strawberry and Eric Davis are healthy? Last season these best friends played together a mere 31 times. Both reported this spring with shaved heads and a sense of purpose. Says Strawberry, "I have a chance to establish myself as probably one of the best players ever to play this game." He is already one of the best to seldom play this game.