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American League : New Managers, Same Old Results

The American League saw four managerial changes in the first half, but no resulting miracles.

In fact, only the New York Yankees have a significant winning record under a new manager, the recycled Billy Martin. The Yankees are 42-26 since Martin replaced Yogi Berra, who would have produced at a similar pace, the players contend, had he been given time.

Meanwhile, the Baltimore Orioles are 14-14 under Earl Weaver, the Minnesota Twins are 13-9 under Ray Miller, and the Texas Rangers are 23-32 under Bobby Valentine.

Now the ax reportedly hovers over Pat Corrales of the Cleveland Indians and Tony LaRussa of the Chicago White Sox.

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A sweeter fate should await the Angels’ Gene Mauch, at least according to Detroit’s Sparky Anderson.

“If they voted now for Manager of the Year, it’s Mauch, hands down,” Anderson said.

The goal of Ray Miller was to simply keep his team close during a final Eastern swing before the All-Star break.

Miller believes it will be a different race in the second half.

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“Some of the teams in front of us have young pitchers, and you can’t count on young pitchers down the stretch,” he said.

Miller said he wasn’t questioning the ability of a Kirk McCaskill or Urbano Lugo, rookie pitchers in the Angels’ rotation. He said he was simply wondering about their endurance, which may be a valid point.

McCaskill has never pitched more than 162 innings, Lugo never more than 164. Ron Romanick, in establishing a career high with 229 innings as a rookie last year, was 2-3 with a 4.28 earned-run average in August and September.

Mike Flanagan, who ruptured an Achilles’ tendon playing basketball in January, is expected to rejoin the Baltimore rotation after the All-Star break.

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It can’t be too soon for Weaver, who had two postgame tirades last week, fuming: “We keep saying we’re a good team, but we keep running out of time, all kinds of time.”

Pitching, long the Baltimore hallmark, is now an albatross. Oriole starters have been knocked out 20 times before the fifth inning, seven times more than last year’s total. The 81-game earned-run average of 4.34 was the highest in club history. Only rookie Nate Snell, now sidelined by a cracked rib, and veteran reliever Sammy Stewart, who may leave in a trade for Buddy Bell, have ERAs under 4.00. The team record in one-run games is 10-13. In extra innings, it’s 1-6. Tippy Martinez has converted just 3 of 11 save chances.

Paradoxically, with the addition of Lee Lacy, Fred Lynn and Alan Wiggins, the Orioles had hit more home runs and scored more runs through the 81 games than in any year except 1966 and 1981.

“We never even gave the pitching a second thought last winter,” General Manager Hank Peters said of the unexpected problem. He also said that it’s up to the pitchers to correct it.

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“We had some guys blame the old manager, so we got a new manager, but nothing has changed,” Peters said. “We had some guys blame the old pitching coach (the departed Miller), but has anything changed? Nothing.”

Having ended Rod Carew’s 18-year All-Star reign at first base, Baltimore’s Eddie Murray remembered a series of frustrating conversations with Milwaukee Brewer first baseman Cecil Cooper.

“It seemed like every year we’d have pretty good numbers, but Rodney was always elected to the starting lineup,” Murray said. “We decided he was going to be there as long as he was in the league. It’s nice to see someone else in there. Rodney hasn’t been playing every day. He’s had a great career, but he’s not playing much now.”

Murray implied that the system has been against him.

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“It’s still tough to outvote that California area,” he said. “You came to accept it (first base) as his (Carew’s) position. To me, the guys on the field and in the dugout are better judges. That’s how you come up with an All-Star team.”

Carlton Fisk has 23 homers in his bid to become the first catcher since at least 1900 to lead the American League in home runs.

“My whole life, I’ve seemed to hit home runs in bunches,” he said. “I’ve never considered myself a classic home run hitter. When I’ve had a good stroke, I’ve been able to hit them. This year I’ve had a good stroke for home runs and not much else.”

Do the Tigers miss Ruppert Jones, who has 16 homers and 41 RBIs in 195 at-bats with the Angels?

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Consider: Eight current or former members of Detroit’s 1985 bench--Alex Sanchez, Marty Castillo, Barbaro Garbey, Johnny Grubb, Dave Bergman, Doug Flynn, Bob Melvin and Scotti Madison--have combined for only 13 homers and 31 RBIs in 390 at-bats.

Sparky Anderson is now saying privately that it was a mistake to let Jones become a free agent. The question wasn’t one of money, but of Jones’ desire for guaranteed playing time.

Rivaling Ruppert Jones’ part- time contributions have been those of Oakland’s Dusty Baker, the former Dodger. Baker has 11 homers and 37 RBIs in 171 at-bats, an average of one RBI every 4.6 at-bats. Baker’s production in the role of a platoon partner with Bruce Bochte at first base has now influenced Manager Jackie Moore to play him full time. He will continue to platoon with Bochte at first while also platooning with Dave Collins in left.

The A’s credit shortstop Alfredo Griffin with being the key to their good summer.

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Said Moore: “He’s given this team its best shortstop since Bert Campaneris. I think he’s been the most valuable player in the league. Check that. He is the most valuable player in the league.”

Said Oakland pitcher Steve McCatty: “He’s the biggest difference in this team. He could field a ball in a rock quarry.”

Batting ninth, Griffin has 43 RBIs with a .278 average and 11 steals in 13 attempts. He has also walked 13 times, compared to only four all of last year.

Collins, acquired from Toronto in the same deal as Griffin, said: “The only time I ever saw Alfredo walk was to the bus. He has learned not to swing at everything he sees.”

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George Brett had homered and singled in his first two at-bats against Cleveland Thursday night when the sticky memory of the 1983 pine-tar incident was rekindled by Corrales, who insisted that Brett had too much pine tar on his bat.

Brett cleaned it off before delivering a third hit in the sixth inning.

He laughed later and said: “It’s old hat. It’s the old distraction theory. But I’m swinging the bat so well now, it doesn’t matter. I’m swinging too good now to be distracted.”

A difference in the West is that Dan Quisenberry’s sinker isn’t sinking. Last year, when the Royals’ relief ace had 44 saves in 52 opportunities, right-handers hit .226 against him and left-handers hit .275. This year, he has already blown 6 of 22 save chances, right-handers are batting .235 and left-handers .322.

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Quisenberry’s struggle is reflected in Kansas City’s 12-19 record in one-run games. The Angels, by contrast, are 20-7.

Brett reflected and said: “It’s easy to lose, 12-1. You’re out of it and you accept it. We lose the tough way. The kind you can’t talk about for a half-hour.”


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