Baseball / Ross Newhan : Canseco, Schmidt Not Only All-Star Voting Absurdities
Just because a retired player leads the National League All-Star voting at third base and a player who hasn’t appeared in a major league game this year is among the American League’s top three outfielders doesn’t mean there should be another appeal to take the vote away from the fans.
Actually, this year’s results only border on the annual absurdity produced by the paying electorate.
With the voting scheduled to end today and the final week’s ballots still to be tabulated, the probable results don’t appear that far out of line, even with the retired Mike Schmidt winning the National League’s third base nod and the injured Jose Canseco being selected to the American League outfield.
Based on 1989 performance, here’s the way it should have gone, with the fan leaders in parentheses:
FIRST BASE (Mark McGwire): There is no position with more legitimate candidates, including McGwire, Alvin Davis, Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff and Rafael Palmeiro. They are virtually impossible to separate, but the nod here would be to Mattingly, who has come on in all categories to regain his Hit Man identification.
SECOND BASE (Steve Sax): The former Dodger is having a big year, but Julio Franco, No. 2 in the voting, is having a bigger year and should have been an obvious choice.
SHORTSTOP (Cal Ripken Jr.): No argument.
THIRD BASE (Wade Boggs): Boggs has overcome all the distractions to make another run at a batting title, but the pick should have been Gary Gaetti, who is among the league leaders in home runs and runs batted in, carrying the Minnesota Twins back into the race.
OUTFIELD (Bo Jackson, Kirby Puckett and Canseco): Jackson and Puckett are legitimate picks, but Canseco is a joke. Is this the 1988 or 1989 All-Star team? It’s an insult to Ruben Sierra, who is No. 7 in the voting and should be No. 1.
CATCHER (Terry Steinbach): The MVP of last year’s All-Star game isn’t a bad pick, but Mickey Tettleton deserves the edge based on power, production and his impact on the Baltimore Orioles.
PITCHERS: The fans have no voice in the selection of the pitching staff. Manager Tony La Russa couldn’t go wrong with Dave Stewart, Roger Clemens, Greg Swindell, Chuck Finley, Jeff Ballard and relievers Tom Gordon, Jeff Russell and Doug Jones.
FIRST BASE (Will Clark): An obvious pick, though Pedro Guerrero is having a fine year as well.
SECOND BASE (Ryne Sandberg): No argument here either.
SHORTSTOP (Ozzie Smith): The fans voted without thinking. Barry Larkin is now the league’s premier shortstop in every way.
THIRD BASE (Schmidt): A nice honor for Schmidt, but this is supposed to be the 1989 All-Star team. Howard Johnson, sixth in the voting, should be first.
OUTFIELD (Kevin Mitchell, Darryl Strawberry and Tony Gwynn): Mitchell and Gwynn are bona fide picks. Strawberry might have been if he hadn’t been sidelined recently by injuries. The third outfielder should be Vince Coleman or Eric Davis, with Davis having compiled legitimate statistics despite ongoing leg problems.
CATCHER (Benito Santiago): In a league where no catcher has distinguished himself offensively, Tony Pena probably is the half-year All-Star, though Santiago has begun to hit some after a horrendous start.
PITCHERS: Manager Tom Lasorda would be wise to select Rick Reuschel, Mike Scott, Dennis Martinez, Orel Hershiser and four relievers: John Franco, Mark Davis, Mitch Williams and Jay Howell.
Lonnie Smith, having staged a remarkable comeback from the drug problems that took him to the minors and threatened his career, had 10 home runs and a .325 average through Friday and figured to be the Atlanta Braves’ All-Star representative.
But Smith says he isn’t sure he will accept, citing a tender ankle that recently put him on the disabled list and his dislike for Lasorda.
“I wouldn’t be the first guy not to play for Tommy,” he said.
Did Pete Rose regularly call other managers to determine the physical status of their teams before betting on them, as Paul Janszen testified in baseball’s investigation into Rose’s alleged gambling habits?
Twelve managers contacted by The Times failed to confirm that. “I’m not saying that I’ve never talked to Pete on the phone,” said an American League manager who requested anonymity. “But it would be highly unusual and suspicious for any manager to call another on a regular basis to ask about injuries and the status of a pitcher. And Pete never did that, to my knowledge at least. It seems like someone has it in for him, on this count anyway.”
Texas Rangers coach Davey Lopes, who set a major league record by stealing 38 consecutive bases without being caught as a Dodger in 1975, wasn’t overly thrilled to see the St. Louis Cardinals’ Vince Coleman break his mark.
Coleman began a weekend series against San Diego with 40 consecutive steals, 34 this year.
“I always thought that once a season terminated, it terminated what you had accomplished,” Lopes said. “They don’t carry over batting average and earned-run average. I’m sure he could do it in one year and that’s the way it should be counted.”
Lopes also couldn’t resist a needle when asked his opinion of Coleman’s success rate.
“I guess he’s picking better situations,” Lopes said.
“When I stole 47 of 49 (51 really) with the Cubs at age 40, Coleman said anyone could do it if they picked the right situations,” Lopes said with a smile. “I guess he’s picking the right situations.”
In Coleman’s view, no situation is better than another.
“Everyone in the park knows I’m going,” he said. “I’m going against the whole park. I hope I get a hundred in a row.”
Montreal Expos Manager Buck Rodgers, in his sixth full season as a major league manager, registered his 500th victory Tuesday night and said:
“Five hundred doesn’t mean as much to me as having a career record--502-450 through Saturday--over .500. I think the number of years you’re over .500 is a good batting average for a manager.”
After a struggling start linked to the uncertainty of his contract talks with the Twins, Frank Viola has pitched 17 consecutive scoreless innings, including a 2-0 victory over Dave Stewart and the Oakland A’s Wednesday night.
Viola is 6-8 while Stewart is 12-4, but he had a message for the A’s ace. “Tell him I’m back, if he asks,” Viola said.
Stewart won’t ask and doesn’t have to be told.
“If I had to pitch against Frank Viola every four days, it would eventually cause me mental strain and a nervous breakdown,” he said.
Rickey Henderson has been on a roll since returning to the A’s, but the team began has a 4-5 record since Henderson arrived. The A’s have been hurt by the continued absence of relief ace Dennis Eckersley and diminished bullpen depth stemming from the departure of Eric Plunk and Greg Cadaret in trade for Henderson.
Eckersley, sidelined by a shoulder strain since May 27, may return next weekend. The bullpen has a 1-7 record and four blown saves in 14 chances since he went out.
And the bullpen’s earned-run average since Plunk and Cadaret were traded was 4.84 through Thursday, compared to 2.03 previously.
What does it portend for the race in the AL West to have Texas only 2 1/2 games out before a weekend series with Seattle despite a combined 10-16 record and 5.54 ERA by two pitchers who will eventually do better, Charlie Hough and Bobby Witt?
Although the Dodgers have been calling Pittsburgh about the availability of Barry Bonds, it hasn’t been with the persistance that General Manager Syd Thrift of the New York Yankees has been displaying in regard to third baseman Bobby Bonilla, whom Thrift originally signed for the Pirates.
“Syd wants Bonilla bad, but I won’t trade him,” Pirate General Manager Larry Doughty said. “If I trade him, I’ll go out and buy the rope for the city of Pittsburgh to put around my neck.”
Baseball’s worst statistical line may belong to pitcher Bill Bene, the Dodgers’ No. 1 draft choice in 1988 from Cal State Los Angeles.
Recently demoted from Class-A Bakersfield to a rookie league team at Salem, Ore., Bene has pitched 16 1/3 innings this year with 17 hits, 19 earned runs, 36 walks, four hit batters, 10 wild pitches and 16 strikeouts.
Which raises a question: Why, in an era when college players are jumping directly to the majors or requiring only a year or two in the minors, would the Dodgers use their top pick on a project who may require four or five years--even if he had the best arm in the draft, as the Dodgers claim?
McGwire had 99 home runs in 1,389 at-bats through Friday and figures to reach 100 quicker than anyone in history except for Ralph Kiner, who did it in 1,351 at-bats. Jim Gentile did it in 1,419, and Harmon Killebrew in 1,420.
From Pittsburgh Pirates broadcaster Steve Blass: “I went in and saw the movie, Batman, last night. It was good, but I liked the book better.”