St. Louis Post-Dispatch from St. Louis, Missouri on July 27, 2003 · Page 22
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St. Louis Post-Dispatch from St. Louis, Missouri · Page 22

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Sunday, July 27, 2003
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C7 BASEBALL INSIDER ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH SPORTS SUNDAY, JULY 27, 2003 COMMENTARY - Still rooting to see Maris in Hall of Fame , .. . ByIraBerkow The New York Times When he was a boy living in the Sheepshead Bay section of Brooklyn in the late 1950s and early '60s, he and his friends would take the D train to Yankee Stadium to see their favorite team play. Young Chuck loved the Yankees. The Dodgers and the Giants had absconded to Los Angeles and to San Francisco, the Mets were barely a gleam in Bill Shea's eye, and the Yankees were the only team in town. His favorite players in that era were Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra. And Roger Maris. Mantle and Berra are in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Maris is not. Charles E. Schumer, now a U.S. senator from New York, believes this is a grievous oversight and should be corrected as soon as possible. "He played with grit and determination, but was also a class act," Schumer said. He recalled that he had intently followed Maris and Mantle's pursuit of Babe Ruth's single-season home run record, which Maris broke with 61 homers in 1961. Maris was named the American League's most valuable player in 1960 and 1961. Why is Schumer campaigning for Maris now? After all, the . Hall's Veterans Committee which votes on previously passed-over older players and executives doesn't meet again until March. "I wanted to get a jump-start on the voting for Roger," Schumer said by telephone from Washington the other day. Gary Carter, the Expos and Mets catcher, and Eddie Murray, the Orioles, Dodgers, Mets and Indians first baseman, are being inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday. Maris, while close, does not have the overall credentials to be a Hall of Famer. Without question, Maris, who died in 198S at age 51, was a superb hitter, fielder and base runner, and a popular player among his teammates, if not consistently with the news media. He had a reputation for being surly, though I found him to be genuine and candid. But personality or character issues should not play a role in election to what ought to be consideration based solely on performance on the field. 'i. There are only nine retired players who won back-to-back Most Valuable Player awards. "Other than Maris and Dale Murphy, every one of them is a Hall of Famer," Schumer said. : He admitted, however, that Maris' 12-year career statistics fell somewhat short of those of other Hall of Earners, as well as those of other worthy candidates. Maris hit 275 home runs, had 851 runs batted in and had an unimpressive .260 batting average. He never batted over .300, never hit more than 39 home runs in any season other than 1961, won just one Gold Glove and was named to just four All-Star teams. ; One of the pleasurable aspects of following baseball is that arguments over the merits of various players past and present can never be conclusive, like holding up a mirror to nature itself. Gray areas often dominate. But on the face of it, players like relief pitcher Bruce Sutter and the sluggers Jim Rice and Andre Dawson, who finished third, fourth and fifth in the most recent balloting for the Hall of Fame, are more deserving than Maris longer careers, better numbers. For example, Rice, who got 52.2 percent of the sportswrit-ers' vote, played 16 seasons, hit 382 homers and had 1,451 runs batted in and a .298 batting average, far superior to Maris' numbers. Rice won one MVP award and was an eight-time All-Star. Don Mattingly and Thurman Munson, to name two Yankees, have stronger credentials than Maris. Murphy, Cecil Travis, Stan Hack, Dummy Hoy, Carl Mays, Tony Oliva and Ron Santo, as well as Tommy John (288 victories), Bert Blyleven (287) and Jim Kaat (283 victories), among several others, have claims at least as strong as Maris' for the Hall of Fame. Shortly before the Veterans Committee voted this year, Schumer issued a news release promoting Gil Hodges, the Dodgers first baseman and the manager of the 1969 Miracle Mets, for inclusion in the Hall of Fame. "Hodges may have stronger credentials than Maris for the Hall of Fame," Schumer said, "but I think both should be in it" There is a believable passion to bis Hall of Fame urgings, even if, from my view, he is on relatively shaky ground. No need for him to don a New York team cap to establish credentials. Unlike another U.S. senator from New York, he is no Rger-come-lately Yankee. Top 5 Cardinals writer Joe Strauss TOP BOTTOM 1. Giants 2. Braves 3LYankees 4. Astros 26. Rangers 27. Brewers 28. Reds 29. Indians 5. White Sox 30. Tigers Bottom 5 teams The Giants will win 95 games by playing .500 ball the rest of the way. Pair 'em with the Braves and get it over with. Baseball columnist Rick Hummel TOP BOTTOM 1. Braves 26. Reds 2. Yankees 3. Giants 4. Mariners 27. Mets 5. Phillies 28 Jdres 29. DevilRays 30. Tigers Yankees-Braves World Series would be third in eight seasons. FIVE QUESTIONS WITH PITTSBURGH BROADCASTER STEVE BLASS Through good and bad, Blass' heart is with Pirates By Rick Hummel Of the Post-Dispatch Steve Blass has been with the Pittsburgh Pirates' organization for 43 years. It is the only organization with which he has worked. He was a World Series hero, a 19-game winner and an All-Star before his career ended prematurely when he encountered control problems he was unable to conquer then or understand to this day. Now, he broadcasts Pirates games and, considering his longevity, has a unique perspective on what the Pirates are trying to do lately. Blass answers five questions: Q: What do you make of the Pirates' recent overhaul, trading away high-salaried but productive veterans for prospects? A: "They're trying to do a lot with a little. They're trying to stay competitive without a lot of money. They're not the only ones trying to do that but they're the only ones I'm working for. It's frustrating for me, to a degree. It's sad for me, to a degree because I've seen them when they've been on rolls, in the early 70s and again in the early '90s. I've got a frame of reference so it's tough. "It's so frustrating to me because I have such loyalty. (The Pirates) gave me a chance to play major-league baseball. I can't be overly critical because they gave me a chance to live my dream. I will never turn my back on this organization. "But I don't even want to understand the economics about baseball. I detest the economics around baseball. I just want to watch baseball games. I don't understand a lot of it, and that's the price I pay. What do I make of it? I just have my fingers crossed that they know what they're doing and maybe they 4 - : v V FM..:J , ii J .... THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Steve Blass (facing camera) celebrates with teammates after pitching a complete-game victory in Game 7 of the 1971 World Series. can do what some of the other small-market teams can do. There has been some success. I don't know how to go about it. I hope we have people that do." Q: In 1971, you pitched a complete-game victory for the Pirates to win Game Seven of the World Series. As the last National League pitcher to do that, how does that make you feel? A: "How about two complete games (in that Series)? But you know what makes me feel best? It was 2 hours 10 minutes, with a 15-minute argument by (Baltimore manager) Earl Weaver. He said I wasn't lined up on the mound right. He might have been right, I don't know. I could have pitched from second base, I was so fired up. But every time I see him, I thank him. I got so mad at him I forgot how nervous I was." Q: As good a feeling as you had in that Series, was the next year one of your biggest disappointments? You started the fifth and final game of the National League Championship Series but, after you came out, the Pirates lost to the Reds In extra innings. A: "The 1972 team was better than the 71 team, primarily because of the experience of having won in 71. It was the same talent. Bill Virdon, who has managed everywhere, said that was the best team he's ever managed. We felt we were the best team in baseball. They can say all they want about Barry Bonds not throwing Sid Bream out at home plate (in the 1992 NLCS) and that ripping everybody's heart out. But I lived the other one. And the other one was worse that wild pitch that (Bob) Moose threw." Q: Do you wish more people would remember the creditable career you had rather than your control meltdown In 1973 that hastened the end of that career? A: "Yes, but I understand human nature. That whole (control) thing was much more dramatic. It had a life of its own. It's not my favorite thing but I don't resent people bringing it up. Any time I speak to a group, I mention that. I can never be devastated, having gone through that. They say adversity makes you stronger and, yes, I believe mat. I don't think I could have anything thrown at me again that would be that challenging emotionally, professionally, the whole gamut. "I feel good about the way I handled it. I don't think I turned on people. And I'm very proud of that. I don't think I got one negative letter. And it didn't make me lose my love of the game. That was very important to me. I rationalize it and I'm so far ahead. I did everything I dreamed of doing. World Series, All-Star Game, won 100 games. Played with (Roberto) Clemente and (Bill) Mazeroski and Pops (Willie Stargell). "I played my whole career with the Pirates and I feel wonderful about that. Not too many guys do it. I pitched against Tom Seaver. I pitched " against Nolan Ryan. I pitched against Bob Gibson. It wasn't a challenge. It was a joy. I remember telling Clemente, . 'If I ever get traded, I'm pitching you inside because they pitch you outside every year and you hit .350.' He said, 'If you pitch me inside, I'll hit : the ball to McKeesport.'" Q: Did you feel badly for (Cards farmhand) Rick Anklel when he was sidelined for the year with elbow , problems after apparently coming to grips with similar control issues to what you had? A: "I root for him. I root for all those guys. It feels like I have an 800 number, any time something like that happens. When he went through that in the playoffs, I got a call right away from (Pittsburgh writer) Paul Meyer. He said, 'Are you watching?' "Then the next year, I was here the day he imploded. That was his last big-league game. It was painful. "I hope those guys get over it. People ask me, 'What would you tell them? I would tell them to keep trying everything because they might find one little thing that puts it all into place and gets them on their way. ' "But the only thing I would do is if it happened today, I would go to the Harvard Medical School and say, 'Here I am, boys.' Especially with the stakes what they are today. I was trying to get back to a 40-grand-a-year job." Series of the week Chicago at Kansas C'rty Chicago at Kansas City. Tuesday through Thursday. The White Sox think they can run down the Royals in the AL Central. The two teams play three more times next week in Chicago. Highlight of the week The Chicago White Sox beat Toronto 7-6 on Wednesday and climbed above .500. That gave the woeful American League Central Division two of its five teams above .500. f- Lowlight H of the week Cardinals righthander Matt Morris was sidelined perhaps for the rest of the season with a broken bone in his right hand. Now, we'll never know if he was beginning to find it or not. Stat of the week Jeriome Robertson of Houston won his ninth straight decision on Tuesday. With Roy Oswalt and Wade Miller pitching well, the Astros have a Big Three or two more than the Cardinals have. Linescore of the week IP H R ER BB SO 2 6 6 6 3 1 Former Chicago Cubs farmhand ,' Dontrelle Willis had his winning streak snapped at eight games when the Cubs jumped him in Miami. Around the AL compBed RkHumme Indians have 13 rookies on roster fS ArOUnd the NL CompiledbyRickHummel Former owner ridicules the Mets There are youth movements and then there are the Cleveland Indians. The Indians are carrying an astounding 13 rookies on their 25-man roster. For example, the Indians have only four position players roster who aren't rookies: Casey Blake, Milton Bradley, Tim Laker and John McDonald. Blake and McDonald have less than two years' service. "We might take our bumps and bruises now, but this is going to help us get better quicker," said manager Eric Wedge. "We want to have the best of both worlds. We want to win, but we also want to develop our young players." During a recent four-game series in New York, the combined salaries of the Yankees players was $83 million and the Indians was $3 million. ROYALS: As the trade deadline approaches, center fielder Carlos BeKran is still available although it would take an overwhelming deal to get him. Beltran is even talking of a multiyear agreement with the Royals. "I want to be on a winning team. Right now, we're winning," Beltran said. "But I want to wait to see how far we're going to go. If we go far, of course we can talk about a contract" The Royals already are paying injured first baseman Mike Sweeney $11 million a year, and even if they'd pay Beltran the same, that's $22 million or about half of their entire payroll budget YANKEES: Andy Pettttte, who won his seventh consecutive game last week, has 12 victories, giving him 12 or more in each of his first nine seasons in the majors. Cleveland's Stan Coveleskl was the last to have such a run, reaching nine consecutive years in 1926. Second baseman Alfonso Soriano, who already has 17 leadoff home runs in his young career, has stopped admiring his home runs. "I tried to be faster because Joe told me again," Soriano said. Torre talked to Soriano about it several times this season. "It's something he'll have to be conscious of," Torre said. ANGELS: Jarrod Washburn, an 18-game winner last year, is suffering from Matt Morris syndrome. After giving up 10 runs in 3'A innings at Texas on Wednesday, Washburn said, "I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing on the mound right now. So I'm not going to lie and tell you I know how to fix it I don't know. Something has to change. Basically right now, I'm as bad as I could possibly get." ATHLETICS: The A's are desperate to improve their offense and would love Pittsburgh outfielder Brian Giles, but agent Joe Bick said, "We have not been approached by the Pirates and asked to approve any trade to anybody." Giles said last summer that he'd consider a trade to Oakland because the team is a contender. "He's from San Diego," Bick said. "But obviously, anybody not on (Giles' list of six teams he can be traded to) well deal with when it happens." The six teams are the five in the National League West and Atlanta, where Giles' brother, Marcus, plays second base. Pettitte Another dozen i 1 Washbum Seeking answers Lowell Cancer scare Lofton Baker fan If things weren't bad enough for the New York Mets, former owner Nelson Doubleday is piling on. Doubleday, whose share was bought out by Fred Wilpon's group, told the Newark Star-Ledger, "I don't want to fire shells at somebody but the Mets are 22 games out. It's so close that it gets you nervous. We might fall into the minor leagues. We might not make it into Triple-A. The Mets might be in Double-A next year." Of chief operating officer teff Wilpon, son of the owner, Doubleday said, "Jeff sits there by himself like he's like King Tut waiting for a . camel. Mr. Jeff Wilpon has decided that he's going to learn how to manage a baseball team and take over at the end of the year. Run for the hills, boys." CUBS: General manager Jim Hendry is getting high marks for his acquisition of outfielder Kenny Lofton and third baseman Aramis Ramirez from Pittsburgh. "I think it's awesome," said Sammy Sosa, specifically referring to Ramirez. "It's going to help this ballclub, getting another bat. I don't want to take anything away from the third basemen we have on the club, but he's a young kid, has a good future, and the team is going to do better now." Ramirez was hitting .280 with 12 homers and a team-high 67 RBIs for Pittsburgh. When he arrived, he had more RBIs than anyone else in the Cubs lineup. Lofton, 36, loved playing for manager Dusty Baker at the end of last season with San Francisco and he grew up in East Chicago, Ind., rooting for the Cubs. "The combination of growing up a Cubs fan and being a big fan of Dusty makes being here that more special," Lofton said. MARLINS: Last Friday night, ' Mike Lowell spent five hours in a car praying. A magnetic resonance imaging test of his strained left groin had revealed a spot that resembled a tumor. Lowell, a testicular cancer survivor, traveled to Gainesville, Fla., last Friday with his family to consult ;: a specialist. The All-Star third baseman ultimately was diagnosed with fibrous dysplasia, a bone disorder that is neither curable nor treatable but won't interfere with his playing career. In his first game back after missing three, Lowell had two hits. "It was a great day," said Lowell. "I can't describe it. I felt like I was just back into a normal world again. Just a great feeling." BRAVES: With his third straight victory Monday, Greg Maddux (9-8) not only went over .500 for the first time this season, he put himself back on track to extend his streak of 15 consecutive 15-win seasons. "You guys write and worry about it," said Maddux, the only pitcher other than Cy Young to win at least 15 games for 15 successive years. "I don't worry about it . . . I'm not trying to put up numbers, just make pitches." "That's an amazing streak," manager Bobby Cox said. "Not too many guys have done that You figure something would go wrong somewhere." Writers from other cities contribcled some information.

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