Cooney can't dodge Clemens questions

On baseball

April 19, 1991|By Jim Henneman

For Terry Cooney, the questions never seem to stop.

And the longer Roger "the Dodger" Clemens is able to avoid his suspension, the more Cooney is reminded of last year's incident in the playoffs. Cooney was the home plate umpire who threw Clemens out of the fourth game of the American League Championship Series.

After deliberating all winter, AL president Dr. Bobby Brown decided that Clemens' indiscretion was worth a $10,000 fine and a five-game suspension to begin with the first game of this season.

Yesterday the Boston ace, working on his second appeal, won his third straight game. Cooney was the one who missed Opening Day -- part of the one-day lockout of the major league umpires. The timing of the decision and the subsequent appeals allowed Roger to avoid missing an Opening Day start against Toronto, Boston's primary division rival.

The fact that Clemens has been able to manipulate the suspension to the point where it might actually be a benefit may make a mockery of the system, but it doesn't bother Cooney. The only thing that bothered the veteran umpire about Opening Day was that he was off the job because of the labor dispute.

"He has had his appeals," Cooney said of Clemens. "That doesn't bother me at all. The only problem is that people won't let it drop."

The real problem, however, is that this matter has been allowed to drag on this long. It would be one thing is we were talking about a court of law. But for the legal process within the game of baseball to allow a matter of this magnitude drag on for over six months is absurd.

At this point commissioner Fay Vincent, in whose hands the final decision now rests, might as well do away with the suspension. Had Clemens been forced to sit out the first five games of the season, it would have cost him one start -- and, because of off days, kept him from game action for a week. Now, if Vincent upholds the original penalty and plays diplomat by starting it today -- or any day after Clemens pitches -- all that happens is that the Boston ace gets an extra day of rest between assignments. That amounts to nothing more than a built-in rainout, which is hardly a penalty.

The only way for Vincent to uphold the intent of Brown's ruling is to carefully monitor the Red Sox rotation -- and start the suspension on a day that Clemens is scheduled to pitch. Anything else allows Roger The Dodger, and the Red Sox, to beat the rap.

That might be unfair to Cooney, who has taken a lot of flap over the incident, but he could care less. He would just like to see the issue go away.

* THE DAULTON EFFECT: Remember when the Phillies helped establish the free-agent market last November when they gave catcher Darren Daulton $6.7 million for three years? That contract, more than anything else, established the value of ex-Oriole Mickey Tettleton, leading to his trade for Jeff Robinson.

The early returns on their investment have not been encouraging for the Phillies. After eight games, Daulton was hitting .176 and had struck out eight times -- five in an extra-inning loss to the Cubs. In addition, base-stealers were successful in 20 of their first 21 attempts against Daulton and the Philadelphia pitching staff.

The Phillies, incidentally, could be the Detroit Tigers of the National League. In addition to Daulton, Dickie Thon (11), Dale Murphy (nine) and Von Hayes (seven) opened on a wicked whiff pace.

* GRIFFEYS, MEET THE DEMPSEYS: It was 14 years ago that Rick Dempsey first revealed his desire to catch in four different decades. The pronouncement came after he signed a three-year contract with the Orioles in 1977. ("Their worst offer was better than my best," he said at the time.)

Now Dempsey, who broke in with the Twins in 1969, is two years into his fourth decade and his goals have "expanded," if you'll pardon the pun. "What's next? Are you going to wait around for expansion?" Dempsey was asked yesterday.

"Why not?" he answered. The National League will add two teams for the 1993 season. By that time Dempsey's son John, who is in the St. Louis system, could be knocking on the door.

* TROUBLE IN THE TWIN CITIES? Jack Morris, the very expensive free agent who was expected to return home (he's from St. Paul, Minn.) and anchor the Twins pitching staff, has already been hammered twice. The righthander is a workhorse, but all those innings he pitched in Detroit may have taken a huge toll.

In another interesting development involving the Twins, manager Tom Kelly has already used a pinch-hitter for Kent Hrbek twice against lefthanded pitchers. That hasn't happened since the big lefthanded slugger broke into the big leagues.

* IMPERTINENT QUESTIONS (ALL ABOUT THE O'S): How much concentration (one of the favorite words) did Ben McDonald have while pitching in an extended spring training camp game?

And, if Bob Milacki has overmatched Double A hitters in his two starts with Hagerstown, what's the point in keeping him there?

Leo Gomez is going to be a good major-league hitter, but are he and Craig Worthington going to get in each other's way this year?

Since there's eventually going to be an unnamed football stadium next door to the unnamed baseball stadium, why doesn't the Maryland Unnamed Stadium Authority just hang a sign up calling the entire area the Camden Yards Complex -- and then pick a name for each unnamed stadium.

Or is that too complicated?

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