No need to second-guess: Davis deal still OK

BASEBALL

June 30, 1991|By PETER SCHMUCK

It's easy to second-guess. Perhaps that's why it's such a popular pastime in these parts. But this is one career second-guesser who still can't find fault with the Glenn Davis deal.

Of course, if you're going to nit-pick, there's the fact that he hasn't played very much, but the decision to trade Pete Harnisch, Curt Schilling and Steve Finley to the Houston Astros for one of baseball's premier power hitters still holds up.

Things have worked out in favor of the Astros to this point, but that doesn't change the fact that acquiring Davis was the right move at the right time for the Baltimore Orioles. They filled the talent gap in the offense and still might be in contention if not for the freak neck injury that has kept Davis in therapy instead of the home run rankings.

But the frustration of Orioles fans is understandable. Harnisch is leading the National League with a 2.01 ERA, while five of the Orioles' seven possible starters -- including injured pitchers Ben McDonald and Dave Johnson -- have ERAs over 5.00. Finley is hitting .286 as the Astros' everyday center fielder, while several Orioles outfielders struggle at the plate. Schilling, who tailed off considerably after a fast start and was sent to the minors last week, might be the only member of the group whose current statistics wouldn't be welcome in Baltimore.

Still, the Orioles were not a championship-caliber team before the deal was made. They had a chance to be afterward, but fell victim to a set of circumstances that were beyond their control.

The issue now is not why they did what they did, but what they will do about the future. To get any return on the Davis deal, the Orioles will have to re-sign Davis at the end of the season, but that will depend heavily on whether he comes back this year and proves he still can play.

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More ex-Orioles on parade: Detroit Tigers fans have had no reason to second-guess the deal that sent Jeff Robinson to the Orioles in exchange for catcher Mickey Tettleton, and Tettleton has had no reason to regret leaving Baltimore.

He's one of the reasons the Tigers are within striking distance of first place in the American League East, and he's delivering some big bangs for the 1.6 million bucks the Tigers agreed to pay him this year.

Wednesday, he cleared the Tiger Stadium right-field roof for the second time in six games. There have been 25 roof shots in Tigers history, and only two others have done it more than once in the same season -- Norm Cash (three times in 1962) and Jason Thompson (twice in 1977).

It's too early to tell whether he has recaptured the stroke that carried him to 26 home runs in 1989, but Tettleton already is approaching his run-production totals of 1990. He has 14 home runs and 41 RBI, compared with 15 and 51 all last year, but it should be remembered that most of his 1990 production came in one five-week stretch in the first half.

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The six-player deal that sent Tom Candiotti to the Toronto Blue Jays has another Cleveland Indians starter wondering whether he is long for the tight-fisted Indians.

Left-hander Greg Swindell is waiting for the next shoe to drop, because he is nearing the salary level that usually means sayonara in Cleveland.

"Seeing what happened to Candy, nobody is secure around here," Swindell told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "It was a good deal for Toronto, and now that they have Candy, I would think Boston would have to go out and get another starting pitcher.

"I don't know if it'd be me, but they need somebody if they are to stay in contention."

Funny, what started out as an expression of concern ended up sounding a lot like a hint.

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Is it any wonder the Blue Jays were willing to give up promising outfielders Mark Whiten and Glenallen Hill for another pitcher who could become a free agent at the end of the season? Four of the pitchers used to fill the final two spots in the rotation -- Jim Acker, Juan Guzman, Denis Boucher and Mike Timlin -- were 4-10 as starters.

"I think the Indians got the better of this trade," Blue Jays general manager Pat Gillick said. "But, at this moment, we need a pitcher. Pitching is at a premium around baseball. But with the division being what it is, we have an opportunity to win it, and we knew we'd have to overpay."

There was a precedent. The Blue Jays traded three prospects to the Indians last September to acquire left-hander Bud Black, who left the club to become a free agent just a few weeks later.

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It isn't easy to rile affable Tigers manager Sparky Anderson, but Milwaukee Brewers manager Tom Trebelhorn found a way when he complained about the condition of the plate area at Tiger Stadium.

On a night when sinkerball pitcher Walt Terrell was scheduled to start for the Tigers, the Brewers noticed that the dirt in front of home was extremely soft. Trebelhorn appealed to plate umpire Jim Evans, who held up the game and ordered the grounds crew to make repairs.

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