'Brady Ruth' is sultan of spring

MIKE LITTWIN

April 26, 1992|By MIKE LITTWIN

NEW YORK -- It's April, baseball's giddy season, which is why Rick Sutcliffe can walk by a crowd of writers surrounding Brady Anderson's locker and wonder aloud, "When do you cast your vote for MVP?"

It's April, which is why Anderson almost -- but not quite -- blushed.

Johnny Oates said the players are starting to call Anderson MVP II. Somebody even tried to dub him Brady Ruth until Anderson rushed to protest.

Giddy season?

"I'm trying to get by -- that's all," Anderson said once the crowd dispersed.

That was after someone had asked the Orioles left fielder and leadoff batter if he was pointing to right field before his three-run homer.

"I only point," he said, a little nervously, "when I ground to second."

People are getting excited about Brady Anderson. It's about time, since Anderson is the game's oldest living Kid Potential, but Anderson himself is trying to low-key his high-octane start. He's countering the excitement with a broadside of cliches about team play and men on base and trying to do the little things.

For now, Anderson is doing the big things.

Try this big thing: He left Yankee Stadium yesterday with 18 RBI, one off the league lead, trailing only Cecil Fielder. Meaning that pound for pound, Anderson is now the league's scariest hitter.

"Pound for pound?" asked Anderson, who weighs in at 185. "I don't think Cecil's too worried."

Well, maybe not. But one Oriole, when asked about it, said he figured a concerned Fielder would go on an eating binge. Already, John Goodman can comfortably play him in the movie.

Who plays Anderson? Whoever he is, he's got to have sideburns. Anderson, whose hairstyle change must be considered a vote for the thin Elvis, never played this way before the New Hair. Mickey Tettleton had breakfast cereal. Anderson has hair next to his ears. Whatever works. Your typical ballplayer would wear Willie Nelson pigtails if it could tack 30 points onto his batting average.

Is this a trend? Well, it's April and it's early and Anderson had a good April once before and then disappeared, but when the game ended yesterday, Anderson was in the top 10 in the league in runs, hits, total bases, doubles, triples, stolen bases, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and extra-base hits.

He had five RBI yesterday, which constitutes an official Brady bunch (sorry, I had to do that once in my life). He had the three-run homer, a sacrifice fly and a double. He's hitting .318 and has a .405 on-base percentage.

And the Orioles beat the Yankees, 9-2, to move back into a tie for second place at 11-6. That ensures the Orioles' first winning April since 1985, and, yeah, they're giddy. Why not? (Oops, let's don't bring that one back.) The point is, when it's April, and a team is doing better than anticipated, you enjoy the moment. It may not last.

In Anderson's case certainly, it never has.

"I remember in '89 when Brady started out hitting .300 in April and the next thing, you look up and he's hitting .218," Oates was saying. "That's the way he's been ever since."

This year, the Orioles are going to let Anderson decide his future. If he can play, he can play. If he can't, it was almost fun.

For now, it's fun with numbers. Over 173 previous April at-bats, Anderson had 15 RBI. That was his lifetime total. Now he has 18 in part of one April. The 18 April RBI are six off the team record set by Frank Robinson in 1966. Anderson has four more games in which to catch him. Anderson's season high in RBI is 27.

Is it fun, Brady?

"Yeah," he said, in almost a whisper, "it's fun."

You get the idea that Anderson is afraid to spoil the mood when everything is going so right. He had been in there against left-handers and right-handers, and, in fact, both homers were against left-handers. Anderson, who bats left-handed, had one homer off a left-hander in his career before this season.

Nobody can seem to explain it.

"He didn't go on a weight program," Oates said. "He didn't swing a bat under water. He's not wearing contacts. I don't know what it is."

Here's what it is: It's April, Rick Sutcliffe, Ben McDonald and Mike Mussina are a combined 7-1, Chris Hoiles was leading the league in batting average, and Luis Mercedes, who has, in a real surprise, caught more balls than he's hit, threw out a runner yesterday. The Orioles haven't missed Glenn Davis, and they haven't missed Randy Milligan, and Brady Anderson is doing his Rickey Henderson imitation.

It's April, so nobody knows what any of it means. My advice is not to waste any valuable time trying to figure it out.

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