Orioles' Anderson might lose out in numbers game


July 03, 1992|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

MINNEAPOLIS -- The 1992 baseball season has been a fairy tale for Orioles left fielder Brady Anderson, yet he still won't allow himself to dream.

The 63rd All-Star Game will be held in 11 days at Jack Murphy Stadium, which is not much more than a long relay throw from the San Diego suburb where Anderson grew up, but the most surprising player on baseball's most surprising team does not want to think about it.

"I can honestly tell you that, so far, that is not on my mind," Anderson said. "People started asking me about that about a month ago, but I'm telling the truth when I say that all I'm trying to do right now is play as hard as I can."

He has done that, coming out of nowhere to complicate an All-Star selection process that was pretty complicated without him. The question is, has he done enough?

The Orioles are in the American League East race, so their representation in San Diego figures to be more substantial than it was last year, when Cal Ripken went to Toronto as the team's only All-Star representative and stole the show. Ripken undoubtedly will be there again -- he was the top vote-getter in either league as of Sunday -- but Anderson could get lost in a large group of popular and productive outfielders.

The trouble is, he just doesn't have the numbers, unless you count home runs and RBI and stolen bases and, for that matter, highlight-film defensive plays. He ranks among the league leaders in a number of offensive categories, but he ranks only ninth among American League outfielders in the All-Star balloting.

Of course, the voting is not binding after the three starting outfielders are selected by the balloting. It's just that the number of marquee players ahead of Anderson in the voting figures to put him on the bubble when the reserves are chosen by All-Star manager Tom Kelly of the Minnesota Twins and AL president Bobby Brown.

"I won't be disappointed either way," Anderson said. "It would be nice, and I guess it would be especially nice because it is in San Diego, but I'm just happy that there are some people who think I deserve to be there."

There are a lot of those people in Baltimore. No one who has watched the Orioles run neck-and-neck with the first-place Toronto Blue Jays for the past two months can deny Anderson's impact. He either holds or shares the club lead in every significant offensive category except batting average. He is having a Gold Glove-caliber season in left field. There is little dispute over who has been the club's most valuable player in the first half of the season.

"He definitely deserves to be there," said manager Johnny Oates, "but the outfield position is a tough position. There are so many popular players who get a lot of votes. To be in the All-Star outfield, you almost have to have Triple Crown numbers."

Anderson's 50 RBI and 24 stolen bases place him among the league leaders. His 14 home runs put him right on the fringe. The fact that he has compiled those numbers from the leadoff spot should work in his favor, but will it be enough to assure him a place among the four or five extra outfielders that will be chosen for the 28-man All-Star roster?

Seattle's Ken Griffey, Minnesota's Kirby Puckett and Toronto's Dave Winfield figure to be the starters, leaving Anderson in a field of possible reserves that includes Texas' Ruben Sierra (.307, 50 RBI), Toronto's Joe Carter (17 HR, 53 RBI), Minnesota's Shane Mack (.294, 54 runs, 89 hits) and Oakland's Rickey Henderson (.277, 26 stolen bases), the No. 6 vote-getter.

"I think he should be there. Just look what he's done," said teammate Mike Devereaux, whose numbers -- only slightly less impressive than Anderson's -- also warrant consideration.

Everyone's chances got a little better when the Athletics placed outfielder Jose Canseco on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday. Canseco would be eligible to come off the DL in time to start the first game after the All-Star break, but league officials said yesterday that non-active players probably would not be allowed to appear in the All-Star Game.

The selection process is complicated by the total representation rule, which requires that the rosters include at least one player from every major-league team. That increases the likelihood of a less-deserving player taking a spot that might go to someone such as Anderson.

There also is the personal preference of the All-Star manager, who figures to lobby heavily for some of his own players. That's why Mack, who batted .310 for the World Series champion Twins last year, could make the team.

Anderson also could fall victim to competition from his own teammates. There are several other Orioles who deserve consideration, including relief stopper Gregg Olson, right-hander Mike Mussina and Comeback Player of the Year candidate Rick Sutcliffe. It is a safe bet that there will not be five Orioles in San Diego on July 14.

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