Stretch of substitutions would have put more kick in Orioles' sorry finishing run

The Inside Stuff

September 29, 1992|By Bill Tanton

Dr. Lee Lowenfish, the New York-based writer and academician who once taught at UMBC, follows baseball -- especially the Orioles -- more closely than anyone I know.

Lowenfish has an interesting explanation for the way the Orioles staggered through the stretch and fell on their faces after having stayed in the race so long.

"The manager [Johnny Oates] buried his bench," Lowenfish says. "For most of the season, he played a lot of people the way Earl Weaver used to do.

"But then when the pennant race heated up he went with a pretty much set lineup. A number of players clearly were tired. He should have rested Brady Anderson, for example."

The professor may have something there.

All I know is that this is the first time in my memory that the Orioles have been in a genuine pennant race and dropped right out of it. For the past few weeks they just haven't looked like the same club.

The team's tradition is just the opposite.

Even when the O's did not win, they battled mightily to the wire. In '89, with a ballclub not as good as the present one, they still had a chance to win the division championship on the next-to-last day of the season in Toronto.

The party line now is that the '92 Orioles have given us more thrills -- and more wins -- than anyone expected from a team that lost 95 games last year.

That's not the way I feel. I'm more disappointed than that.

When you stay in the race as long as the Orioles did this season, there's no reason why you should crumble at the end.

The players haven't shown much life lately. They've lost a lot ogames to teams with whom they had no business losing. Until last night, their offense had been practically non-existent, with four runs being their absolute limit per game.

It's as if everybody said with 20 percent of the race still to be run"We've given these fans a great year."

Maybe the Orioles have learned from this. They have a lot oyoung players, especially pitchers, and Oates was in his first full season as the club's manager.

Maybe the lessons learned will show up in '93.

* It's funny how we remember people for little things. Foinstance, take catcher Gary Carter, who will retire after playing his final game Sunday with the Expos.

Carter, 38, has had a great career. He started with Montreal i1975 and, after a stint with the Mets -- including their World Series championship year of '86 -- he's finishing with his original team. He should go to the Hall of Fame.

But I keep thinking about a day in the Mets' clubhouse at Shea Stadium, when a 10-year-old boy asked me if I would get him a player's autograph. Any player's. I told him I wasn't sure, that autographs had become a touchy subject.

Joe Durso, the veteran New York Times sportswriter, heard the conversation. Durso said, "Come here, son. Let's ask Gary Carter. He's the one player who never charges money for an autograph. He thinks it's terrible."

Carter not only gave the boy an autographed ball. He talkewarmly and enthusiastically with him and asked the youngster how his own baseball career was coming along.

In the years to come, that's what I'll think of when Gary Carter'name is mentioned. I'll think of it five years from now when the ballot for Cooperstown arrives with his name on it. He's already in my Hall of Fame.

* Speaking of Cooperstown, Jack Fetting, once a classy-fielding first baseman for Loyola College, wants to know why Cecil Travis is not in the Hall of Fame. He presents a good case for the ex-Washington Senators shortstop and third baseman.

Travis had a lifetime batting average of .314 -- 35 points higher than Cal Ripken's was going into this season.

Travis joined the Nats in 1933, the last time Washington played in a World Series. His Series share, by the way, was $500. The winner's share for each Twin last year was $119,579. A full share for each of the losing Braves was $73,323. In 1941, Travis hit .359 -- two points higher than Joe DiMaggio.

Travis' problem was that he played on a lot of bad clubs in Washington. That's no reason to keep him out of the Hall of Fame.

* Lest anyone think our Cal is the first shortstop to be a good hitter, Joe Cronin played 20 years, had a lifetime batting average of .301 and smote 170 home runs. Cronin was the player-manager for the Senators in '33 -- when he was 26 years old.

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