After hit seasons, O's, Brewers don't know score

BASEBALL

May 16, 1993|By Peter SchmuckPETER SCHMUCK

The Orioles can bemoan their injuries and surprising lack of punch at the plate, but they'll get no sympathy from the Milwaukee Brewers, who are ahead of them in the standings despite some incredibly bad offensive numbers.

Remember how the Brewers' run-and-fun offensive chemistry nearly carried them to the playoffs last year? Well, the only running that manager Phil Garner is doing these days is running out of patience with a team that can't get on base enough to run any kind of offense.

Milwaukee entered the weekend ranked last in team batting average (.236), runs (116), slugging average (.323) and on-base percentage (.298), among other things. Some of the downturn can be traced to the loss of Paul Molitor to free agency, but not all of it.

"If Paul were here and hitting .800, it still wouldn't help," Garner told reporters recently. "One player can be important, but he can't be the whole team."

The Brewers also lost Robin Yount to early season knee surgery, but he came off the disabled list this weekend after missing only 17 days.

Perhaps the Brewers are just suffering from growing pains. Rookie of the Year Pat Listach is struggling through the early stages of his sophomore season. Rookie center fielder Matt Mieske entered the weekend series with the Cleveland Indians batting .167. First baseman John Jaha and 30-year-old rookie catcher Joe Kmak also are having trouble producing at the plate.

"There might be an argument for that," Garner said. "We do have a lot of young kids, but I think they can play. I think everybody is just trying to do too much right now."

If that sounds familiar, it is because that's the same thing Orioles manager Johnny Oates and many of his players were saying earlier this season when the club was last in the league in several offensive categories. The Orioles have edged up slightly, ranking 13th in team batting average and 11th in runs scored going into yesterday, but both teams have a long way to go to return to the prominence they enjoyed only a season ago.

Playing hardball

When San Francisco Giants reliever Mike Jackson hit ColoradoRockies outfielder Gerald Clark with a pitch and touched off a major brawl last week, it was the third time this year and the fourth time in the past two years that he has thrown a bench-clearing ball.

Jackson was the guy who broke Ryne Sandberg's left hand in spring training. He also brought the Los Angeles Dodgers out of the dugout earlier this year when he brushed back shortstop Jose Offerman with a pitch. Last year, he instigated another confrontation with the Chicago Cubs when he plunked Luis Salazar.

What is it about this guy?

"I don't know," Jackson said. "I guess everyone is afraid of getting hit. This is new to me. I don't care about a reputation. I'm here to get guys out."

Not a first

When Barry Bonds and Bobby Bonds were thrown out of that game with the Rockies last week, it was erroneously reported around the nation that they were the first father-and-son combination in major-league history to be ejected from the same game.

Of course, Orioles fans know better. Bill Ripken and Cal Ripken Sr. became the first father-son duo to be thrown out of the same game, on Sept. 11, 1990 -- two years before they made history again when they were thrown out of the same organization in the same off-season.

Reality check

The California Angels have been buoyed by the tremendous early season performance of young stars J. T. Snow, Chad Curtis and Tim Salmon, who have taken some of the heat off the front office for a series of unpopular off-season decisions. But reality is beginning to set in, and one of those winter write-offs is beginning to loom large in Anaheim.

The decision to leave relief closer Bryan Harvey unprotected in the expansion draft has turned out to be a major mistake. The Angels said at the time that they had negative reports on Harvey's condition after elbow surgery and didn't expect him to pitch again until June.

Now, the club is badly in need of a consistent stopper, and Harvey is one of the major reasons that the Florida Marlins have gotten off to a respectable start. He went into last night with 11 saves and a 2.30 ERA.

Regional appeal

The Charlotte (N.C.) News and Observer recently ran its second annual poll to determine the favorite major-league baseball team in that area, and the Orioles finished a close second to the New York Yankees.

The phone poll, a copy of which was sent in by a well-traveled reader from Columbia, was conducted during the first week of the season and drew 3,168 phone calls. The New York Yankees received 12.2 percent of the votes, followed closely by the Orioles (11 percent) and the Boston Red Sox (9.8 percent).

The Atlanta Braves ranked second in the poll a year ago, but slipped to fourth despite their second straight trip to the World Series. The Florida Marlins, who had not played a game when the poll was initiated, ranked 16th among the 28 teams. And, as so often happens in the real standings, the Seattle Mariners finished last.

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