Jays prefer win-now, pay-later style, but O's trying to roll with role players

BASEBALL

September 12, 1993|By JIM HENNEMAN

For obvious reasons, it won't be evident from within their own division, but the Orioles have a lot of industry support in their stretch run against the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees.

This is not your traditional case of the haves vs. the have-nots. When it comes to money matters, revenue-sharing for instance, the Orioles now find themselves on the same side as the big boys.

But when it comes to assembling parts for a run at the pennant, the Orioles still prefer the old-fashioned way -- using a shoestring rather than a checkbook -- which is why they are the sentimental favorites of the baseball purists. While the Blue Jays (Rickey Henderson) and the Yankees (Lee Smith) went for marquee types, the Orioles opted for role players (Mike Pagliarulo, Lonnie Smith) who didn't require a mortgage on the future.

Henderson was easily this season's highest-profile, late-season acquisition, moving from the Oakland Athletics to the Toronto Blue Jays. When he couldn't get the pitcher he wanted and needed, general manager Pat Gillick opted for Henderson, figuring to make his lineup so explosive it would cover any sins by the Blue Jays' highly suspect pitching staff.

It hasn't worked out that way, at least not yet. Going into yesterday's game, the Blue Jays were 12-17 in games started by Henderson and 8-1 when he was out of the lineup.

Don't be surprised if the Blue Jays add a veteran to their starting rotation for the final weeks of the season. That would enable Todd Stottlemyre, who has been a disappointment, to move into the long-relief role he filled so well last postseason.

Toronto unquestionably has the best organizational depth in thAmerican League (the Atlanta Braves qualify in the National League). But the Blue Jays also offer the best examples of the perils of trading top prospects to apply a Band-Aid to the big-league club.

Mark Whiten's name jumped into prominence last week, when he hit four home runs in one game for the St. Louis Cardinals. Though he was an unlikely candidate for such a feat, Whiten hasn't exactly been an underachiever for the Cardinals. He had 14 homers and 74 RBI before his performance (which included 13 RBI) during a double-header against the Reds Tuesday night.

Whiten, who is only 26, was one of the outfielders the Blue Jaytraded to the Cleveland Indians for Tom Candiotti during the 1991 season. Glenallen Hill, who hit five home runs in his first 31 at-bats after being obtained by the Cubs, was the other.

Derek Bell (San Diego Padres) and Ryan Thompson (New York Mets) make a total of four outfielders the Blue Jays have traded in the past two years (in addition to infielder Jeff Kent, who went with Thompson to the Mets in the David Cone trade).

Those maneuvers led to the trade for Henderson to fill a hole ithe outfield for the Blue Jays. The one young outfielder they retained was still-promising Turner Ward -- who negotiated a deal with Henderson to give up his uniform number (24), and then went on the disabled list.

The returns on the short-term investments by the Blue Jays wera division title in 1991 and a World Series championship last year, either or both of which might have been won anyhow.

They don't call Gillick "Stand Pat" anymore. His gamble over thpast few seasons is that the draft choices he gets in return for free agents who leave (Candiotti, Cone, possibly Henderson, Jimmy Key) produce the same, or better, caliber of player as those he traded away.

As for the Yankees, their acquisition of Lee Smith appeared tbe a move born out of desperation to do something in the heat of the race. A change of leagues might help, but scouts insist that Smith's ERA (4.50) was much more indicative of how he has pitched than the 43 saves he accumulated with the Cardinals.

Ryan's last hurrah?

Nolan Ryan Appreciation Week concludes today, when the legendary right-hander pitches against the Minnesota Twins. There is a very good chance this will be the last game of Ryan's career.

The Rangers cannot continue to act like they're in a division race and juggle a starting rotation around Ryan. He hasn't pitched since Aug. 21, when he left a game in Baltimore with a rib-cage injury.

Ryan has been able to produce 10 wins in the past two yearswhich works out to about $750,000 per victory. The Rangers have been able to recoup some of their investment with a "Tribute to a Legend" that has been running all week.

There were four pre-game ceremonies plus another between games of Friday night's double-header with the Twins. The celebration culminates with a post-game ceremony today. It would surprise few if Ryan announces that his career is officially over -- even though the faint hope of a second World Series is tempting.

In case you forgot (slim chance), Ryan's only World Series camwith the Mets in 1969.

Red Sox record for Roger

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