O's make Johnson see stars, but . . .

June 26, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

ARLINGTON, Texas -- If it were up to manager Davey Johnson, the Orioles would have six players on the American League All-Star team -- shortstop Cal Ripken, second baseman Roberto Alomar, first baseman Rafael Palmeiro, pitcher Mike Mussina, center fielder Brady Anderson and closer Randy Myers.

But beyond the fans' vote on the starters, the decision rests in the hands of Cleveland manager Mike Hargrove and the AL office, and maybe half the players on Johnson's wish list will go to Philadelphia for the July 9 game.

Ripken and Alomar are far ahead in the voting at their respective positions, assuring them of All-Star status, but for Anderson, Mussina and especially Palmeiro, it won't be that easy.

Palmeiro went into last night's game with 17 homers, 62 RBIs and a .305 average. "You look at the numbers," said Johnson, "and he needs to be there."

However, Palmeiro plays a position loaded with All-Star candidates. Chicago's Frank Thomas is leading the voting, and would be an All-Star even without the votes. Mo Vaughn was the AL MVP last year and he's having a better statistical season this year, with a .362 average, 24 homers and 70 RBIs. Two sure picks.

Hargrove must pick at least one player from each team, and early in the season, Jason Giambi was Oakland's best player. But since he's come back from a foot injury, Mark McGwire has been having a monster year, with 24 homers. He is the Athletics' best candidate, and he may be the third first baseman chosen.

And if Hargrove were to take four first basemen, it probably would be to add Cecil Fielder, Detroit's best player, not Palmeiro.

"It would mean a lot to me," Palmeiro said. "That's where the best players go and hang out together for a couple of days. This year has been my best year overall. You can't tell me that my numbers are not All-Star caliber."

Anderson ranks fourth in the voting among outfielders and, even though Ken Griffey is out, Anderson is at the mercy of Hargrove. It would be hard to ignore him, though, with Anderson leading the major leagues with 26 home runs.

In a roundabout way, the Orioles' other All-Star candidates may be working against Palmeiro's chances, as well. The Orioles will have at least two, and Anderson likely will be a third -- a lot for a team that has the fifth-best record in the AL and is regarded, among league executives and scouts, as a major disappointment.

Mussina, like Palmeiro, has some compelling numbers, ranking among the league leaders in victories (10), starts (17), strikeouts (99), and ranking first in innings (115 1/3 ). His 4.99 ERA hurts his chances, however, and like Palmeiro, he could be hurt by the fact the Orioles have many candidates.

Myers has had a solid season, with 14 saves in 17 chances and a 2.81 ERA. However, five relievers have posted more saves. "It's not his fault that we've gone through stretches where he hasn't had a lot of opportunities," Johnson said.

Two relievers who are perhaps among the four or five most important players to the Orioles this year are not candidates because of the nature of their position -- Roger McDowell, who carried the bullpen's middle relievers for two months, and Arthur Rhodes, who is 8-0. It's tough for middle relievers to distinguish themselves, the New York Yankees' Mariano Rivera being a notable exception.

Pub Date: 6/26/96

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