Two votes: Perez, No. 1 disclosure

January 06, 1998|By KEN ROSENTHAL

Don Sutton is a worthy Hall of Fame selection. Tony Perez would have been, too.

He played in five World Series and seven All-Star Games. His RBIs are the most of any eligible player not in the Hall. And he was the leader of every team he ever played for, including the Big Red Machine.

Was he the best player on that club? No.

Did he win batting, home run or RBI titles? Never.

Still, Perez drove in 90 or more runs for 11 straight seasons in a less offensive era, and finished with more RBIs than Mike Schmidt. He shouldn't have fallen 34 votes short with the 10-year members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA).

The fear now is that Perez and other deserving players will get lost starting next year, when Nolan Ryan, George Brett, Robin Yount, Carlton Fisk and Dale Murphy become eligible for the first time.

Sutton faced the same predicament, but he received the necessary 75 percent of the votes. Frankly, his election was overdue, considering that he's tied with Ryan for the most wins by a right-hander since World War I (324).

True, Sutton won 20 games only once, and never earned a Cy Young Award. But 300 wins is 300 wins. It would have been wrong if Sutton were the only pitcher excluded with that total -- especially when it might never be reached again.

His election does not -- repeat, does not -- strengthen the cases of Tommy John, Jim Kaat and Bert Blyleven, three other pitchers whose chief attribute is longevity. Each of them had a higher career ERA and at least 35 fewer wins than Sutton.

Eligible writers are permitted to vote for a maximum of 10 players. My votes went to Sutton, Perez, Bruce Sutter, Ron Santo, Jim Rice and Gary Carter.

This week's Gutless Award goes to the American Football Coaches Association, which conducts the college football coaches' poll in cooperation with USA Today and ESPN.

Want to know which coaches suffered whiplash by changing their No. 1 votes from Michigan to Nebraska after the bowls? Sorry, that's the AFCA's dirty little secret.

The Associated Press releases the choices of the writers and broadcasters who vote in its poll. The BBWAA offers similar disclosure in announcing its postseason award winners (but not its Hall of Fame inductees).

The issue is accountability. Trust us, 23 1/2 first-place votes wouldn't have shifted if the 62 coaches on the voting panel had to explain their reversals.

Navy's Charlie Weatherbie, the only coach in the state with a vote, had nothing to hide: He said he voted Nebraska No. 1 both before and after the bowls.

"I felt they were probably as good on defense and offense as there was in the country," said Weatherbie, who admitted to his own bias -- he played against Nebraska as a quarterback at Oklahoma State from 1974 to '77.

"There's always going to be a game like the Missouri game, where you win by the skin of your teeth. Teams that can do that are usually the teams that win the national championship."

Join the club! With the U.S. Figure Skating Championships this week in Philadelphia, isn't it time Tara Lipinski started dating Jeff Gillooly?

In case you're still wondering if the Ravens should attempt to trade up to draft Ryan Leaf or Peyton Manning, just consider the starting quarterbacks in Sunday's conference championship games.

Green Bay's Brett Favre, San Francisco's Steve Young and Denver's John Elway all fall into the elite category, and Pittsburgh's Kordell Stewart is a unique talent with vast potential.

We said it before and we'll say it again: Except in rare instances, you need an elite quarterback to get to the Super Bowl. Eric Zeier and Vinny Testaverde don't qualify. Jim Kelly did once, but not anymore.

Kelly and Testaverde? Too funny, Art, too funny.

The Ravens might not be able to jump from No. 10 to No. 2, not with several teams ahead of them coveting quarterbacks. If their bid fails, they can simply take the best available player at No. 10, then a quarterback in a lower round.

You've just got to laugh when Orioles vice chairman of business and finance Joe Foss dismisses the team's ticket-price increase by saying, "The cost of a lunch at McDonald's and a house have gone up over the past 10 years."

When was the last time Foss ate at Mickey D's? A Big Mac value meal -- Big Mac, large fries, medium soft drink -- costs $3.49. That's just 24 cents more than fans paid last season for a 32-ounce soft drink in a souvenir cup at Camden Yards.

When it comes to pricing, the Orioles always go super-size. Will Laron Profit prove as big a disappointment as Exree Hipp? Too early to say, but the sniping between Profit and Maryland coach Gary Williams after Saturday's 104-72 loss to Duke wasn't encouraging.

Profit all but blamed Williams for his 0-for-7 disappearing act, saying, "I'm not the coach. I don't call the plays. Once we got down, Coach wanted to get the ball inside. But that sort of limited what I could do offensively."

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