Statistics didn't give job security to Fielder


August 09, 1998|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Obviously, Anaheim Angels general manager Bill Bavasi is a student of the great 19th century British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli.

Disraeli is often credited for the famous indictment of statistical analysis, proclaiming that there are three kinds of lies -- "lies, damn lies and statistics." It was Bavasi who ignored the numbers on Wednesday and designated first baseman/designated hitter Cecil Fielder for assignment.

Strange but true: Fielder was tied for the club lead with 68 RBIs, but the Angels had to move someone off the roster to make room for the return of catcher Todd Greene. Fielder -- despite the numbers -- was an obvious choice because of his lack of speed and versatility.

The Angels got younger and quicker. The departure of Fielder allows manager Terry Collins to play veteran Dave Hollins at first base and top prospect Troy Glaus at third. Tim Salmon, hobbled by a foot injury, had moved into the full-time DH role, reducing Fielder to a large presence in the dugout.

Though he was more productive than Hollins at the plate, he was more expendable because he was signed only through the end of the 1998 season. Hollins had recently satisfied the statistical requirements to lock in a 1999 option year, so he isn't going anywhere.

Fielder probably deserved better. He was the driving force in the Angels' early summer surge, driving in 29 runs in June to carry the Angels to the best month (22-6) in franchise history. But he had hit just .214 with 11 RBIs over the past six weeks.

He probably will catch on with someone after the 10-day assignment period expires. The Angels, after all, will be responsible for almost all of his remaining salary, even if he is picked up by another club.

San Francisco Giants manager Dusty Baker wanted Joe Carter and Shawon Dunston, two veterans that he felt would provide veteran leadership, balance his roster and allow him more flexibility down the stretch.

Neither one of them, however, has been particularly productive so far.

Carter is batting .167 with just five hits and one RBI since the Giants sent a prospect to the Orioles for him. Dunston had just two hits (including a homer) in his first 14 at-bats in a Giants uniform, entering last night's game against the Braves.

Brother act

There were no recriminations after the Los Angeles Dodgers traded second baseman Wilton Guerrero to the Montreal Expos in the deal that brought them pitcher Carlos Perez.

Quite the contrary. Guerrero thanked the Dodgers for the opportunity to play in the major leagues and -- more importantly -- for the opportunity to go to the struggling Expos.

The trade was a dream come true for Guerrero, who has been reunited with his brother, Vladimir, in Montreal.

"I feel very good to be in Montreal and very good about being with my brother," Guerrero told the Los Angeles Times. "I learned lot with the Dodgers, and I appreciate the opportunity, but I think Montreal is the best place for me now. I think it is something I need now."

Guerrero had trouble following up on his strong rookie season in 1997 and apparently was slow to adjust to pennant-race pressure. Now, he'll get the chance to develop along with the rest of a young Expos club and have the added comfort of playing alongside his brother.

"This was something we both wanted for a long time," Vladimir said. "When you have a chance to play in the big leagues with your brother, that is a very special thing."

Wood not brittle

Chicago Cubs pitching phenom Kerry Wood took such a beating at the hands of the expansion Arizona Diamondbacks last week that concern surfaced his talented arm might be wilting under the wear and tear of the long major-league season.

He doesn't think so.

"There's nothing wrong with my arm. There's nothing wrong with my arm. Print that. There is nothing wrong with my arm," Wood said.

If Cubs manager Jim Riggleman is worried about his new franchise pitcher, he isn't letting on.

"Some days you just get hit," Riggleman said. "They hit him hard today, but he battled through it."

Expansion derby

The true impact of expansion on the quality of major-league pitching may not be measurable, but there is some clear evidence that one of the new teams has already had an impact on the multi-player assault on baseball's single-season home run record.

The game's three top home run hitters -- Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Ken Griffey -- all have padded their outstanding numbers against the expansion Arizona Diamondbacks.

Sosa completed the season series against the Diamondbacks with a .319 average, 15 hits, five home runs and two grand slams in 12 games. McGwire appeared in eight games and had four homers (one grand slam) and nine RBIs. And Griffey hit two home runs in a three-game interleague series.

"I gave up a bomb to Mark McGwire earlier in the year. Now I gave up one to Sammy," said pitcher Andy Benes, who gave up a two-run shot to Sosa on Wednesday. "There is no prejudice on my part who breaks the record. I helped both of them."

Unenviable understudy

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