`Negative' reports don't sit well with Giants' Baker

On Baseball

May 23, 1999|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

San Francisco Giants manager Dusty Baker got a little touchy this past week over the supposedly negative media coverage his team received when it was overtaken at the top of the NL West standings by the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Orioles manager Ray Miller should have such problems. Wednesday was the first day this season that the Giants didn't wake up at least tied for first place.

"You fall out of first place by one game and you hear and read that you're the worst team on earth," Baker told reporters. "It comes with the territory, but you have to be surprised with so much negativity. It turns your stomach.

"These guys have been playing as hard as you can play. We're just not going good right now. We were picked for last place and people expect us to be the New York Yankees."

That's not entirely true. The Giants weren't picked to finish last in the NL West, not after the San Diego Padres downsized themselves out of contention, but they did get buried in the press clippings of the improved Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers.

Baker has never minded the underdog role. His teams have upstaged the well-heeled Dodgers on a couple of occasions and could be in a position to do it again if he can get superstar Barry Bonds back and starters Shawn Estes and Mark Gardner back in gear.

The Giants have been treading water since Bonds underwent elbow surgery, going 15-15 through Friday in the 30 games after he went on the disabled list.

The question is whether they can hold on for the five or six more weeks until he returns.

Bonds hopes to be back by the All-Star break and he apparently is ahead of schedule, though he got ahead of himself when he tried to throw last weekend. He came up sore and had to remind himself to adhere to his rehab routine.

Though the Giants entered the weekend ranked fifth in the NL in runs scored -- an indication that they have done an adequate job of replacing Bonds' offensive production -- they probably won't be able to stay abreast of the high-scoring Diamondbacks without improved pitching and defense.

Fresh start

Former Toronto Blue Jays manager Tim Johnson has accepted an offer to manage the Mexico City Reds, just two months after he was fired by the Jays for exaggerating his military service during the Vietnam War.

The job represents a new start for Johnson, who proved to be a pretty good field manager during his one season with the Jays.

Say what you want about his questionable motivational techniques, he led the club to a surprising 88-74 record.

Let's just hope he doesn't try to fire up the Reds by claiming he was at the Alamo.

Tatis: Rangers' mistake

St. Louis Cardinals third baseman Fernando Tatis hasn't been able to maintain the torrid offensive pace that he set during the first few weeks of the season, but he's still leading the club in home runs (12) and RBIs (38).

The Texas Rangers knew he had that kind of potential, but they let him get away last summer for a pitcher (Todd Stottlemyre) who is now with the Diamondbacks and a shortstop (Royce Clayton) who has been on the disabled list for a large part of the early season.

"They wanted to be in the playoffs," Tatis told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "They needed Stottlemyre, so that's why they traded me. But they made a mistake."

The Rangers aren't hurting. They're on top of the AL West and veteran third baseman Todd Zeile has a respectable eight homers and 23 RBIs, but they may end up regretting that deal for a long, long time.

Incredible statistic

The Orioles are happy to have defensive standout Charles Johnson behind the plate, but it doesn't look like anybody is going to unseat Ivan Rodriguez as the catcher who opposing base runners respect the most.

Through the first 40 games of 1999, Rodriguez had thrown out 15 of the 18 runners who attempted to steal against him. That's an efficiency rate of 83.3 percent.

In other words, prospective base stealers, don't even think about it.

Nasty rumor

The Tampa Bay Devil Rays have been in existence for just 18 months -- if you start the clock at the November 1997 expansion draft -- but already a rumor has surfaced that the club might move out of St. Petersburg.

"There's no truth to that whatsoever," owner Vince Naimoli told reporters.

How could there be? The Devil Rays just spent $60 million to upgrade Tropicana Field and have 26 years remaining on their lease. But disappointing attendance created an environment for relocation speculation, which was fueled by a report in the St. Petersburg Times that Naimoli had told the paper's publisher that he had talked about such a move.

Couldn't blame Naimoli for thinking about it. The novelty of a new team should not have worn off by now, but the Devil Rays rank 10th in the American League with an average attendance of about 21,000 per game, off nearly 8,000 per game from last year.

Sophomore jinx

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