To fans, Ripken still an All-Star

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Despite DL, he leads vote

Baines sits against Moyer

June 01, 1999|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

SEATTLE -- A sluggish start and an extended stay on the disabled list have done nothing to diminish third baseman Cal Ripken's standing in the eyes of voters for the July 13 All-Star Game. In the first round of balloting released by Major League Baseball, Ripken received 85,545 votes to easily outpoll Cleveland Indians third baseman Travis Fryman, who received 53,061 votes. Ripken has been named to 16 consecutive All-Star teams, a record 15 times as a starter.

Ripken is the only Oriole to receive strong consideration in early balloting. Catcher Charles Johnson is Ripken's only teammate to rank as high as fifth at his position.

Second baseman Delino DeShields ranks sixth among second basemen and Harold Baines ranks sixth among designated hitters. Mike Bordick stands at seventh among shortstops. Will Clark is eighth among first basemen.

Orioles outfielders are receiving nominal consideration. Right fielder Albert Belle ranks eighth, Brady Anderson 10th and B. J. Surhoff, who until recently led the American League in hits, is 14th, almost 200,000 votes behind leading vote-getter Ken Griffey.

Ripken went 2-for-4 with a home run in last night's loss in Seattle to lift his average to .247 with four home runs and 13 RBIs. Since spending nearly four weeks on the disabled list with nerve irritation in his lower back, Ripken has hit safely in 13 of 16 games with 11 RBIs.

Sunday's day off against the Oakland A's was his first since coming off the disabled list.

"Of course it's a tremendous honor," Ripken said when asked about his standing. "After such a tough start both mentally and physically, this is a great boost to my confidence. The All-Star Game is a very special experience, period, no matter how many times you go."

(All-star voting results, 4C)

How to stop Baines

Manager Ray Miller did something AL pitching hasn't been able to do all month to Baines. He held him hitless.

Baines did not start against Mariners left-hander Jamie Moyer after hitting four home runs in his last five games and grabbing the team lead with 11 home runs and 36 RBIs. Miller instead used Rich Amaral as designated hitter. The longtime Mariner entered the game a career 11-for-21 (.524) against Moyer and went 2-for-4.

Miller reasoned that three days of running on the rock-hard Kingdome would threaten to "blow out" Baines' sore quadriceps. Meanwhile, Baines has used this road trip to climb further into Hall of Fame company. The 40-year-old's 359th career home run ties him for 48th on the all-time list with Johnny Mize. Baines trails Joe DiMaggio by only two. With a ninth-inning RBI as a pinch hitter last night, Baines' 1,517 rank him 36th all-time, with Sam Crawford next ahead at 1,525.

In only 135 at-bats, seventh-most on his team, Baines has constructed an amazing season, averaging an RBI every 3.64 at-bats while homering and striking out with almost the same frequency.

Baines is only two home runs shy of being tied for seventh in the league. His 37 RBIs are only two shy of placing him in the top 10.

Baines refuses to call his recent power binge a "run," saying, "If I was on that [higher hitting] plane I would be 4-for-4."

Miller and hitting coach Terry Crowley are less reserved in their praise. Crowley marvels at Baines' low-maintenance swing as "a thing of beauty" for both its technical purity and its consistency.

"I got to know him better this spring and was struck by his level of professionalism as well as his ability," Crowley said. "Obviously, he possesses one of the better swings -- if not the best swing -- I've ever been around."

As underrated as Baines may be as a hitter, Crowley believes he is even more unappreciated for his knowledge of the game. "Nothing goes on during a game that he misses," said Crowley. "Harold has an amazing ability to pick up tendencies and to recall them in very specific situations, such as what a pitcher prefers to throw in certain counts, what players' strengths are, whatever."

Giving Erickson a pass

Miller chose not to dwell on Scott Erickson's troubled 2 2/3-inning performance in Sunday's 11-5 loss to the A's, even though he couldn't drop the disappointment of failing to climb to 4-2 for the trip in Oakland.

"I think you dismiss it," Miller said of Erickson's seventh loss, which tied him for the league lead with Minnesota pitchers Mike Lincoln and LaTroy Hawkins.

"It was strange because I saw him warm up and Bruce [Kison] watched him and we both thought he had great stuff," Miller added. "But for whatever reason he had trouble getting the ball down."

The 19-31 Orioles' inability to piece together a lengthy win streak, especially on the road, has become an irritant to the manager, who hoped the combination of Saturday's seven-run rally and Erickson's presence Sunday would pull the club within nine games of .500. Miller instead had to use Ricky Bones and Rocky Coppinger to cover 5 1/3 innings.

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