Small-print crowd's decision on 20 K's draws cries of `shame'


May 13, 2001|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

Arizona Diamondbacks ace Randy Johnson and his teammates are understandably peeved at the ruling by the Elias Sports Bureau that Johnson will not get credit for tying the single-game strikeout record with his 20K performance Tuesday night.

Johnson's name will not go alongside Roger Clemens and Kerry Wood as a co-holder of the single-game record because the game stretched into extra innings, even though he got all 20 strikeouts in nine innings.

Instead, he only gets credit for having the second-most strikeouts in an extra inning game - after Tom Cheney, who worked well into extra innings to strike out 21 in a 16-inning game in 1962.

"That's [baloney]," D-backs outfielder Steve Finley told the Arizona Star. "How many strikeouts did he have in nine innings? Twenty strikeouts in nine innings is 20 strikeouts in nine innings. Who cares about Elias? They can make their own rules. Everybody in the baseball world knows he tied the record."

The decision is consistent with the way records are kept by Elias, which is the official determiner of such matter for Major League Baseball, but it flies in the face of baseball logic.

Johnson essentially is being penalized for pitching too well. If he had given up two runs instead of one over those nine innings, he would have lost the game in regulation and been credited with a piece of the record. Or, if the D-Backs' offense had failed to score a run off Cincinnati pitcher Chris Reitsma, Johnson would be in the company of Clemens and Wood.

The Big Unit already owned the American League single-game record of 19, and he got it just that way. He struck out 19 twice as a member of the Seattle Mariners, but the first time was in a 4-1 loss to the Oakland Athletics.

Perhaps it's some consolation that Johnson did set the single-game record for strikeouts by a left-hander, but he said afterward that he felt he deserved his share of the nine-inning record.

"I think I do," he told reporters. "I did what they did in nine. I'm not losing sleep over it. I know what I did."

Manager Bob Brenly was a little more militant about it, leveling a blast at the statistical wonks who make that kind of decision.

"That's a decision left to people who sit in little rooms and talk about asterisks," Brenly said. "Sometimes guys who sit around and crunch numbers all the time have a skewed view of reality. That was one of the best-pitched games in the history of baseball. They can do with it what they want."

Poor planning

One of the commericial tie-ins at Bank One Ballpark is a K-count on one of the message boards sponsored by the Circle K convenience store chain. For each strikeout by a Diamondbacks pitcher, a K resembling the Circle K logo is posted on a message board at the ballpark.

There's only one problem. There only is room for 16 K's on the board, so fans used tape to put up Johnson's final four K's.

Open mouth, insert foot

Apparently, White Sox star Frank Thomas really was hurt, which probably comes as a shock - or, at least, a huge embarrassment - to teammate David Wells, who blasted Thomas last week for lacking the guts to play through the injury.

Thomas found out on Thursday that he had torn the triceps muscle in his right arm, an injury that will require season-ending surgery. The big first baseman/designated hitter suffered the injury diving for a ball in an April 27 game against the Seattle Mariners.

So Thomas can say, "I told you so" on two counts. He wasn't jaking, as Wells had inferred, and he was probably right when he told manager Jerry Manuel during the 1999 season that he would be more valuable to the club as the everyday designated hitter.

Judging Pedro

How great is Pedro Martinez? Well, he has a 5-0 record with a 1.74 ERA and the American League strikeout lead (84), but he claims that he is struggling.

"I'm getting by," Martinez told the Boston Herald. "There have been times when I go out there and I know they're not going to hit me. I haven't really felt that this year."

There is some statistical justification for that opinion. Martinez has struggled with his command, as evidenced last week by his first four-walk game in two years. Imagine how dominating he will be if he gets in a groove.

"I'm not really in command yet of my stuff," Martinez said. "I normally don't walk more than one or two hitters in a game. I'm not feeling fine."

The new strike zone, which was expected to make him even more dominating, may be a factor, since umpires have been directed to squeeze the width of the zone. Martinez loves to work hitters on the hands and he has not been getting a lot of leeway on the inside pitch.

Neon Deion update

When we last left Deion Sanders, he was struggling to provide a suitable follow-up to his 3-for-3 debut, but his future remains a hot topic of conversation both in Cincinnati and Washington.

There has been speculation that the Washington Redskins will release him on June 1 to open more space under the NFL salary cap, something that doesn't seem to bother the speedy outfielder a bit.

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