Angels in Orioles' league for light touch with bats

ON BASEBALL

May 20, 2001|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

The Orioles aren't the only team experiencing a serious offensive shortage this spring. The Anaheim Angels, who will visit Camden Yards for a two-game series starting Tuesday night, have been a study in offensive underachievement during the early weeks of the season.

The Angels entered the weekend ranked 10th in the American League in batting average and are mired in double-digit rankings in several other important offensive categories.

They can still look down and see some teams like the Orioles beneath them, but the offensive frustration is heightened because they entered 2001 with what was considered to be one of the better hitting teams in the league.

"Overall, in terms of manufacturing runs, we're getting better," manager Mike Scioscia told reporters recently, "but we're not where we want to be. If we don't do that, you're relying on the four guys in the middle of the lineup to pound the ball, and we don't want to get into that situation."

The heart of the order is where the Angels are struggling most. Darin Erstad is batting .242 and looks nothing like the guy who put together one of the best all-around seasons in club history last year. Tim Salmon is hitting .209. Garret Anderson is nowhere near his run-production pace of 2001. And Troy Glaus - despite his 10 home runs - also is well off last year's numbers.

Then, of course, you have to subtract injured Mo Vaughn from the equation, which leaves the Angels looking a lot more like the Orioles than they might have expected.

Medical miracle

Some enterprising sportswriter pointed out that A.J. Burnett's no-hitter against the San Diego Padres was the second ever pitched at Qualcomm (formerly Jack Murphy) Stadium and the first by a pitcher who was sober at the time.

The only other no-hitter pitched there was the June 12, 1970, gem by Pittsburgh Pirates star Doc Ellis, who would later reveal that he had taken LSD before the game.

When Burnett was apprised of this, he made the startling admission that he also was under the influence of drugs when he took the mound.

"I was all drugged up on Excedrin, Sudafed and cold medicine," said Burnett, who was battling flu symptoms that night. "I couldn't stop sweating. I felt [terrible]."

Special Ks

The Elias Sports Bureau took its share of criticism for its original decision to deny Randy Johnson a share of the single-game strikeout record for his 20-K performance on May 8. Now, Elias, the official record keeper for Major League Baseball, deserves credit for finding an acceptable middle ground that allows Johnson's achievement to be placed in the same category as the 20-strikeout performances of Roger Clemens and Kerry Wood.

Elias decided to include Johnson's performance with a notation that it occurred in an extra-inning game, but that Johnson accomplished the record-tying feat in nine innings.

Johnson didn't make much of a fuss about it to begin with, and manager Bob Brenly said recently that he wouldn't be surprised if the Big Unit renders the whole argument moot by the end of the season.

"As many records as Randy's going to rack up before his career is over, that's just a blip on the screen," Brenly said. "This is a guy that's capable of every time he takes the ball of striking out 20 guys. They all may have an asterisk before the year's over, when he strikes out about 23 one of these days."

Movie moment

Major League Baseball allowed something unprecedented during Tuesday night's game between the Texas Rangers and Cleveland Indians. Disney was given permission to shoot a scene from its upcoming movie, "The Rookie," during the seventh-inning stretch.

The movie details the inspirational story of former Tampa Bay Devil Rays pitcher Jim Morris, a schoolteacher who gave baseball a second try and reached the major leagues in 1999.

Disney filmed actor Dennis Quaid as Morris coming in from the bullpen to make his major-league debut. The film company then took over the ballpark after the game to complete the scene in which Morris strikes out Rangers shortstop Royce Clayton.

It's early, or is it?

Most teams still have about 120 games left to play this season, but that doesn't necessarily mean that there's plenty of time to recover from a poor start.

The Chicago White Sox went 14-23 in their first 37 games to go from defending division champion to extreme long shot in the American League Central.

The Chicago Tribune and the Elias Sports Bureau determined that only four teams in major-league history have started that slowly and gone on to reach the postseason - the 1914 Boston Braves, 1974 Pirates, 1984 Kansas City Royals and 1989 Toronto Blue Jays.

How mighty can fall

It's amazing how stupid White Sox manager Jerry Manuel became when Frank Thomas suffered a season-ending injury and three key pitchers - Jim Parque, Antonio Osuna and Cal Eldred - went down for extended periods.

Manuel was the AL Manager of the Year in 2000. Now, according to one Chicago columnist, he has the dugout presence of "a mummy."

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