Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
April 05, 2002
BASEBALL: Opening Week 2002 Observations

Originally posted on

Can anyone pitch in Coors Field? Well, during the past 3 seasons Pedro hasn't ventured there - but Randy Johnson has, five times in a stretch when he was one of the best pitchers in the game's history and the most extreme strikeout pitcher. How did he fare?


That's about as well as you can do it, folks, and even keeping the ball in
the strike zone and in the park and whiffing 12.2 men per 9 innings, he
still had an ERA in the mid-fours. What's more impressive, given how many
pitches you have to throw there and how late inning leads slip away, is that
Johnson stuck around long enough to get the decision in all 5 starts.

How about a few of the NL's other elite starters? I took a quick look at
Curt Schilling, Greg Maddux, Kevin Brown, Tom Glavine and Al Leiter; I'll
leave Johnson on the chart with them, and add in the guys who lived there:


Hampton doesn't look so bad there next to Astacio and Kile. All three are good pitchers. Of course, Todd Helton is left-handed and Larry Walker is known for ducking the tough lefthanders, particularly Johnson, so that may skew the results in favor of Johnson and Glavine, plus Glavine and Leiter may be further away from the average just as a fluke of making just 2 appearances each there. But this isn't really a scientific study anyway, just a look at how the best have handled the worst conditions, and a reminder of how these pitchers' records might look if they too had to live with the Coors effect.

Random observations: I forgot to list Marlon Anderson on my "thumbs down" pre-season list and Brad Penny, Ben Sheets and Toby Hall on the "thumbs up" list, although I see Hall as more a Terry Steinbach-type hitter than a Ted Simmons-type hitter . . . the early returns are looking up for the 2002 Corey Patterson Experience . . . look for Brian Hunter to get lots of playing time in the Darren Lewis role in Houston . . . Opening day was a banner one in Yankee-land. Sure, Roger Clemens got rocked by the worst team in baseball, giving up a grand slam to Tony Batista and a bases loaded 3-run double to Melvin Mora. But Pedro got clobbered, and the logic is inescapable: Pedro never gets rocked if he's healthy; if Pedro's not healthy, the Sox don't challenge for the division title; if the Sox don't challenge for the division title, nobody does, and the Yankees start resting people for October. An ugly loss, but a good day for the Yankees.


Al Cowens died recently, of a sudden heart attack. In his youth, Cowens was the Carlos Beltran of his day, but better; as a 25-year-old in 1977, he hit .312, slugged .525, drove in 112 runs, and won the Gold Glove as a right fielder for the team with the best record in baseball. He finished second in the AL MVP voting, ahead of Reggie and Jim Rice and behind only a .388-hitting Rod Carew, and drove in 5 runs in the best-of-5 ALCS. Cowens followed with a disappointing 1978 and missed 21 games after Ed Farmer drilled him in the jaw with a pitch in May 1979, escalating a feud that would culminate in Cowens charging the mound after grounding out against Farmer in June of 1980. Cowens had good years and bad years in the 9 seasons after 1977 - after he hit .205 in 1982, Bill James remarked that he'd had "a worse year than a biker in a Clint Eastwood movie" -- but in what should have been his prime years he was never the same star he had been for that one magical year. Sometimes, the best part gets away from you before you know it. Cowens was only 50 when he died.

Jesse Orosco is 5 years younger than Cowens, and he made his major league debut on this day in 1979 at Wrigley Field, relieving Dwight Bernard following a 2-run double by Ted Sizemore with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, and retiring one batter to protect a 4-run lead. Here's the box score, thanks to the magic of Retrosheet.

The one batter, the first Orosco faced in over 1100 major league games? Bill Buckner.

TRIVIA QUESTION: Name the 5 men who played for Pete Rose in Cincinnati who have gone on to manage in the major leagues.
(Answer in the next column)

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:08 AM | Baseball Columns | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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