Originally created 08/29/98

Major League notes

Actually, the decision was so painful from a statistical standpoint, since Hundley, who returned from almost a year's rehab from elbow surgery last month, was hitting .164 with just two home runs and 11 RBI, with 49 strikeouts in 110 at-bats.

Hundley started off slowly and never improved. Contrary to the Mets' best-case scenario, the more he played, the more he struggled: he was 0-for-15 before the announcement and continued to wobble in the outfield -- which he said was, "so boring, it's unbelievable."

The question, of course, is what does the future hold for both Hundley, who hit 71 home runs the last two seasons, and Piazza? General manage Steve Phillips is feeling understandably helpless at the crossroads.

"I'm not going to get into a catcher controversy," Phillips said. "One guy's a free agent and we don't know if he's coming back. The other guy's a catcher who can't catch right now." ...

Many of the A's said Red Sox's shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, Boston's shortstop and cleanup hitter, deserves to be named the Most Valuable Player in the American League this year.

"There is no aspect of the his game that's lacking," pitcher Kenny Rogers said. "It's not just offense. His defense in tremendous. I'd take him over just about anybody else."

Garciaparra was Boston's leadoff hitter early in the season. But he's batting fourth now, and he's hammered Oakland either way. He's hitting .444 against the A's this year. Overall, he's hitting .327 with 29 doubles, 26 homers and 101 RBI, even though he's only played in 111 of the Red Sox's 129 games because of some early injury problems.

Not that the A's believe one little stint on the disabled list should count against Garciaparra, the 1997 AL Rookie of the Year.

"Hell, yes, he should be the MVP," A's first baseman Jason Giambi said. "Defense, offense, he does both ends. He was a good leadoff hitter, and he's gotten better since he's hitting cleanup.

"Before you could pitch to Mo (Boston cleanup hitter Mo Vaughn). But now that they've got Nomar hitting behind Mo, do you really want to pitch around Mo to get to Nomar? The guy can bat leadoff and he can bat cleanup. It's ridiculous." ...

Ever since he won the MVP for his performance in the NLCS against the Braves in 1993 and then pitched a shutout in Game 5 of the World Series against the Blue Jays, Curt Schilling has been known as a big-game pitcher.

That reputation seemed to be intact earlier this season when Schilling pitched eight shutout innings against the Mets on opening day, then won consecutive games against Greg Maddux and the Braves.

But since those three outings, Schilling has made nine starts against teams that currently have winning records and he has gone 1-5 with a 5.02 ERA in those games.

"It's disappointing to be 1-5 against anybody," Schilling said. "It's very frustrating."

Schilling, who has an annual goal of winning 20 games, is 12-12 with six starts remaining and he is also going to fall short of 300 strikeouts after setting a club record with 319 last season. It's the shortage of victories that bothers him the most.

"It's not really a complicated formula," he said. "On nights when you don't have your best stuff, you have to find a way to win." ...

For the second time in as many weeks, the Pirates have signed one of their left-handed relievers to a two-year contract extension. Ricardo Rincon was signed to a two-year, $1.25-million deal Monday, coming a week after the Pirates signed Jason Christiansen.

Rincon will get $450,000 in 1999 and $800,000 in 2000. He is not eligible for salary arbitration until following the 1999 season and is making $245,000 this season. He becomes the 11th Pirates under contract through next season. Catcher Jason Kendall is signed through 2001. Christiansen, right-handers Francisco Cordova and Jason Schmidt, catcher Keith Osik and left fielder Al Martin are signed through 2000. Right-hander Jon Lieber, first baseman Kevin Young, infielder Doug Strange and outfielder Turner Ward are signed through 1999. ...

Barry Bonds became the first player in history to hit 400 homers and steal 400 bases. The milestone occurred Sunday in Miami, with a long one off Florida's Kirt Ojala. Bonds wasn't exactly choked up over the moment. In fact, he said his feat was nothing when compared to the McGwireSosa assault on Maris' record.

"This is nothing compared to that," Bonds said. "I've got nine writers here. McGwire had 200 writers (following him) back when he had 30 home runs. What they're doing is huge. What they're going is phenomenal. You have two players who might do it in the same year. That's big. That's huge. Really, what are the chances of that ever happening?"

Comments from the three 300-300 players on Bonds' feat:

Bobby Bonds: "It makes me a very proud father. Any time that you do something that's never been done, and this game has been around for over 125 years, it says a whole heck of a lot about endurance and it says a whole heck of a lot about all-around play. It's an amazing feat.

Andre Dawson: "That says a lot about him. That's why he's in a class by himself. You think about the accomplishment. He's one of the best left fielders to ever play the game. His speed and power speak for themselves. He has all the tools. No doubt, he's one of the greatest ballplayers to ever play the game."

Willie Mays: "I could have done that. When I played, it wasn't a big deal. It's a big deal to you guys now. When I was playing, 30-30 was a big deal. Quite a few guys have done that now. My thing was to try to lead the league in stolen bases. I did it four years in a row, then I stopped (stealing bases). Longevity was important to me." ...

He is slowly emerging from a power outage that saw him hit just three home runs in August, and Ken Griffey Jr. has heard all manner of explanations for that.

"Johnny Bench said on the air in Cincinnati that I'd lost my desire to hit home runs," Griffey said. "How do you say something like that on television -- the last time he saw me I was a kid running around the Reds clubhouse. He doesn't know me."

There have been more than a few analysts trying to figure out precisely why Griffey goes into occasional home run droughts, using everything from overanxiousness to weariness as the diagnosis.

Griffey said he's tired -- "who isn't this time of year?" -- but has declined days off when they've been offered by manager Lou Piniella.

"You take a pounding in center field because you're always running," he said, "but I want to play. Lou offered me the day off (Monday), but I said no. You never know when you're going to have a good day." ...

Todd Stottlemyre is 3-2 but with a 7.03 in five starts with the Rangers. He's need 35 runs to win those three games. Opponents are hitting .352 off him and he's walked 18 in 24 1/3 innings. Darren Oliver could have done that.

"I've looked at tapes," Stottlemyre said. "It's nothing physical. It's nothing mechanical. I've probably put extra pressure on myself trying to perform. Nobody is more frustrated than I am."

Third baseman Todd Zeile, acquired from Florida for two good prospects, is hitting .238 with three homers and 13 RBI in 23 games. But he also has eight errors.

Shortstop Royce Clayton is a definite keeper. He's hitting .309 and playing terrific shortstop. Clayton, who had trouble with Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa this year, seems thrilled in Texas, saying, "My parents have been in town and they say they haven't seen me smile like this in a long time. I don't want to comment on anything Tony LaRussa might have said. If the Cardinals feel they were doing me a favor by trading me, then I thank them very much. I know though, that it has been a blessing to be here in a place where I feel I'm needed, and where the fans have welcomed me so graciously."


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