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Baseball / Ross Newhan : Rookies Give Game a New-Wave Look for Second Straight Year

September 13, 1987|Ross Newhan

If 1986 was the year of the rookie, particularly in the American League, then 1987 has proved to be an impressive sequel.

The AL has produced a freshman class comparable to last year's, which included Jose Canseco, Wally Joyner, Cory Snyder, Pete Incaviglia, Ruben Sierra, Danny Tartabull, Mark Eichhorn, Dan Plesac, John Cerutti, Eric King and Bobby Witt.

Oakland Athletics first baseman Mark McGwire, with his rookie-record 43 homers, 105 runs batted in and .280 batting average, is a cinch to be the league's Rookie of the Year, but in any other year it might have been:

--Boston Red Sox outfielders Mike Greenwell, with a .341 average, 17 homers and 74 RBIs in 103 games, or Ellis Burks, batting .267 with 19 homers, 55 RBIs and 22 steals in 109 games.

--Angel outfielder Devon White at .260, 22 homers, 81 RBIs and 26 steals.

--Kansas City Royals third baseman Kevin Seitzer, .327, 14 and 70.

--Detroit Tigers catcher Matt Nokes, .286, 27 and 75.

And it doesn't end there.

Besides Nokes, two other rookie catchers have made an impact at the position considered toughest to fill: the A's Terry Steinbach with a .290 average, 13 homers and 51 RBIs, and the Milwaukee Brewers' B.J. Surhoff, .292, 6 and 55.

Then there's Oakland outfielder Luis Polonia, .290 and 26 steals in 103 games, and Baltimore Orioles second baseman Billy Ripken, .317 and just one error in 52 games.

Mike Henneman, who stepped in when Tiger relief ace Willie Hernandez stumbled again, is likely to be the AL's rookie pitcher of the year on the basis of a 9-2 record, 4 saves and 2.34 earned-run average, although the Angels' DeWayne Buice, a rookie at 30, has saved 15 games and teammate Willie Fraser is 9-9 starting and relieving.

The National League was a wasteland compared to the American last year, with the rookie award coming down to a choice between the only bona fide candidates, St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Todd Worrell, who won it, and San Francisco Giants second baseman Rob Thompson.

The 1987 NL crop is somewhat deeper, though still not on the AL's level.

San Diego Padres catcher Benito Santiago, the NL's answer to Nokes, Surhoff and Steinbach, should easily outpoll Montreal Expos infielder Casey Candaele, who has a .276 average in 121 games, for the top award.

Santiago, batting .294 with 15 homers and 69 RBIs, has impressed scouts with his strong arm and consistent bat. At 22, he is expected to be the NL's All-Star catcher for the next decade, succeeding Gary Carter, who succeeded Johnny Bench.

Among other NL rookies, the scouts also remain high on Chicago Cubs outfielder Rafael Palmeiro, .258 and 9 homers in 62 games; New York Mets third baseman Dave Magadan, .329 in 71 games, and Pittsburgh second baseman Jose Lind, who has been in the majors only long enough to convince the Pirates that Johnny Ray was expendable.

Mike Dunne, whom the Cardinals reluctantly parted with in the deal that brought them catcher Tony Pena from Pittsburgh, is 10-5 with a 2.73 ERA and likely to become the rookie pitcher of the year for the Pirates, though San Francisco's Kelly Downs, 10-8 and 3.86, will provide some competition.

It all represents another honor roll for the freshman class.

Larry Doughty, who has resigned as farm director of the Cincinnati Reds and is the latest victim of owner Marge Schott's meddling, could soon join the Dodgers as successor to retiring farm director Bill Schweppe. Doughty and the Dodgers haven't talked yet, but sources say they will.

Said Doughty of his 18 years with the Reds: "It's in my blood, but I'm past compromise."

He also said that the trivialities added up. He wouldn't be specific, but the budget-conscious Schott reportedly informed the club's scouts recently that they would be responsible for paying their own laundry bills on the road, as well as the deductible premium on company cars, and that only in rare situations would the club approve entertainment expenses.

Doughty is the eighth Red executive to resign since Schott became owner--some with no job alternatives at the time.

Batting coach Billy DeMars also resigned recently when Schott gave his responsibilities to Tony Perez, allegedly after a pair of players recommended it.

Will Manager Pete Rose go, too? There are said to be unpleasant undercurrents developing in the Reds' clubhouse--whispers that Rose talks only to his stars and that some blacks aren't talking to some whites--but the losing tide may envelop General Manager Bill Bergesch rather than Rose, the hometown favorite.

Schott, in fact, has been risking a tampering fine by openly discussing the possibility of bringing Sparky Anderson back to Cincinnati, but she hasn't said whether Anderson would go upstairs or downstairs.

Dinner talk at the owners' midweek meetings in Toronto is said to have centered on Jerry Buss' continuing bid to buy the San Diego Padres.

Buss faces some basic and significant problems:

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