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AROUND THE HORN ROSS NEWHAN

Brewers Just Hope Bigger Is Better

June 09, 2002|ROSS NEWHAN

First the news, then the views ...

News: The Milwaukee Brewers select Cecil Fielder's son, Prince, in the first round of the amateur draft, the seventh overall pick.

Views: The 18-year-old Prince isn't merely a chip off the old block. At 6 feet and 255 pounds, he's pretty much the whole block. The word among scouts is that the senior Fielder paid a personal trainer $40,000 to lower Prince's weight from 300 pounds in the months before the draft.

Prince produced impressive hitting statistics as a first baseman at his Florida high school, but some teams think he will have to be used as a designated hitter as a pro. The Brewers, as Bud Selig and daughter Wendy certainly know, can't use a DH in the National League, but scouting director Jack Zduriencik said, "When you're picking where we were picking, you hope to get the best of something in the draft. We looked at Prince and said, 'Here's the best bat in the country and in our estimation the best power guy, let's roll with it.' "

News: The Toronto Blue Jays fire Buck Martinez as manager and elevate coach Carlos Tosca to replace him.

Views: Carlos Delgado and Raul Mondesi had better make sure their passports are in order, since both are likely to be traded. General Manager J.P. Ricciardi continues rebuilding the team with younger, less expensive players who require more tutelage and leadership. Ricciardi said they weren't getting that from Martinez, hired by former GM Gord Ash. Martinez came out of the broadcasting booth to manage the Jays and was dumped and dumped on by a rookie general manager who characterized Martinez as "a man perfectly suited to articulate the essence of baseball but tragically unable to administer it."

"I don't know if Buck even knows what his style and philosophy is," Ricciardi said, "simply because he hasn't had a lot of time to manage."

News: Barry Bonds hits his 587th home run, passing Frank Robinson and moving into fourth place on the all-time list.

Views: Despite being a rookie of the year, winning a triple crown, being the only player to receive the most-valuable-player award in each league and ranking among baseball's most fiercely competitive players, Robinson has not always received proper recognition, and he once said: "I don't want people to say Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron in one breath, then in the next breath, Frank Robinson. I want them to say Mantle, Mays, Aaron and Robinson in the same breath."

Robinson, however, had a long talk with Bonds during the San Francisco Giants' recent visit to Montreal about protecting privacy and focus amid increasing media attention, and Robinson has taken his demotion to No. 5 on the home run list with humility, saying, "I kind of liked being fourth, but sooner or later, especially the way offense is now, somebody was going to pass me. Barry is an outstanding player, and I wish him the best. He's going to pass some other people too."

Only Aaron, at 755; Babe Ruth, at 714, and Mays, at 660, are left. Can he catch Aaron?

"If he plays long enough, I think he will," Robinson said.

News: The New York Mets are swept in three games by the Atlanta Braves and start the weekend with a five-game losing streak and a 29-30 record.

Views: Talk about underachieving. No team underwent a more extensive and expensive make-over during the winter. No team has been a bigger disappointment. The Mets are last in the National League in defense and nearly as bad on offense. Roberto Alomar, Mo Vaughn, Roger Cedeno and Jeromy Burnitz, among the additions, have all struggled, and the inevitable fires have started to appear in the New York tabloids--as well as the clubhouse.

"It's frustrating now, and there's going to be a lot of finger pointing," catcher Mike Piazza said. "I just want to see where we are at the end of the year. I'm just curious if we have what it takes to rebound."

News: Pitcher Matt Harrington is drafted in the 13th round by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Views: If pride does, indeed, goeth before a fall, Harrington could be living proof. He was the first-round selection, the seventh overall pick, of the Colorado Rockies when he came out of Palmdale High in 2000 as the country's top-rated right-hander among high school pitchers.

However, he turned down the Rockies' offer of $3.7 million, had a nasty split with agent Tommy Tanzer, tried to keep sharp by pitching for the independent St. Paul Saints, hired agent Scott Boras, was selected in the second round of the 2001 draft by the San Diego Padres, turned down their offer of $1.25 million, and was pitching his way back into shape under Steve Yeager and John Curtis with the Long Beach Breakers of the Western League when selected.

How Boras expects to get more than $1.25 million for a 13th-round selection isn't clear, but scouting director Dan Jennings said the Devil Rays will treat Harrington on the basis of his current value and added, "If he's going to be a major leaguer somewhere at some point, he's got to open the door and jump in."

News: The San Diego Padres start the weekend, and a dream interleague matchup with the equally inept Devil Rays, having lost 21 of their last 29 games.

Views: It isn't just the losses, which General Manager Kevin Towers described as "depressing and embarrassing," but the inability to stabilize the roster and find help.

The Padres, for example, have used 15 shortstops since winning the 1998 pennant, and 36 pitchers since the start of the 2001 season.

Manager Bruce Bochy said the ineptitude is "starting to border on the ridiculous."

He added: "How do you deal with the frustration? Do you go home and kick the dog? I'm on my third dog this season."

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