This week in baseball

By on March 8, 2001

If the Mets want Gary Sheffield, they are going to have to give up a lot. At the very least, a trade for Sheffield would consist of Jay Payton and Alex Escobar for the power hitting Dodger outfielder.
Ideally, the Mets would like to keep Payton, who is a model hard worker and rising star. If Payton is dealt, he would be the second young Met outfielder in two years to be traded for a big name player.
Last season, Roger Cedeno was traded to the Astros in a package that brought Mike Hampton to the Mets.
It was rumored over the past few months that the Mets would acquire the likes of Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, Juan Gonzalez, David Wells, and Mike Mussina. But every possible deal fell through.
There is an urgency for the Mets to go after the next big name available player on the market.
The Mets will be fine in 2001. Offensively they are the same as last season. Although they lost Hampton, they picked up pitchers Kevin Appier and Steve Traschel.
They will contend all season and be in the race until the very end. So what if they don’t get Sheffield. They don’t need him.
ESPN recently ran an article on their website titled, “An Ominous Sign, Ankiel wild in workouts.” Rick Ankiel, the Cardinals young fireballer who has been compared to Steve Carlton, set a post season record for wild pitches in a single game last season.
Now the talented lefty is experiencing more accuracy problems and seems to find difficulty throwing strikes.
Some people have said that Ankiel has “Mark Wohlers Disease.” This couldn’t be further from the truth. Wohlers, the Braves’ closer who could throw 102 m.p.h., suddenly lost his accuracy and his career fizzled away. The difference between the two is that Ankiel is a pitcher and Wohlers is a thrower.
Ankiel is talented enough as a pitcher to overcome these simple weaknesses. Wohlers just relied on one pitch and when he lost its command, he lost everything. Ankiel will pitch effectively and lead the Cardinals for years to come.
Carlos Guillen will fill in for A-Rod as the Mariners’ shortstop this year. Like many young players behind stars, Guillen was essentially landlocked and never given the so called “500 at bats,” to fish or cut bait.
Given the chance to be an everyday player, don’t be surprised to see Guillen put up Rafael Furcal numbers and soon resemble Omar Vizquel at short.
The “Big Three” short stops (Garciaparra, ARod, and Jeter) aside, the real shortstop to watch in 2001 is Miguel Tejada. He is as brilliant a fielder as Rey Ordonez and as good a hitter as Nomar Garciaparra was two years ago.
Though last year could be called his break out year, he could completely break out in 2001 with numbers like a batting average of .330, hitting 40 homeruns and bringing in 120, and finish the season the AL MVP, over his teammate, 2000 MVP, Jason Giambi.
Most baseball fans have heard of Eddie Mathews. To the casual fan of my generation, Mathews is just another hall of famer. Maybe those fans who know a little more about the past, know he is a member of the 500 Homerun Club.
Mathews hit 512 homeruns, the same exact amount as Willie McCovey. He also played for the Braves while they were in Boston, Milwaukee, and Atlanta.
Though stats can give us an idea of how good Mathews was, the number itself, 512, is boring. The story of how he got those 512 homers is where the real story is found.
Mathews began his career as the starting third basemen for the Boston Braves in 1952. He was 20 years old and had no prior Major League experience. He came to bat 528 times in his rookie year and only hit .242, but slammed an impressive 25 homeruns.
The next season, the Braves first in Milwaukee, Mathews improved his average to .302 and almost doubled his homeruns, belting 47, with 135 RBI’s.
His homerun totals remained constant, never hitting less then 30 homeruns until he hit 29 in 1962. His batting averages fell off with his homerun totals throughout the mid `60s until in his last season in Milwaukee, he hit 32.
He retired after winning a World Series with the Tigers in 1968. Mathews had also won a World Series in 1957.
Mathews played most of his career alongside Hank Aaron. The two developed a long lasting friendship and actually combined to hit more homeruns as teammates, then did Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.
If Mathews had played in New York or another big city where the media exposure would have been greater, he would be considered the best third baseman of all time.
His offensive numbers at third only compare to Mike Schmidt. Brooks Robinson, Pie Traynor, Wade Boggs, etc. never came close to matching the power numbers of Mathews.


About Andy Zides