Hawkins, Rueter, Chavez - and Much More
by Glenn Dickey
Jul 28, 2005

DO YOU THINK the Cubs fans knew something when they got on LaTroy Hawkins? Of course, itís been silly for them to boo him this week because now, heís blowing games for the Giants, not the Cubs. On Tuesday night, he blew a save by giving up a home run. Wednesday night, he put the winning run on base.

Iíve said it before: This guy is the reincarnation of Felix Rodriguez. Like Felix, he has great stuff but finds a way to lose.

GOOD POINT: Kirk Rueter was chagrined, and understandably so, when his remarks about either starting or being traded were seen as an ultimatum. Actually, he had a good point: Pitchers, and especially young ones, struggle when they think one bad outing will bump them from the rotation.

Unfortunately, Felipe Alou is old-school. When he played, managers had no patience with players or pitchers who didnít do the job immediately, and Alou is the same way. He commented that, in the major leagues, players have to know that, if they donít perform, theyíll be sent down. That might make some sense if the Giants were a good team battling for a playoff spot, but youíve seen them.

Alou, though, doesnít seem to get the point any better than general manager Brian Sabean. Heís using his bullpen as if it were the last week of a tight race, often using a reliever to pitch to one batter and then yanking him.

Doesnít anybody in the Giants organization get it?

REALITY CHECK: Itís time for Aís manager Ken Macha to realize that, for all his talent, Eric Chavez is not a good hitter with the game on the line. Wednesdayís game against the Indians was the latest example, as Chavez struck out with runners on second and third and the score tied in the bottom of the ninth.

Itís past time to drop Chavez from the cleanup spot.

BRIGHT SPOT: I continue to be impressed by Dan Johnson. The Aís rookie first baseman probably should have been with the club from the start but he didnít get discouraged when he was sent back to Sacramento. When he was brought up, he started slowly but is now leading the Aís in hitting, while playing an excellent defensive first base. In Wednesdayís game, he made a great diving catch of a pop foul.

Interestingly, the Aís have been helped, not hurt, by the season-ending injuries to Erubiel Durazo and Octavio Dotel. Durazoís injury opened the door for Johnson and Dotelís injury pushed Huston Street forward. Of course, Street probably would have gotten his chance by now because Aís general manager Billy Beane would have traded Dotel, if he were healthy.

GIVE IT UP: I know unions have to protect their own, but the baseball Players Association really should re-think its position on an appeal of the 20-day suspension for Kenny Rogers.

Rogersí action, breaking a camera and injuring a photographer who was trying to do his job, was inexcusable, and he compounded that by having another run-in with a photographer when he appeared in court.

This is not a young player who can be excused for immaturity; Rogers is 40, an age when even the wildest of young men have usually matured. He hasnít. I think the 20-game suspension was too mild, frankly, and the Players Association should be urging Rogers to seek counseling, not condoning his actions.

NHL RETURN: With a new collective bargaining agreement in place, the NHL will be playing again this year, but the question is: Who cares?

When baseball canceled the World Series in 1994, it was a serious blow for fans, but most American fans eventually recovered because of the deep roots of the game in this country. Not in Canada, where there is no baseball tradition. The strike killed the Montreal Expos, who were a viable franchise before then. The Toronto Blue Jays set a major league attendance record with 4,057, 947 in 1993, the year before the strike, but fell off badly after the strike. Last year, they drew less than half as many fans as in í93.

Hockey could suffer a reverse setback. Fans will return in Canadian cities and the northern tier of U. S. states where the NHL has been since the beginning, but it will have a hard time in other American cities. (San Jose is probably an exception; the Sharks fans seem very loyal.)

The NHL overexpanded to get into what they saw as a lucrative American market. The league would do well to drop some of the weaker franchises and stay in markets where itís more popular.

BAD LUCK FOLLOWS: Changing team uniforms didnít help Tim Hudson, who was plagued by no-decisions when he was pitching for the Aís and still suffers from the same plight in Atlanta. On Wednesday night, he left with a lead but the Braves bullpen blew it, though Atlanta eventually won the game. So, Hudson is stuck on 7-5, with a 3.44 ERA.

Meanwhile, former teammate Mark Mulder is faring better because heís with a team, the St. Louis Cardinals, who score runs for him. Mulderís ERA soared to the mid-4s for awhile. Itís now down to 3.94, but his record is 12-5.

Hudson and Mulder are proving once again that the W-L record is often the least reliable measure of a pitcherís ability. Of course, nobody was ever better proof of that than Rueter, before the last two seasons.

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