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Apolitical blues

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Aug. 3

It's been a while
There is an unusual number of promising young left-handed starting pitchers in the American League. Oakland's Mark Mulder went into the weekend leading all AL left-handers in wins with 13, and his 3.30 ERA trailed only Chicago's Mark Buehrle.

Andy Pettite, with 11 wins and a remarkable 15 quality starts in 20 remains the league's premier lefty. Scouts felt Tampa Bay's Joe Kennedy and Kansas City's Chris George hadn't pitched enough to get judged, but the following is the result of a poll on the rest.

The question was: how would you rank Mulder, Barry Zito, Scott Schoeneweis, Jarrod Washburn, Eric Milton, C.C. Sabathia and Buehrle?

The results of the poll came in two parts, now and in the future.

1. Mulder, Oak.: 13 wins, 3.30 ERA, 15 of 23 QS
2. Milton, Minn.: 9 wins, 4.34 ERA, 14 of 22 QS
3. Zito, Oak.: 6 wins, 4.77 ERA, 13 of 22 QS
4. Buehrle, Chi.: 8 wins, 3.22 ERA, 13 of 20 QS
5. Schoeneweis, Ana.: 8 wins, 4.80 ERA, 14 of 22 QS
6. Sabathia, Clev.: 10 wins, 4.18 ERA, 8 of 21 QS
7. Washburn, Ana.: 9 wins, 3.42 ERA, 12 of 19 QS

1. Mulder
2. Sabathia
3. Zito
4. Buehrle
5. Milton
6. Schoeneweis
7. Washburn

Five observations from poll participants:
1. "As soon as Schoeneweis comes up with a changeup -- and he will -- he will become an 18-20 game winner. Right now he throws 75-85 percent fastballs."

2. "Washburn is unquestionably the most underrated here. He's gone back to his power stuff and he's completely fearless. The only question is his health."

3. "Mulder has pitched a lot less than the others in his life. He's a great athlete and hasn't even touched his potential. Makeup off the charts."

4. "Sabathia is the complete package and just needs time to finish his development. Once he solidifies his delivery and gains confidence in his secondary stuff he could dominate."

5. "Buehrle has pitching instincts that can't be taught. Scouts yawn, the radar guns don't light up, but he is a natural born winner."

The golden road (to unlimited devotion)
The strength of schedule of the remaining opponents for contending teams:

American League
Minnesota, .467
New York, .468
Seattle, .482
Boston, .485
Oakland, .498
Cleveland, .532
Anaheim, .536

National League
Houston, .490
Chicago, .491
Arizona, .491
Philadelphia, .494
Los Angeles, .502
San Francisco, .504
Atlanta, .508
(St. Louis, .477; Florida .514)
(Games beginning Aug. 3, Source: Elias Sports Bureau)

Strength of Division in Games +/- .500
AL West, +50
AL Central, -9
AL East, -29
NL West, +16
NL East, +1
NL Central, -29

In other words, think of the advantage Boston has on Oakland and Anaheim, or that Houston has on the NL West teams. That's further proof that with the unbalanced schedule, the race for the wild card is unfair.

Under the radar
A lot of ballparks tune up radar guns to make the fans ooh and ah, or to amuse owners who need to be stroked.

But taking two home readings that are legitimate, the only AL pitchers to hit 100 mph in games involving one team are Detroit's Matt Anderson, who hit 101, and Anaheim's Troy Percival, who hit 100.

The top readings by one NL team are 99 mph: Chicago's Kyle Farnsworth, Arizona's Randy Johnson, Houston's Billy Wagner and L.A.'s Matt Herges all did this.

Just another brick in the wall
When former President George Bush visited Fenway Park to see the Red Sox and Angels game on Thursday night, it brought back memories of a visit the then-President made to the Red Sox spring-training facility in March, 1992. As Bush made his way through the clubhouse, the one and only Scott Taylor, a minor-league pitcher in his first spring training, asked catcher Scott Hatteberg, "who's that guy?"

"You don't know?" replied Hatteberg. "He's the president. George Bush."

"Oh, yeah, I knew he looked familiar," said Taylor. "But I voted for (Jimmy) Carter."

Rickey, don't lose that number
What precipitated the Davey Lopes-Rickey Henderson blowup was that Rickey was sick and had been sleeping in the clubhouse when he was told he had to pinch-run for Tony Gwynn. Henderson, who is trying to get the career runs record, went to first base not knowing the score, looked around and saw second base empty and asked first-base coach Alan Trammell how many outs there were.

"Two," replied Trammell.

"Rickey can't score from first base," said Henderson, who proceeded to take off for second base and thus incurred the wrath of his former mentor.

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