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Baseball
Tim Crothers
July 13, 1998
The Anti-All-StarsHere's our lineup of the most underachieving players of the first half
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July 13, 1998

Baseball

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The 3,000 K Club

On Sunday the Blue Jays' Roger Clemens became only the 11th pitcher to strike out 3,000 batters in his major league career, when he whiffed seven Devil Rays in a 2-1 Toronto win. Here's where he stands when the members of this elite group are ranked according to strikeouts per nine innings.

PITCHER

SEASONS

CAREER K's

K's/9 INNINGS

Nolan Ryan

27

5,714

9.55

Roger Clemens

15

3,002

8.55

Bob Gibson

17

3,117

7.22

Steve Carlton

24

4,136

7.14

Tom Seaver

20

3,640

6.85

Bert Blyleven

22

3,701

6.70

Ferguson Jenkins

19

3,192

6.39

Don Sutton

23

3,574

6.09

Gaylord Perry

22

3,534

5.94

Phil Niekro

24

3,342

5.57

Walter Johnson

21

3,508

5.33

SOURCE: ELIAS SPORTS BUREAU

The Anti-All-Stars
Here's our lineup of the most underachieving players of the first half

As baseball celebrates its All-Stars this week, let's not forget that for every player having a season in the sun, there's another laboring under a cloud. Here then are our Anti-All-Stars, baseball's overachievers in the category of underachieving. All of the following players began the '98 season with lofty promise. As the numbers show—stats are through Sunday's games—none of these guys has come close to living up to expectations.

Catcher
Charles Johnson, Dodgers. Coming off a breakthrough season with the world champion Marlins, he is hitting just .205 with 80 strikeouts, second most in the league. Johnson endured a particularly arid O-for-35 stretch in the period around his May 15 trade from Florida to Los Angeles, which earned him the rare distinction of being a bust on both coasts. On defense, the man who committed no errors in '97 has five this season.

First baseman
Fred McGriff, Devil Rays. Eyebrows lifted when Tampa Bay acquired the Crime Dog from Atlanta in the off-season for a paltry $20,000 in cash. McGriff's disappointing eight homers and 42 RBIs (and his salary of $5 million) indicate that the Devil Rays got hoodwinked. A cleanup hitter in name only, McGriff went one stretch of 111 at bats without a homer and a span of 23 games with just one RBI. The words crime and dog both could be used to describe his play this season.

Second baseman
Mike Lansing, Rockies. Colorado traded three pitching prospects to get Lansing and then signed him to a four-year, $23.3 million contract, only to watch him go 16 for 100 in May. The same player who cracked 20 home runs for the Expos last season has just four homers and 26 RBIs in '98 and has spawned a new term in Denver: the reverse Coors Field effect.

Shortstop
Mark Grudzielanek, Expos. After tying a major league record for shortstops with 54 doubles last season, he has hit only eight this year. Meanwhile, the perpetually disgruntled infielder has already committed a league-high 18 errors, not including the time he called his own team a "laughingstock."

Third baseman
Kevin Orie, Cubs. Hoping to generate better power numbers after a promising rookie season in '97, he tinkered with his swing this spring. The result: He brought new meaning to the expression sophomore slump, hitting just .184 with two homers in 42 games before being sent to the minors on May 27. Orie has since returned but has failed to silence the echoes of legendary Cubs third base washout Gary Scott. (Dishonorable mention goes to Mariners third baseman Russ Davis, who leads all major leaguers with 25 errors.)

Outfield
Brady Anderson, Orioles Jose Cruz Jr., Blue Jays; Lance Johnson, Cubs. Anderson, who is still haunted by the expectations generated by his extraordinary 50-homer season in '96, got off to a horrendous .077 start in his first 16 games while battling injuries. His body and batting average (.220) are still hinting. Cruz hit 26 homers in '97 and finished second in the American League Rookie of the Year balloting, but he unraveled this season after pitchers realized he couldn't hit a curveball. Batting .214 with three homers after 52 games, he was demoted to Triple A Syracuse. Johnson is on the trading block in Chicago, which is no shock considering he's hitting .115 and is getting paid $4.9 million this year and will get $5.1 million in '99. He has languished on the disabled list since late April with a mysterious inflammation of his right hand. (This just a year after he missed 39 games because of shinsplints.)

Designated hitter
Frank Thomas, White Sox. A .300 hitter in each of his eight big league seasons and the defending American League batting champion, he is frustrated to be hitting just .275 and has complained that the umpires have unfairly enlarged his strike zone. His mortal power numbers (14 homers, 55 RBIs) have led him to change his own nickname from the Big Hurt to Five O'clock Frank because he's doing his best work in batting practice.

Starting pitcher
Hideo Nomo, Mets. His numbers have declined steadily since his Rookie of the Year season in '95, but nobody could have predicted he would be designated for reassignment by Los Angeles and then traded to the Mets. Amid reports that his fastball has lost its pop and that he's tipping his pitches, Nomo is 2-8 with a 4.90 ERA and isn't even the best Japanese pitcher on his team.

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