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Baseball
Tim Kurkjian
July 01, 1991
Buddy, Can You Spare a Vote?
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July 01, 1991

Baseball

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SHORTSTOP—Greg Gagne, Twins. He is the best shortstop in the American League this year, if you don't count the Orioles' Cal Ripken. Gagne's .276 average and steady defense (only four errors) should land him a spot on the team.

DESIGNATED HITTER—Kirk Gibson, Royals. He is the only player to be a league MVP (National League, 1988) and never make an All-Star team. He has the most homers (203) among active players who have not been All-Stars and is one of only 13 players in history to hit 200 homers and steal 200 bases. Gibson's numbers this season (.236, 11 homers, 32 RBIs through Sunday) may not get him on the 1991 team, but he deserves a vote.

Another Day at the Office

The promotion of 19-year-old catcher Ivan (Pudge) Rodriguez from Double A Tulsa on June 19 gives the Rangers a solid defensive catcher for the first time since Jim Sundberg was in his prime in the early 1980s. On June 20, Rodriguez hit a two-run single in the ninth inning of a 7-3 win over the White Sox and gunned down two Chicago runners who were trying to steal. "His arm is a seven-plus on a scale of eight," says Texas pitching coach Tom House. "He's as good as any I've seen."

But Rodriguez will long remember his first day in the major leagues for other reasons. He was married at 8:30 that morning in Tulsa to his girlfriend, Maribel Rivera, who like Rodriguez, is from Puerto Rico. He and Maribel then flew to Chicago. Rodriguez arrived at Comiskey Park at 3:45 p.m., went over the hitters and caught the full nine innings.

"His honeymoon came after the game," says House. "The cutest scene was in the clubhouse. He was standing there without any clothes on at his locker, surrounded by about 25 media people. When he finally saw that there were three female reporters there, he turned red. He didn't know what planet he was on."

Rodriguez doesn't speak English well, but his adjustment to the major leagues should be made easier by the fact that four of the Rangers' best players, Ruben Sierra, Juan Gonzales, Rafael Palmeiro and Julio Franco, are Latin. The Rangers also have coach Orlando Gomez around to help Latin players communicate.

Still, Rodriguez's youth makes the transition to the bigs a bit tougher. He is the youngest every-day major league player since Robin Yount appeared in 107 games at shortstop for the Brewers at age 18 in 1974. The last major leaguer under 20 to catch more than 25 games was Johnny Bench, who caught 26 games in 1967, when he was 19.

They Might Not Be Giants

After getting swept in three games by the Giants over the weekend, the underachieving Cubs may lay claim to the (dis)honor of Bust Team of the Year, but for now that title still belongs to San Francisco. After all, the Giants were the first team to lose 40 games this season, and, through Sunday, only the Astros had a worse record in the National League. If someone had told Giants general manager Al Rosen before the season that this would be the situation in mid-June, Rosen says, "I would have said that the person needed a straitjacket."

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